ARLINGTON, Texas– And just like that, the offseason is over.
While the players and coaches might not have felt like it went so quick, it's definitely over as the Cowboys concluded their last official team business before the start of training camp.
It ended Thursday at Cowboys Stadium, with the team holding the last of a three-day minicamp, which was followed by a "family day" event where the players, coaches and staff brought their loved ones to the stadium for a post-practice lunch and gathering.
And now it's about five full weeks off before the start of training camp in late July.
For now, head coach Jason Garrett seems more than pleased about the progress, but realizes there is plenty of work left to do.
"We had an outstanding offseason," Garrett said. "Our attendance was tremendous, both in our strength and conditioning program but also in the football phase of the offseason. Not only was the attendance really good but the effort and the intensity was really good.
"The nine OTA practices we had and the three minicamp practices we had were awfully good. But we have a long way to go. We're light years away from where we need to be, but it's been a good start. We've laid a good foundation for our team."
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement set last year has changed some of the rules of the offseason, particularly in the amount of contact allowed in practice. The Seattle Seahawks were penalized practice days for too much hitting in the OTAs. At times, the Cowboys have toed the line with intense practices, including Thursday during a goal-line drill, when players such as Jason Hatcher, DeMarco Murray, Sean Lee and Jason Witten were all getting fired up.
Garrett had to stop practice, calling the entire team together for a short meeting before resuming play.
"Oh we're just having some fun out there," Hatcher said. "It's good that we get into it like that. That's a good thing. I love my teammates and we're all pushing each other to get better."
Garrett said limitations on contact are part of what makes these summer practices a bit tricky, but still can be beneficial.
"I think our players are understanding what the NFL rules are in terms of how we're supposed to practice now," Garrett said. "I think they understand how to do that in a way where we can still get a lot of out of it."
Come training camp, the rules and points of emphasis change a little, especially with the length and timing of practices. Teams are no longer allowed to have two-a-day practices. Instead, it'll be one lengthy afternoon practice, but a very light walk-through practice in the morning.
The players also must have at least one day completely off in a seven-day period.
Other rule changes include the start of camp, when the quarterbacks and rookies are allowed to practice for three days before the veterans report. The Cowboys will hold those three practices from July 25-27 at Valley Ranch before the entire team departs for Oxnard, Calif. on July 28. The first official practice isn't until July 30, but the first full-padded practice is Aug. 1.
While most of the players will be off until then, it will be an important time period for the dozen or so players that are injured.
Many of them are the rookie draft picks, including first-rounder Morris Claiborne, whose wrist injury never allowed him to fully participate. Claiborne is expected to be ready for the start of camp, along with fellow draft picks Tyrone Crawford, Kyle Wilber and possibly wide receiver Danny Coale, who suffered a broken bone in his foot back in early May.
Other players trying to make it back in time for the start of camp include cornerback Mike Jenkins, who is rehabbing a shoulder injury, guard Mackenzy Bernadeau (hip) and linebacker Dan Connor (hamstring). Other players such as Kyle Orton (hamstring) and Bruce Carter (hamstring) also had minor setbacks this week, but should be fine for the start of camp.