OXNARD, Calif. – Kris Richard likes to wear cleats to practice. On this particular day, it's a shame he didn't have some pads and a helmet.
The Cowboys' defense had arguably its most successful day of training camp on Tuesday evening. And while typically a star player might be at the center of that success, it certainly looked like secondary Kris Richard was spurring his unit this time.
It started during one-on-one matchups between receivers and defensive backs, as tensions between Jourdan Lewis and Lance Lenoir boiled over into a shouting match. With that hanging in the air, Richard was on the spot to boost his defenders' confidence during a hotly-contested Compete Period.
Richard caused quite a stir among his defensive backs when he taunted the Cowboys' wide receivers, asking which of them wanted to lose their matchup next. After practice, Richard said he wanted to teach his young players the importance of staying focused.
"Absolutely, absolutely – because it's not about a scuffle, it's not about a disagreement. It's about the next play," he said. "Because now, all of a sudden, if we can't lock in and focus in to the next play, then the purpose has been defeated."
It was as contentious as the defensive backs and receivers have been through training camp to this point, and Richard was right in the thick of it – with encouraging words, but also with reminders of restraint.
"We don't ever want to fall off the cliff. How close to the edge can we get," Richard said. "It's how we sharpen one another, it's iron sharpens iron and it's football. It's football. So things get hot, people want to compete, but it's about the next play. Can we lock in and do things right."
Even talking with reporters 15 minutes after practice, Richard seemed to be smoldering with leftover intensity from the afternoon. It's an enthusiasm that has to be infectious – as Justin March-Lillard can attest.
The fourth-year linebacker recovered a fumble from Blake Jarwin in the seven-on-seven portion of practice and began racing downfield with it. Rather than being chased by his defensive teammates, he was followed by Richard all the way to the end zone – shouting and encouraging him the whole way.
"The whole time when I was running, he was telling me to go score because I deserved it," March-Lillard said. "And what he meant by that was, you hustle, you get a turnover, you deserve to go score. You don't get a turnover and not try to score."
It sounds like a heck of a lot of fun. And if Richard's practices are any indicator, it's no wonder his players enjoy playing for him.
"It's awesome. He's just like one of the players," March-Lillard said. "He wears cleats out here, he does drills with us. He's always talking, always communicating with us."
See & React
It'd be fair to criticize the offense for being out of sync, but perhaps part of that was because the Cowboys' defense played so well. The defense dominated the Compete Periods, and it held the first-team offense to a three-and-out during the two-minute drill.
It seemed like the Cowboys' defenders had an answer for everything the offense tried. Asked about it after practice, Richard said his group is picking things up quickly. Though, obviously, there's still a long way to go.
"It's starting to get to the point of camp to where the installation is starting to get smaller. So when the installation starts to get smaller, the execution needs to increase," he said. "That's kind of the point to where we are. By no means, and we all understand – we're not a finished product. We absolutely need to get better in specific areas, and that's what we're locked in on."
Dan Bailey was perfect on kicks again Tuesday, connecting on all six attempts from approximately 33, 37, 41, 45, 46 and 49 yards.
Bailey added a 36-yard field goal later in team period. Unofficially, he's missed only one kick since the start of camp.
Injuries & Absences
Wide receiver Cedrick Wilson's rookie season ended before it could begin. The Cowboys placed the sixth-round pick on Reserve/Injured with a shoulder injury that very well could require surgery.
Teams are permitted to recall two players from IR each season, but players placed on IR in preseason are not eligible to return later that year.
Fellow receiver Noah Brown (hamstring) sat out practice again, but he did some rehab work with associate athletic trainer/director of rehabilitation Britt Brown.
Rookie linebacker Chris Covington did not practice due to illness, and rookie tight end Dalton Schultz was excused for the birth of his child.