FRISCO, Texas –There was enough going on during Wednesday’s OTA at The Star that it didn’t all fit into one story.
From practice availability to reactions inside the locker room, here’s a quick list of some of the days biggest talking points:
Sean Lee doesn’t like sitting out a voluntary OTA workout, much less regular-season game snaps. But the Cowboys, as they’ve done in the past, are taking a deliberate approach with the veteran linebacker’s offseason work to help ensure he’s ready for his ninth season.
Lee dealt with a hamstring injury intermittently last season but still led the Cowboys in tackles (118) despite missing the better part of six games.
“It’s the same process we kind of use this time of year,” he said. “It’s tough not being out there because you want to be out there trying to lead from the front. But there’s perspective this time of year that we’ve got to build towards training camp and build towards the year.”
Head coach Jason Garrett said Lee will sit out Thursday’s OTA, too, and then the Cowboys will re-evaluate things next week.
Among the players sitting out Wednesday: wide receiver Terrance Williams (foot), defensive tackle Maliek Collins (foot) and David Irving (conditioning). The Cowboys are also being deliberate with Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence’s workload. -Rob Phillips
Everyone has assumed that Jason Witten’s locker would be empty for a while, and it was on Wednesday – in a manner of speaking.
Ironically, Witten’s locker has been occupied by Zack Martin, who has been absent from OTAs while his representatives sort out his contract situation. Even if Martin isn’t participating, though, moving him into Witten’s locker seems like an indicator of how the Cowboys feel about him. The four-time Pro Bowler figures to be a big part of the Cowboys’ locker room for the foreseeable future.
Martin and his linemate have been neighbors in the locker room since the two players were drafted, but that has changed as the two have developed into some of the league’s best players. Frederick’s locker has been moved to the opposite end of the locker room, to the old location of another well-respected veteran – Darren McFadden.
Factor in the previous move of DeMarcus Lawrence, who now occupies Dez Bryant’s old locker, and you can get a pretty good idea of the leadership on the Cowboys’ new-look roster. -David Helman
Keeping It 100
The differences between Ezekiel Elliott’s first and second offseason are pretty striking when you think about them.
That’s understandable, considering the difference between his 2016 and 2017 seasons. At this time last year, Elliott was coming off an All-Pro season and a playoff berth. This time around, he’s coming off a six-game suspension and an underwhelming finish.
Case in point: Elliott’s place in the offseason pecking order. Last year, he came in at No. 7 in the highly-publicized NFL Top 100, which ranks the top 100 players in the league. On Monday night, he was revealed as No. 54 on the 2018 list – a 47-spot drop.
“Yeah, I saw it,” he said. “It is what it is. I missed six games.”
Asked if he’d use that slight as motivation for the coming year, Elliott said he didn’t need the added push.
“I know the player I am, you guys know the player I am,” he said. “Everyone in the league knows the player I am. I don’t really need verification from a top 100 list.” -David Helman
On Camera Experience
If you watched the Amazon TV series “All Or Nothing,” which took a behind-the-scenes look at last season, you’re undoubtedly familiar with Jourdan Lewis’ competitive spirit.
Toward the end of the eight-part TV series, Lewis featured in one of the most entertaining segments of the entire year. With the Cowboys fighting through a frustrating stretch, Lewis drew the ire of an animated Dez Bryant.
In front of the Cowboys’ full roster – not to mention the TV crews – Lewis and Bryant got into a shouting match at a late-season practice. After plenty of jawing, the duo engaged in a post-practice one-on-one to settle the debate.
Asked about it Wednesday, Lewis insisted it was an entirely genuine moment. In fact, he said he wasn’t even aware anyone was making a show until after the season ended.
Lewis added that he appreciated Bryant’s competitive fire for pushing him to be better.
Here’s the full quote: “I found out they did the Amazon series after the season. I didn’t even know we had the whole TV special. I knew I was mic’ed up, but I kind of forgot at practice – and then we were just going at it. People say we made it up or it was fake, like we knew we was mic’ed. But it just went out the window, really. We’re competing at this point, and you’re trying to embarrass me so I’m going to go back at you. That’s the type of guy Dez is, and he’s always been like that. Every time we go against each other, we battled – and I really appreciated him for that. Because that’s the mindset of every receiver in the NFL – they want to embarrass you. So you’ve got to be ready." -David Helman
Looking For Space
There’s been a healthy amount of debate about what Tavon Austin’s role might be on this roster.
He’s listed on the roster as a running back, but he wears a receiver’s number. There’s also the term “web back,” which has been used fairly frequently since the Cowboys acquired him last month.
Sitting at his new locker, Austin simplified the problem by offering a catch-all explanation.
“At the end of the day, I’m a playmaker – that’s how I describe myself,” he said. “I don’t really care where I’m at on the field, I just want the ball and a little bit of space. Let me create. I’ll go from there.”* -David Helman*