Mid-Day Report: Practice Scales Back Ahead Of 49er Game, Dez Nearing Return

OXNARD, Calif. – The next two afternoons will be a bit dialed down, as the Cowboys turn their focus toward their second preseason game.

Both Thursday and Friday's practices will feature just shorts and shoulder pads, rather than a fully-padded practice. They will come at a good time for the Cowboys, who are dealing with injury issues across multiple fronts.

"It's part of the plan," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "Certainly we adjust all the time about how we want to practice – drills, gear, all that kind of stuff. You have some convictions about how you want to do things, but you have to look at the landscape of your team."

It might have been part of the plan to get out of pads, but the landscape of Garrett's team certainly calls for it. The Cowboys had 22 players on the injury report by the end of Tuesday's practice, and it looks likely they'll have limited availability for their tune up against San Francisco on Sunday.

With that in mind, two scaled-back practices should help with the overall health of the roster heading into the weekend.[embeddedad0]

"Our idea was to have four good days of practice, end up with two good days against the Rams, take a day off and come back and freshen up a little bit and get into helmets and shells," Garrett said.

Always one to plan ahead, Garrett added that it's important for the Cowboys to get experience in this format, given that it'll more closely resemble the average work day once the regular season starts.

"One of the things that we try to emphasize to our team: going forward, over two-thirds of our practices will be in helmets and shells," he said. "That's the nature of the NFL right now, and you have to understand the importance of practicing well in this kind of gear."

Quick Hits

  • Don't look for Dez Bryant at practice on Thursday, and it's already expected he won't play Sunday in San Francisco. But Garrett did say the Pro Bowl wide out is nearing his return from the hamstring tweak he suffered two weeks ago. "Over the course of the next few days, we do anticipate him back out at practice," he said. It seems like a reasonable guess that Bryant will take the field Tuesday when the Cowboys return to practice after the 49ers game.
  • The Cowboys worked out three more players on Thursday, including former fourth-round pick of the Dolphins Edmond Gates, a speedy receiver from Abilene Christian. Gates was drafted one pick after the Cowboys in the 2011 draft. He was waived by the Dolphins in 2012 and has since bounced around with the Jets and Titans, despite battling injuries.
  • The Cowboys also worked out receiver Phil Bates (Ohio Univ.) and linebacker Dakorey Johnson (Kansas State).
  •  Addressing the media for the first time since Tuesday's brawl with the Rams, Garrett said he still found plenty of positives from the joint practice. "I think we had two really good days of practice and got better as a team. Nobody wants any part of fighting. We certainly don't as a coaching staff. We don't want our players to fight. We talked about that and how we handle those things moving forward."
  • Garrett said he expects the NFL to eventually step in with possible rules and standards about fighting in practices, after seeing the Cowboys-Rams battles, coupled with Houston-Washington earlier this month. "I think the league probably needs to step back at some point in the offseason and address that the best they can. Everyone is well-intended. Nobody in the league wants their team to fight. Sometimes fights occur. And we have to handle the whole situation better." 
  • Rookie receiver Antwan Goodley, who missed the last 10 days with a hamstring injury, worked back into the morning walk-through on Thursday and appears ready for a full return to practice. And undrafted rookie from Baylor, Goodley has missed valuable time, while players such as Lucky Whitehead and Nick Harwell have jumped up the depth chart. Still, receivers coach Derek Dooley said Goodley had made "significant strides" before his injury. 
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