Under the transition rules in place following the end of the NFL lockout, free agents who sign with a team are not permitted to practice until Aug. 4, the official start of the new league year.
That is, unless the soon-to-be reformed NFLPA can make something happen sooner. Essentially, it's up to the players to complete the recertification process league-wide, then each team's player reps can ratify the new CBA and possiby elect to move up the timeline for UFAs to return.
As it stands now, more than a few Cowboys veterans are forced to watch practice from the sidelines or run the stairs of the Alamodome if they wish. Unrestricted free agents Doug Free, Kyle Kosier, Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman, as well as restricted free agent Alan Ball and exclusive rights free agents Jesse Holley and Bryan McCann, are all allowed to attend meetings but cannot participate in any drills, which frustrates Jason Garrett.
"It's not real good," Garrett said, citing Tennessee's signing of Matt Hasselbeck as an example, the quarterback unable to practice despite the likelihood he could start for them this year.
Until something happens, coachesare simply stressing the importance of mental reps.
"It's a challenging situation," Garrett said. "But we've encouraged our guys since they've been here on Friday to kind of dive in, get involved in the meetings, they can watch practice, ask questions, talk to the other guys, talk to the coaches - do all the things you need to do to keep yourself up to speed when you're not getting the physical reps.
"The best way to learn is to get physical reps, but there are other ways to learn, and spending some extra time in your playbook, talking to coaches, extra meeting time and film work will certainly help those guys."