OXNARD, Calif. – It's been three long weeks of filming, but the Cowboys have finally made their TV debut.
The premiere of HBO's "Hard Knocks" aired on Tuesday night, with the Cowboys front and center as this year's behind-the-scenes of training camp.
It's just one episode of five, but this first episode centered on several of the Cowboys' biggest stars, from Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to first-round draft pick Micah Parsons.
Here are some big takeaways from Tuesday's show:
An all-access show is always bound to reveal a few more details than the team puts out in public. For starters, Prescott confirmed in the very first moments of the episode that he had in fact undergone a second surgery on his fractured ankle – a fact that wasn't revealed until several months after the initial injury.
The episode was also full of additional information on the muscle strain that is currently limiting Prescott in practice.
For starters, it sure seemed to spook Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, who encouraged Prescott to leave the practice field early and begin treatment on the injury.
Upon further analysis, though, the problem seems to be just what the team has detailed in meetings with the media. Later in the episode, head athletic trainer Jim Maurer can be heard telling Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones that he had consulted trainers from both the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees, and that the consensus plan was to be cautious with Prescott at the outset.
The irony of Prescott's injury was that the early going of the show focused on how antsy the Cowboys' star quarterback was to get back on the field.
Having missed 10 games last season and gone through a grueling rehab, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Prescott is determined to get as many reps as possible. That must have made it all the more frustrating when, after an active start to camp, the coaching staff decided to dial him down a notch. In a series of surprisingly candid moments, Prescott made his displeasure with the situation known to everyone – from Garrett Gilbert to Will McClay. "I sat enough last year," he said.
Slim & Trim
Elliott was a big focus of this first episode, as well – from his friendship with Prescott to his preparation for the season.
Elliott wrapping Prescott's birthday present and stealing his bicycle were two of the comedic highlights of the episode. But something McCarthy said about his star running back registered even more.
"I don't even think we should run him this whole camp. He's up there in carries, career-wise," McCarthy told team chief operating officer Stephen Jones. "He's in much better shape than last year."
Elliott's slim, new physique has been a constant topic of conversation among fans and media this year, but it is interesting to hear the head coach weigh in. It'll also be worth watching to see what McCarthy decides to let Elliott do during these three remaining preseason games.
As many predicted, the Cowboys' No. 12 overall draft pick looks destined to be one of the stars of this show.
Parsons was everywhere in this first episode. He jawed with fullback Sewo Olonilua during one-on-one reps, and gave Olonilua credit for a nice route when he eventually lost. He picked off Garrett Gilbert in practice.
Best of all was probably Parsons' trip to the Hall of Fame, where his parents got to watch him recover a fumble on the first possession of the game – only for Parsons to sit down in frustration after 11 snaps.
Everything about the sequence was fantastic. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn had Parsons calling the defense at the beginning of the game – which is an impressive level of responsibility for a rookie. Parsons also lobbied Quinn, unsuccessfully, for more playing time. Then he outlined his frustration about not having anything to do to Leighton Vander Esch – who laughed with the experience of a veteran. A shot of Parsons eating oranges in the halftime locker room, still upset that his night was over, was icing on the cake.
It feels like a good guess that Parsons will have plenty more to do in subsequent episodes – not to mention the upcoming preseason games.
It's been hard to miss McCarthy's "Mojo Moments" out here at camp, given that they are usually preceded by a blaring announcement of what's about to happen.
But it was fun to get some backstory on the idea, which is essentially McCarthy's attempt to create a spontaneous, in-game, high-pressure situation. The scenarios are never the same, but it always involves some sort of do-or-die play that requires a clutch performance – or mojo, if you will.
All in all, it's a pretty routine bit of practice motivation. But the whole sequence was worth it, if only to see various Cowboy players quoting the Austin Powers movies during practice.
This one's not worth too much time, but the HBO crew dedicated a hefty segment of the show to one particularly jarring conversation – special teams coordinator John Fassel talking to his unit about the process of undergoing a vasectomy, and then deciding to undo it.
The sequence was about as bizarre as it sounds, and is worth a watch.
Breakfast of Champions
It was a small moment, but a memorable one.
During the course of learning about Prescott's muscle strain, Jerry Jones could be seen unwrapping his breakfast for the day, which happened to be a fast food breakfast sandwich.
Definitely not the most memorable part of the show, but it was fun to see the man who owns the most valuable franchise in sports grabbing breakfast off the value menu – the same as the rest of us.
Have Some Cake
The most viral moment of the show might've come from one of the team's most unsung members.
In a clip that has already been passed around social media, second-year offensive tackle Isaac Alarcón can be seen watching Prescott's on-field birthday celebration, which ended with several members of the offense smashing a cake into Prescott's face.
Watching the whole scene unfold, Alarcón puts it simply: "I want to try the cake."
It's not clear if he actually got to try some of the cake, but it feels like a good guess that the Mexican international is going to be featured in future episodes of the show.