OXNARD, Calif. – Tony Romo is expected to practice Saturday afternoon when the Cowboys don pads for the first time this season, according to coach Jason Garrett.
Romo recently had a procedure to remove a stye under his eye, and the Cowboys opted to give him the afternoon off Friday during the team's second non-padded practice of training camp.
Team executives and medical personnel both expressed confidence that the problem wasn't serious, but it wasn't surprising to see a cautious approach on the second day of practices. Romo's absence allowed for extended work for both Brandon Weeden and Dustin Vaughan – which will likely be a recurring trend, as the Cowboys develop a practice routine for their veteran starter.
"Those are always great lessons for everybody on our team, to always be ready," Garrett said. "Coach Bisaccia has a great expression, 'Stay ready so you don't have to get ready.' That's how you have to look at it."
Romo spoke to the media Thursday after the Cowboys' opening walkthrough, and he fielded plenty of questions about his health – not about his eye, but about the oft-discussed status of his back. The Cowboys don't have a regimented plan for monitoring Romo's workload, but it can be expected they'll mix in other off days during the buildup to the preseason.
"We'll adjust it as it goes on. It's fluid," Romo said. "At the same time, we have a plan for it that we think we have a pretty good bead on how to handle it. I would expect it to go pretty smooth."
- The Cowboys continue to reunite with players from last year's training camp. On Saturday, they signed Will Smith, who they drafted in the seventh round in 2014, to fill a vacant spot on the camp roster. That move comes just one day after adding Keith Smith. Both players spent time with the team last season, and they were both cut in May during OTAs. There are no currently 11 linebackers on the roster – not including Rolando McClain and Mark Nzeocha, who were placed on the PUP to begin camp.
- Garrett was asked about the possibility of using Dez Bryant as a punt returner – something they did during the early going of Bryant's career. Having just signed him to a big-money contract, it seems unlikely the Cowboys would use him in that role, but Garrett didn't entirely rule it out. "He's one of those guys you like to put back there and always have in your back pocket if you need him," he said.
- Running backs coach Gary Brown was asked about the chances he has a running back carry the ball 392 times in 2015, as was the case with DeMarco Murray last fall. "Slim," he said. "That doesn't happen, so we're going to try to spread that out and keep guys fresh." Darren McFadden will still be absent with a hamstring injury when the first padded practice begins, leaving the lion's share of the reps for Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar.
- Team officials didn't have any further update on Jeremy Mincey, who has yet to report to camp on what is now the fourth day of his holdout.