The Cowboys kicked off training camp with a Wednesday morning practice at 8 a.m., possibly the earliest they've ever conducted a practice at the Valley Ranch complex.
The time was to beat the Texas heat, but overall, this camp is for the rookies, other young players who need to learn the system, and veterans who haven't practiced much.
Oh, and well, veteran quarterback Kyle Orton, too.
The Cowboys' backup quarterback is by far the most experienced player currently practicing at Valley Ranch with eight years in NFL. Tony Romo was advised not to participate in these early practices as a precaution and is expected to be ready for the opening of training camp in Oxnard this Monday.
Orton, however, does not view these practices as a mere obligation in which he serves as the wily veteran to mentor all of the younger players. As a new Cowboy, he looks at the sessions as a valuable time for him to better learn the offense.
"It's my first year in the system so I have a lot to learn just like everybody else here," Orton said. "I understand that these are valuable reps for me and they give me a chance to get out there and get a head start and further my progression in the system."
From his experience as both a backup and starting quarterback in this league, Orton knows that his main concern needs to be his own personal preparation and to let the rest work itself out. The topic of the Cowboys potentially adding a third receiver to the roster rarely crosses his mind.
"To be honest, I'm so new here that I'm just trying to learn the guys that are on this team," says Orton. "There are smarter people that make those decisions and so I just worry about myself and my play and making sure that I'm ready to go."
As the primary QB in a practice made up of mostly rookies, Orton has the unique opportunity to get a look at the Cowboys' young talent. From the little he has seen so far, he is impressed.
"I think all of these receivers and tight ends have done a good job. They've all shown flashes of being a good player. They're all in the same spot. It's a race to see who can understand the stuff the best and show the coaches what they can do."
Orton was happy to point out that so many of the young players he worked with showed the eagerness it takes to get noticed in this league.
"I think everybody has made good plays. I don't think one of them really stands out because the whole group has done a fine job."