OXNARD, Calif. – "Old guy." New tricks?
Jason Witten didn't return from retirement for some sort of nostalgic victory lap. He has every intention of making a real contribution to a championship contender – and on Friday the 37-year-old tight end fired up the River Ridge crowd with a pair touchdown passes from quarterback Dak Prescott in seven-on-seven drills.
First, Witten went over the top of linebacker Jaylon Smith and found space between safety Jeff Heath and cornerback Chidobe Awuzie for the score.
Then came the acrobatics: Witten head-faked linebacker Joe Thomas and cut to the right corner of the end zone, where he tipped Prescott's ball to himself with his outstretched right hand and hauled it in.
"Us old guys, we want those opportunities to show you can make a play. Great confidence, good ball by Dak. That's what it's about. We've got a lot of good playmakers on this offense. I'm just an old guy trying to make a play here and there."
He didn't look it Friday.
- The offensive line was depleted by the time Friday's practice was over. Zack Martin missed practice while he waits to undergo an MRI for back spasms, and Travis Frederick took a veteran day. On top of that, reserve guard Cody Wichmann left practice early with a left leg injury. That's not necessarily cause for alarm. The MRI for Martin seems to be precautionary, and Frederick should be back on the field Saturday. But it's a testament to how quickly depth can be challenged during the grind of training camp.
- Randall Cobb rebounded after having some up-and-down performances the last few days. During the early Compete Period, he fended off Jourdan Lewis beautifully on a comeback route to earn a win for the offense. Later, during the red zone period, he broke away from his coverage running across the middle to pick up a sizable gain to the goal line. If it had been real football, Cobb likely goes in for a touchdown, but the coaches ruled the ball down just outside the end zone.
- Mike Weber had a tough day catching the ball, with two drops in quick succession during the team period. The guy brings a physicality when he runs, though. Weber tore through the line on a carry and met George Iloka, hard, in the secondary. After bouncing off the veteran, Weber thumped into rookie Donovan Wilson. To give Wilson credit, he pawed at the ball until Weber fumbled, though the strip can so long after contact the play would likely have been ruled dead.
- Tony Pollard looks dangerous as both a runner and receiver, but he made a strong play as a pass protector on Friday. Playing with the first-string offense, Pollard stepped up in the hole and took on a blitzing Jaylon Smith. It might not have been the best block of his life – Pollard gives up two inches and 35 pounds to Smith. But he still stepped up and threw Smith off track, giving Dak Prescott ample time to find Michael Gallup for a sizable gain.
- Aside from Travis Frederick, Robert Quinn also took a veteran day. Sean Lee and Lance Lenoir remained out while they nursed knee injuries. Both Chris Jones and Brett Maher had the day off from kicking duties, allowing Kasey Redfern to get the work.
- Redfern, a combo punter/kicker in camp, didn't fare as well as previous days on field goals. He made 3 of 6 attempts in the period, missing from approximately 33, 37 and 44 yards. Brett Maher, the incumbent kicker, got the day off.
- Defensive tackle Maliek Collins continues to show an impressive combination of speed and power as an inside rusher. He got an unofficial (non-tackling) sack on quarterback Dak Prescott in team drills and bull-rushed guard Connor Williams to the ground in one-on-one drills.
- Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said Friday morning that second-round pick Trysten Hill is making progress, and it showed during one-on-one drills, getting Williams off his feet and then a nice rip move to get around guard Xavier Su'a-Filo.