When his promotion to head coach was made permanent in January, Jason Garrett promised that training camps would be tougher under his watch - the players would be in pads and they would practice physically.
While the official camp portion of the preseason is in the rearview, the Cowboys have been conducting practice similarly this week, but one thing has remained the same since the players reported in late July. With just a couple exceptions, Garrett has kept the pads on in practice. There is very little tackling to the ground, but it's still a more physical regimen than the last four years.
However, Garrett's hands have been tied a bit by the new CBA, which outlawed real two-a-day practices and mandated a weekly off day for the players. Despite those perks and Garrett's intent, one of the guys who takes the most punishment, defensive end Marcus Spears, says this year's preseason practices have really been no more and no less strenuous than in the past.
"It's tough," Spears said. "It's training camp. Training camp last year was six weeks. I've been through two training camps with Bill Parcells. I've been through a few tough ones. This is no different. (My) body feels the same. Mentally you've got to adjust because you've got a new defense going in, but the physical aspect is the same.
"Even when ya'll tagged 'Camp Cupcake,' our legs were hurting, our bodies were hurting - that's football. That's just as much a part of the game as everything else, so we just take it in stride, and these situations you've got to keep going."
Spears said he felt the team needed to be in pads almost daily as they have been, though practices without pads offer something else, a different tempo.
Asked whether Wednesday's time off was needed and welcomed, 24 hours before the San Diego Chargers arrive for two joint practices, the six-year veteran paused for a moment.
"Hell yeah," he said. "Look man, we're working. It's not secret about that, so everybody wants to kind of get off their feet, relax, and get our bodies back, especially when you've got a new team coming in. You don't want to be tired and lagging. You don't know what type of practices those guys have been having. You don't know if they're fresh or not, so this day is welcomed."