OXNARD, Calif. – On Saturday, Orlando Scandrick returned to the practice field where he tore his right ACL and MCL in training camp some 11 months ago.
It wasn't a haunting memory.
"I don't think about what happened," Scandrick said. "What happened is what happened. I'm just excited and I'm going to get back out here and I'm going to do whatever I have to do necessary to be ready to play in games as soon as possible."
Scandrick has had plenty of arduous rehab days since last Aug. 26 when he left practice on a cart, his 2015 season over before it began. His work with the athletic training staff has paid off over the last 11 months. He's medically cleared for camp here in Oxnard, ready to build toward the Sept. 11 season opener against the Giants.
The Cowboys missed their longest-tenured defender last season. The defense ranked fifth in pass defense but finished last in takeaways and had a revolving door in the slot, where Scandrick has excelled since 2008. Off the field, they missed the eight-year veteran's leadership.
"We love Orlando Scandrick. He's an edgy guy, and I say that as a compliment," head coach Jason Garrett said. "Everything he does, there's a little bit of 'I got a little chip on my shoulder' with that. He's always had it. He had it when we drafted him in the fifth round. He thought he should have been drafted higher.
"He came in here and is one of those guys that constantly over delivers throughout the early part of his career and really found a home for us as an inside guy, plays outside, can show up on (special) teams."
As with several players coming off injuries, Garrett said the Cowboys aim to be "deliberate" with Scandrick's workload in camp. Linebacker Sean Lee followed a similar path last year in his return from 2014 ACL surgery.
"I talked to him about, in the past you could bring it every single day – but you're going to have days where you're not feeling great," Lee said. "You're going to have to fight through those days. It doesn't mean you can't be the same player – or he's probably going to be a better player because of all the work he put in. But it takes time. You have to keep staying at it, you can't get too low when you have those bad days."
Scandrick has been through plenty of tough days in the last 11 months, working his way back.
"I'm ultra-competitive. I just want to pick back up where I left off," he said. "I want to continue to grow as a player. I'm excited about this team that we have and I'm excited just to erase that bad taste in everything that we put out there last year and all of the things that happened and everything that went opposite of what we planned.
"I just want to get back out there and just help my team win. I'm going to bring what I bring to the defense. I'm going to be aggressive and I'm going to try to play with swagger and just be myself."