Rookie Safety Has Untimely Setback; Moved to PUP

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While there are some veterans out here practicing for these three days of minicamp, it's mainly for rookies, giving the young guys a head start, or a chance to catch up before training camp really begins next Monday in Oxnard, Calif.

But if there was one guy who couldn't afford an injury it would be rookie safety Matt Johnson, who missed nearly every summer practice.

Now it appears Johnson will miss even more time, after a slight hamstring injury will keep him out for the first few days of training camp. The Cowboys placed Johnson on the PUP list (Physically Unable to Perform) until he gets healthy enough to practice.

"I'm so anxious. That's the tough thing," Johnson said Wednesday. "That's what's really frustrating. You want to be able to get out there and prove what you're worth."

The Cowboys share the same anxiety and frustration. With a number of question marks and uncertainties in the secondary, the team is hoping that their fourth-round pick out of Eastern Washington will be able to "prove his worth" as soon as he is able to take the field.

Because Eastern Washington operates on a trimester schedule, NFL rules mandate that Johnson was not allowed to participate in the majority of practices and minicamp until he was officially done with his academic year. Unfortunately, he injured himself almost immediately upon becoming eligible to practice with the team.

While ineligible, Johnson still had the Cowboys' defensive playbook with him at all times in order to show up prepared.

"When we go over plays, I know what it is, I know where I'm supposed to go. Not being on the field I have to be more locked in book-wise coming in," Johnson says. "And I always catch on pretty quick on the field, but everybody has to see it when they're on the field to really get it all for sure."

Even without the trainers' clearance to participate, Johnson does not take for granted the difference it makes to actually be able to watch practice in person and be with his teammates.

"I can take notes, going through each play as I can on the sideline," he said. "It's different than being out there, but at least I can see it in person other than just in the book and being away from the whole team."

In four years at Eastern Washington Johnson recorded 341 tackles, 17 interceptions and six forced fumbles. When healthy, Johnson is expected to compete for a roster spot at safety, where Gerald Sensabaugh and Brodney Pool are currently the starters, with Barry Church getting a shot to unseat Pool. Johnson is expected to figure into the backup mix with Danny McCray and Mana Silva.

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