IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys should add some serious firepower this week as players return from injury.
Defensive end Anthony Spencer, running back Lance Dunbar and safety Danny McCray all missed the season opener but returned to practice Wednesday to some degree. It's the first time this year every player on the team appeared healthy to start practice, including Spencer in his return from knee surgery, although later in the day Ernie Sims was listed as a non-participant.
"We'll see how (Spencer) does today," head coach Jason Garrett said before practice. "He's had a good couple days. We'll see if we can get him out there doing something today in practice and build on that."
Meanwhile, all the players who were injured in Sunday's opener were back on the field to some degree. Wide receiver Dez Bryant didn't seem hindered by the sprained foot he suffered against the Giants. In addition, Tony Romo (ribs) and Morris Claiborne (shoulder) were back practicing.
Dunbar, who sprained his foot in the third preseason game against the Cardinals, and McCray (hamstring) were running without pads last week and felt good enough this week to work back in with Spencer. Dunbar was one of the standouts during training camp, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and adding six catches for 83 yards, while the absence of McCray partially led to the Cowboys needing to bring in special teams help.
Defensive end George Selvie finished with a sack, two quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery last week in Spencer's stead. Spencer's knee injury and subsequent surgery held him out since the conditioning test at the beginning of camp at the end of July. Garrett said he wants to get Spencer back as quickly as possible, but he also realizes the tremendous job Selvie's done since coming to the team in the middle of training camp. [embedded_ad]
"We're never going to put a player out there who's not able to play, not prepared to play, can't protect himself," Garrett said of Spencer. "So he's had a good few days. We'll see how he does today. In his absence, George has done an excellent job and it's great for our team to point to a guy and say, 'Look at how he's taken advantage of his opportunity,' because he's certainly done that."
Guard Brian Waters also appeared ready to get more action than he had in the past, though Mackenzy Bernadeau was still getting work with the starters. Garrett said he wants Waters to play more football and to build him up to see how he handles it,
"He's a smart guy," Garrett said. "He was pretty much on top of it from Day 1. There's a lot of language you've got to learn, but conceptually, he has a good feel for what we're doing. He's done it for a long, long time."
Here are some other notes from Garrett's press conference Wednesday at AT&T Stadium:
- With the team in pads and the weather as hot as it is, Garrett and the coaches made the decision to practice Wednesday inside at the stadium. It's possible they do the same Thursday.
"You're always trying to create an environment for them to be successful," Garrett said. "To have this stadium available to us to come over, we thought is was worth it. If we have a good practice and we liked it and the players liked it, then we'll come here tomorrow. If not, then we'll stay at our place and fight through it."
- Most of Dwayne Harris' contributions came on special teams in the opener, but it sounds like the reigning NFC Special Teams Player of the Week may get more of a look on offense.
"Dwayne will play more and more," Garrett said. "We like what Dwayne does both on offense and in the kicking game. He responded well to the opportunities he got in the game the other night, so we'll continue to try to look for chances to give him more."
- Rookie receiver Terrance Williams received the majority of looks as the third receiver, and Garrett believes the more he plays, the better he'll get. Garrett said it takes time for a quarterback and his receiver to build their relationship on the field, but the team has to balance the understanding of rookie woes with what's best for the team. "That's why competition is so important on your team," Garrett said. "You want to play the best guy."
- Kansas City's offense didn't surprise Garrett much against the Jaguars, since it looked like a familiar type of offense from Andy Reid. The defense was more surprising after watching film. Unlike the Eagles teams of the past, the Chiefs run the 3-4 base alignment. Garrett said the base defense is played fairly straight, but the third-down defense features a ton of different looks.
- Garrett is still in the process of figuring out how to move Bryant around, but Bryant also has to learn how to beat double coverage. Garrett said Bryant's been getting double covered since he was a rookie.
- The head coach said noise will be a part of practice throughout the week to prepare for Kansas City.
- Garrett also talked about how NFL fines affect players. He said over time, fines and penalties change the way a player plays, particularly if they're severe enough or they affect the team.