OXNARD, Calif. – Given the road he's traveled on, it's understandable that Travis Frederick doesn't feel fazed by this milestone.
Yes, Frederick participated in a padded practice for the first time in a year on Tuesday. Yes, it's a sign of significant progress since he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome last August. No one is trying to undersell that.
But consider the effects of GBS: weakness, numbness, and a loss of motor skills, among other things. Then consider the work Frederick has already done to get back to this point, and it makes sense that he's not particularly emotional about it.
"There have been days that have been emotional and feel like a huge step. Those days when I was able to hit my max on the squat, or when I PR'ed in the power clean," Frederick said. "Those days wondering whether or not I was going to be able to lift again, let alone hit my max numbers ever again --those days were emotional. But today's the day that I just got a chance to come back out and play football, and play football is something I've been doing since I was nine years old. So that's second nature."
Frederick was front and center once again as he returned to the field, directing the Cowboys' huddle and fitting in seamlessly alongside Zack Martin and Connor Williams. Even though he's been absent for a year, he said the muscle memory of the position came back with a quickness – especially now that he's healthy.
"When you don't have to think about it, that's when you can think about everything else that's going on," he said.
It's still going to be a process for the All-Pro. Frederick did not take part in the one-on-one aspect of practice, where offensive and defensive linemen take each other on in individual battles. He said that's got more to do with his offseason shoulder surgery than any lingering effects of GBS.
"Just trying to avoid one-on-one situations where things are kind of getting torqued in weird ways," he said. "We'll work back into the team and get used to that stuff first, and then probably work back into those drills."
That's another milestone, and there will be many other ones between now and the start of the regular season. Frederick recognizes that, which explains his pragmatic approach.
"There's going to be a lot of steps on the way back, and there's been a lot of steps on the way to where we are now. This is just another one," he said. "First preseason game is another one, the first time I play after halftime is another one. They're all very little steps, and you try and do what you do to take advantage of those opportunities."
For those of us watching from a distance, it's impressive nonetheless.
Here are some more notes from the Cowboys' Tuesday morning practice:
- Jason Garrett said he expects rookie cornerback Chris Westry back with the team despite missing Tuesday's practice for personal reasons. However, the head coach did not have a timetable for Westry's return. The 6-4 rookie from Kentucky is near the bottom of the cornerback depth chart and is the only undrafted rookie defensive back on the roster.
- Veteran linebacker Sean Lee was held out of practice with a knee injury. The Cowboys didn't seem overly concerned by Lee's latest setback, but decided to hold him out for a second-straight day. Lee missed Monday's practice for a scheduled "vet day." In his place, veteran Joe Thomas ran with the first-team defense at SAM linebacker.
- Tight end Rico Gathers missed practice with an ankle injury. Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones said he didn't expect Gathers to miss much time and it sounded like the team held him out on Tuesday for precautionary reasons.
- The Dallas defense won the day with three takeaways in the team portion of Tuesday's practice. The first-team defense intercepted Dak Prescott twice – the first came when Jeff Heath picked off a bobbled pass from Randall Cobb, and the second was a pure pick-six from Xavier Woods on a beautiful read. The second-string capped it all off with a fumble recovery.
- The offense handled itself well in individuals, though. Amari Cooper, Blake Jarwin and Darius Jackson swept the early Compete Period, as they beat out Chidobe Awuzie, Jeff Heath and Leighton Vander Esch, respectively, on consecutive snaps.
- Kasey Redfern handled kick duties for both Brett Maher and Chris Jones on Tuesday. He went 4-of-6 during field goal period, with misses from 33 and 43 yards. He appeared to handle himself fairly well during punt drills, where Randall Cobb, Reggie Davis and Jourdan Lewis served as the return men.