Writer's Blog: August 2018

Phillips: Gregory's Visit With NFL "Part Of The Process"

(Aug. 30; 6:55 p.m.) – Randy Gregory is not with the Cowboys for tonight's preseason finale at Houston due to a scheduled visit with NFL officials in Chicago, head coach Jason Garrett said on the Cowboys' "Countdown to Kickoff" show on CBS-11 (Dallas).

Gregory is back from a year-long suspension for repeated violations of the NFL's substance abuse policy, and these types of meetings are part of his reinstatement to the league, Garrett said.

The league also approved a comprehensive after-care program for Gregory before he rejoined the Cowboys for training camp.

There was a chance Gregory could join the team in Houston prior to kickoff, but it didn't work out logistically. He wasn't scheduled for playing time regardless.

His meeting with league officials was not a surprise to Garrett and the Cowboys.

"We understood all along that Randy was going to have to go through these kinds of interviews," Garrett said. "He went up last night to Chicago and had an interview today. He's not going to be here tonight. We'll see him in Dallas here tomorrow.

"But this is part of the process with him. The NFL is going to be thorough in handling his situation like they are with everybody's situation.

"Randy's done a great job for us. He's done everything he can to get himself back. But this is part of the process. I do anticipate there being more of these kinds of things as we go forward."

Helman: Jerry Jones Gives Updates On Woods, Frazier

(Aug. 28, 9:57 a.m.) – The Cowboys continue to be optimistic about their safeties heading into the regular season.

Plenty has been written in the past few weeks about the Cowboys' health, or lack thereof, at the safety position. The team signed two free agents last week after Xavier Woods and Jameill Showers went down with injuries, and Kavon Frazier injured his shoulder in Sunday night's loss to Arizona.

Speaking Tuesday morning on 105.3 FM The Fan, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones was optimistic those injuries would not be long-lasting.

"Kavon looks like he is going to be set for the opener at this juncture," Jones said. "Again, it's medical. It's got some ambiguous aspect to it. And Woods it's likely he'll miss the first game, but hopefully he'll be back for the second game."

That lines up, more or less, with the early prognosis. Frazier said following Sunday night's game that he thought he'd be fine. The time table for Woods when he first injured his hamstring was two-to-four weeks, and a Sept. 16 return against New York fits that timeline.

Phillips: Dak, Zeke Sitting vs. Cards; Frederick With Team

(Aug. 26; 7:10 p.m.) – Days after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, center Travis Frederick is with his teammates on the sideline for Sunday night's preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals here at AT&T Stadium.

Frederick has begun treatments for GBS, an auto-immune disease that affects the nerves, and he announced in a statement Wednesday that he's feeling better from an overall strength standpoint. Prior to the diagnosis, he met with medical experts to discuss stinger-like symptoms that bothered him in training camp.

There currently is no timetable for Frederick's return to the field. Joe Looney will start at center in the meantime.

The Cowboys are also holding out left tackle Tyron Smith (hamstring) and right guard Zack Martin (knee) against the Cardinals. Quarterback Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are also being rested.

Helman: Cowboys Hoping For Frederick Update Soon

(Aug. 22, 12:59 p.m.) – Whatever ailment is facing Travis Frederick, the Cowboys hope to have more information about it in the near future.

Speaking at an even in support of Professional Bull Riders on Wednesday morning, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones was asked about the health of his All-Pro center, who has been undergoing evaluation in the past week.

"We're still gathering information," Jones said. "Hopefully we're coming to some conclusions here. That'll be something that, at the appropriate time, we'll share it."

Frederick has sought out several medical opinions since facing some problems with stingers while the team was at training camp in Oxnard, Calif. He was evaluated by a specialist at that time, and he has undergone further testing since the Cowboys returned to Texas.

Given that it's a medical issue, the Cowboys have been reluctant to get into details about the situation. But it's safe to say that the situation is somewhat concerning, considering it centers around a lingering health problem for one of their key players,

"Any time you're talking about these types of things, you're concerned. So you want to get it right," Jones said. "Player safety is the most important, and until we find out exactly what's causing some of the symptoms that are making him uncomfortable, we're going to uncover every stone until we do that."

Jones was optimistic that an update could be coming soon, adding that he thought the Cowboys might have more information as early as sometime Wednesday.

Helman: Cowboys Expected To Add Another Veteran Safety

(Aug. 21, 1:38 p.m.) – The Cowboys look set to make more roster moves to offset their injuries at the safety position.

The team is expected to sign veteran safety Jeron Johnson on Tuesday. This comes a day after the Cowboys added another safety in Dominick Sanders, helping combat injuries suffered by Xavier Woods and Jameill Showers over the weekend.

Johnson comes to Dallas after playing under secondary coach Kris Richard for five seasons in Seattle. He also spent a season with Washington in 2015. He did not play in 2017, after winding up on injured reserve during training camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

For his career, he has tallied 67 total tackles in 64 games.

The team is expected to release quarterback Dalton Sturm, who was working fourth on the depth chart, to make room on the 90-man roster.

Phillips: Jerry Jones Says Prognosis Looks Good For Pro Bowl Linemen

(Aug. 21; 9 a.m.) – Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones says center Travis Frederick's follow-up examination results on his shoulder stingers looked "positive for the future" as the Sept. 9 season opener draws closer.

The Cowboys are also optimistic that right guard Zack Martin will be ready for the opener after an MRI showed no structural damage to his injured knee.

"Right at this time, it's safe to say that we should have our starting group when we open (at Carolina)," Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan.

Jones didn't discuss potential playing time for the starters in Sunday's preseason game against Arizona, typically the 'dress rehearsal' for the regulars. But with Martin and Frederick both unlikely to play, Jones suggested the team will be "sensitive about injury risk" with regard to quarterback Dak Prescott playing behind a less-than-full-strength offensive line.

Phillips: Frederick Gathering More Info On Injury

(Aug. 20; 5 p.m.) – Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick will visit more specialists about the shoulder stingers that have kept him out of practice in the past week, head coach Jason Garrett said.

Frederick saw a specialist in Los Angeles last Wednesday as the Cowboys wrapped up their final training camp week in Oxnard, California. Speaking to reporters last week, he indicated that the check-up didn't appear to reveal anything more serious than stingers, and rest should help alleviate the issue.

"I know he's going to see some people here today and hopefully tomorrow and then hopefully we'll get some good answers," Garrett said.

Frederick did not play in last Saturday's preseason game against the Bengals. The Cowboys still have nearly three weeks until the Sept. 9 season opener at Carolina.

Elsewhere on the offensive line, Garrett confirmed that tests on Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin's injured knee didn't reveal any structural damage. Like Frederick, the Cowboys are optimistic that Martin will be ready for the opener.

Phillips: Sean Lee's First Preseason Work

(Aug. 18; 11:55 p.m.) – Sean Lee had been building toward Saturday.

The Cowboys' defensive leader got his first reps of the preseason Saturday against the Bengals, a week after getting into full practice for the first time in training camp.

The Cowboys have been deliberate with Lee's work in camp, gradually ramping up the veteran linebacker's defensive snaps with an eye toward the Sept. 9 regular-season opener at Carolina.

If it were up to Lee, he'd probably play every snap of every practice and preseason game.

"I absolutely think there's a need (to play) because the less you practice, the less you play, the game kind of leaves you," he said. "You need to be out there, you need to practice, you need to play. It's like anything. And that's why I want to do it as much as possible, and I think I've done a good job this offseason setting myself up to be able to play in these games and be healthy."

But Lee credits with the Cowboys' staff for developing a plan to build toward the season. He missed five games with a hamstring injury last season and wants to ensure he's ready for all 16 this year.

"He looks like himself," head coach Jason Garrett said. "He has worked very hard throughout training camp. He plays the game the right way. He's got great intensity, a physical nature to him, and the guys follow him."

Lee had one tackle against Cincinnati. The starting defense forced three Bengals punts in three series of work.

Phillips: Awuzie's Spectacular Interception "Just Like A Drill"

(Aug. 18; 11:40 p.m.) – In real time, the ball didn't look catchable. Chidobe Awuzie thought differently.

His leaping interception of Bengals quarterback Jeff Driskel in the second quarter Saturday wasn't so much a highlight-reel play as a practice-type situation played out in a game setting.

"(Defensive backs) Coach (Kris) Richard does a great job of teaching us how to highpoint the ball," said Awuzie, who tipped the ball with his right hand in midair and then snatched it with both. "It was just like a drill."

The Cowboys' defense has forced five takeaways in the first two preseason games.

"It says a lot about our mindset, us buying into the system," Awuzie said. "And our coaches always talk about doing right. You do right longer, good things happen. I think people are running to the ball, people are in the right spots. And hopefully we can build on that to the regular season."

Phillips: Impressive Night For Taco Charlton

(Aug. 18; 11:15 p.m.) – Taco Charlton spent the offseason trying to improve his strength, his quickness, his pass rush moves. The work paid off in Saturday night's preseason game against the Bengals.

Charlton, the Cowboys' first-round pick a year ago, made two dynamic plays: Near the end of the first half, he forced a fumble on Bengals quarterback Jeff Driskel that Byron Jones recovered; and at the start of the third quarter, he sacked Driskel for a 9-yard loss, forcing Cincinnati to punt.

Charlton is typically working as the second-team left defensive end behind DeMarcus Lawrence. He's tried to model parts of his game after the Pro Bowler.

"It's all coming to fruition," Charlton said. "Just keep on having a strong preseason and carry it over to the regular season."

Phillips: Cowboys Make Roster Move, Sign WR Dres Anderson

(Aug. 15; 10:50 a.m.) – With several wideouts not practicing in recent days, the Cowboys have added depth at receiver.

Dres Anderson, released by the Colts over the weekend, has signed to the 90-man training camp roster. To make room, the Cowboys released defensive end Joby Saint Fleur.

Anderson, undrafted out of Utah in 2015, does not have any regular-season catches but has spent time on several practice squads around the league, including Washington and Indianapolis last season.

Cole Beasley (groin) did not make the preseason-opening trip to San Francisco last week and has not practiced since, though the injury isn't believed to be serious. Noah Brown (hamstring) and Deonte Thompson (Achilles' tightness) have missed a large portion of camp.

Phillips: How Tavon Austin Reminds Jerry Of Michael Irvin

(Aug. 13; 10:45 a.m.) – Dak Prescott is developing a rapport with new receiver Tavon Austin, and beyond X's and O's, Jerry Jones is excited about the leadership Austin has shown since coming over from the Rams in a draft-weekend trade.

"It's Michael Irvin-ish as far as the energy that he brings," Jones said after Sunday's practice. "I know the guys appreciate him. I certainly do from my perspective to have that kind of impact on his teammates."

That's, quite obviously, extremely high praise. Irvin, Hall of Famer and Ring of Honor member, was the emotional leader of the Cowboys' dynasty in the 1990s.

Austin has embraced the opportunity to mentor some of the Cowboys' younger receivers, both vocally and by example. The Cowboys have nine new receivers in training camp, and only eight players on the 90-man roster have more NFL experience than Austin.

On the field, Austin has been productive in camp, showing a comfort level as an outside receiver in certain situations.

Helman: Garrett Gives Update On Maliek Collins

(Aug. 11, 3:28 p.m.) – Maliek Collins continues to progress in his recovery from a broken foot, but he doesn't sound like he'll be hitting the field before the Cowboys return from California.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett spoke to reporters ahead of Sunday afternoon's practice, and he was asked for an update on his injured defensive tackle. Collins broke his foot during offseason workouts, and he's the only Cowboys player currently on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

"He's just progressing, he's done a really good job with his rehab and we're taking him day-by-day, we'll see if he's available at some point to come practice here in the next week or so," Garrett said.

Recently, Collins has progressed toward rehabbing in shoulder pads and a helmet, but as of yet he is still recovering. The Cowboys still have two weeks of training camp when they return to Texas, and Garrett was optimistic that Collins could play a role in that.

"I hesitate to give you a timetable, but he's making progress," he said. "We're optimistic about him, he won't be practicing in the next few days but hopefully we'll work him back here before the end of the preseason."

Helman: Injuries May Lead To Cowboys' Roster Moves

(Aug. 11, 2:08 p.m.) – It sounds like the Cowboys might have to do some roster shuffling this week.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett didn't want to speak in specifics, but he allowed Saturday that the Cowboys are looking at their options after Marcus Martin and Marqueston Huff both sustained injuries against San Francisco.

"I think yes, we'll probably need to add or at least look at adding somebody," Garrett said. "We'll continue to evaluate both those guys to see how they do. Each of them have had some tests here the last couple days, we'll see what the kind of final results are of those before making any decisions."

Martin tore a ligament in his toe during the game on Thursday, and he may require surgery to fix the issue. Huff is battling a groin injury. Garrett didn't specify which move the Cowboys may need to make, although Huff's injury does leave them a bit short-handed at safety.

Regardless, it may be a while before either player is back on the field.

"Suffice it to say they're at least going to be out for a little while – a week or two at minimum," Garrett said.

Phillips: Possible Surgery For Guard Marcus Martin?

(Aug. 11; 9:45 a.m.) – The Cowboys' offensive line depth took a hit Thursday night against the 49ers when guard Marcus Martin left with a big right toe injury that could require surgery.

Martin left Levi's Stadium in a walking boot and it's uncertain how much time he'll miss. La'el Collins, the Cowboys' starting right tackle, had surgery in October 2016 to repair a torn ligament in his toe and was placed on injured reserve that season.

The Cowboys signed Martin in March to provide depth with Jonathan Cooper, last year's starting left guard, signing with San Francisco. So far Martin has worked with the backup units with rookie Connor

Williams lining up at first-team left guard.

Phillips: Rush, Lenoir Lead Backup Offense

(Aug. 10; 12:15 a.m.) – Cooper Rush continued to solidify his spot as the Cowboys' No. 2 quarterback, and Lance Lenoir kept pushing for a roster spot.

Rush (15 of 23, 145 yards) found Lenoir in the right corner of the end zone to cap a 10-play, 75-yard drive in the third quarter.

"Great route," Rush said. "(Lenoir) really sold the dig and came back out beautifully and then he made the great toe-tap catch. I made it hard on him and he bailed me out."

Rush dominated games last preseason and became the only undrafted rookie to make the Cowboys' roster.

"You understand our scheme better and NFL defenses' schemes better and just watching all last year, that gained experience," he said.

Lenoir spent most of last year on the practice squad and has stood out in this year's training camp. He also returned punts against the 49ers.

"I definitely felt confident coming in, having a year under my belt and being comfortable in the system," Lenoir said. "The game has slowed down for me tremendously."

Phillips: Cole Beasley Stays Back; More Injury Updates

(June 10; 12:01 a.m.) – Veteran receiver Cole Beasley did not make the preseason trip to San Francisco due to a groin injury, though head coach Jason Garrett says it's not serious.

"We don't think so," Garrett said. "He's had a really good camp, but the last couple days that was bothering him."

Beasley stayed back for treatment at training camp headquarters in Oxnard, Calif. Terrance Williams and Allen Hurns started at wide receiver against the 49ers.

Linebacker Sean Lee and Ezekiel Elliott were in uniform Thursday night but were held out. The Cowboys are mindful of both players' preseason reps.

Guard Marcus Martin (toe), safety Marqueston Huff (groin) wide receiver Marchie Murdock (ankle) left the game with injuries.

Helman: Dak Opens The Preseason In Style

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – As far as beginnings go, it was about as good a start as the Cowboys could ask for.

As has happened so many times before, the Cowboys started their preseason opener with the ball in Thursday's game against San Francisco. Even with Ezekiel Elliott on the sideline, the first-string offense looked like something out of 2016 en route to a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.

"I thought they did some good things. That first drive was good for us," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.

The Cowboys have typically left their starting quarterback on the bench for the preseason opener, but Dak Prescott took the field for the first possession – and looked fantastic doing it.

Prescott completed all three of his passes for 39 yards, capped off by a 30-yard strike to rookie receiver Michael Gallup, who beat one-on-one coverage for a game-opening touchdown.

"It was good to get out there, get our feet moving and to get on the same page," Prescott said. "We were able to get the ball to Michael Gallup on that touchdown -- who did a great job on that 'go ball.'"

Ironically, Prescott had taken criticism through the first two weeks of training camp for his inconsistency throwing downfield. With the lights on against the 49ers, though, he had no problems at all.

After taking a sack on the fourth play of the game, Prescott dug the Cowboys out of trouble with a 12-yard scramble on a 3rd-and-9.

"Dak did a great job on the run to keep the drive alive, and we got the one-on-one on the outside and made a good throw and catch," Garrett said.

It was a promising start, although short-lived. Prescott and several other first-teamers took to the bench for the rest of the first half. The Cowboys went into the halftime locker room with a 14-7 lead.

Phillips: Cedrick Wilson Expected To Have Surgery

(Aug. 8; 10 a.m.) – Rookie wide receiver Cedrick Wilson is expected to have surgery in the coming days to repair the shoulder injury he suffered in practice the first week of training camp.

Because Wilson was placed on injured reserve in preseason, he'll remain on IR for the entire season. He's been with the team observing practice and rehabbing his shoulder.

A sixth-round pick out of Boise State, Wilson suffered a similar injury in college – a shoulder subluxation – but was able to play through it that time.

Blog: Austin Returning Punts Will Have To Wait

The Cowboys have released an unofficial depth chart in preparation for Thursday's preseason opener with the 49ers.

And while most of the projected starters are in the right spot, it doesn't appear to be the case foe the punt return position.

No, it's not a typo to see Tavon Austin nowhere to be found. This position was listed according to the guys likely to field punts in the game.

"Yeah, I don't think you'll be seeing Tavon out there in the preseason – maybe one or two but not many," special teams coordinator Keith O'Quinn said. "He's got a pretty good body of work out there. I don't think we need to see him right now."

Austin has three career touchdowns from punt returns, including a 98-yarder as a rookie in 2013 with the Rams.

Expect that in the regular season but in the meantime, the Cowboys will likely give receiver Lance Lenoir and cornerback Duke Thomas will get some returns, along with cornerback Jourdan Lewis.

At kickoff return, Deonte Thompson isn't expected to play but would be the first option. Lewis, Thomas and running back Darius Jackson should get some work for this first game.

Cowboys "Ramp Up Reps" For Gregory; No Practice Yet

(Aug. 6; 12:50 p.m.) – Defensive end Randy Gregory won't start practicing this week, head coach Jason Garrett said, but the Cowboys are "trying to ramp up his reps" in walkthroughs as he gets closer to making his debut in competitive situations.

The Cowboys have been diligent with Gregory's work since the NFL reinstated him in time for camp. Gregory had been on the league's suspended list since January 2017.

"He's been doing some of the work in the morning, the 'team on the grass' sessions," Garrett said. "You'll see him in pads here the next couple days, but he won't get into practice here. We're still trying to lay that base and that foundation. He's done a really nice job, though."

The Cowboys will practice Monday and Tuesday, travel to San Francisco on Wednesday and play the 49ers in Thursday night's preseason opener.

Phillips: Jason Garrett Believes Awuzie (Knee) Will Be OK

(Aug. 5; 2:30 p.m.) – Starting cornerback Chidobe Awuzie was seen limping near the end of Saturday's practice and did not take part in the final set of team drills with the first-team defense.

Head coach Jason Garrett said Awuzie hurt his knee but indicated that the issue isn't serious.

"We think Chido is going to be OK," Garrett said. "We'll take his situation day by day but we think he's going to be all right."

Awuzie was present at Sunday morning's walkthrough, but Anthony Brown took his place at first-team corner. It's uncertain whether he'll take part in any work during Sunday's practice.

Phillips: Frazier Cleared; Cowboys Cut 2, Sign 2

(Aug. 2; 3:30 p.m.) – Safety Kavon Frazier has passed his physical and the Cowboys have moved him back to the active training camp roster, off the active/non-football injury list.

Frazier has been with the team but not practicing in camp as the Cowboys reportedly waited for results on some recent bloodwork. Given the time he's missed, he likely won't be a full participant in practice right away.

The Cowboys made a few more roster moves Wednesday, releasing running back Trey Williams and defensive end James Hearns.

In their place, the team signed free agent defensive end Joby Saint Fleur and offensive tackle Korren Kirven. Both had scheduled workouts in the morning.

Phillips: Update On Kavon Frazier, Injuries

(Aug. 2; 12:30 p.m.) – The Cowboys hope to get a status update on safety Kavon Frazier within the next couple of days, head coach Jason Garrett said.

Frazier has been with the Cowboys throughout training camp but has sat out while the team reportedly awaits test results on some recent bloodwork.

"I don't want to get into the thoughts about what our doctors are telling us, but we'll find out more based on the tests that we've done," Garrett said. "But he's doing everything we're asking him to do. He's just not on the field yet."

The Cowboys were short on available defensive linemen Wednesday, but Garrett said he's hopeful Charles Tapper (sick) and Taco Charlton (shoulder) will be back Thursday at least on a limited basis. Tyrone Crawford was also held out Wednesday.

Phillips: Gregory Activated From Non-Football Injury List

(Aug. 1; 10:45 a.m.) – The Cowboys have activated defensive end Randy Gregory from the Active/Non-Football Injury list, though it's uncertain when he'll appear in his first practice of training camp.

Gregory is expected to take part in Wednesday's walkthrough, but head coach Jason Garrett says the team will continue to take a deliberate approach in getting Gregory ready to practice.

The Cowboys have made an effort to work Gregory slowly back into on-field activities since the NFL reinstated him in time for camp. Until Wednesday's walkthrough, he had worked on the side with strength and conditioning director Mike Woicik.

Gregory has not practiced or played in a game since getting suspended in January 2017 for multiple violations of the league's substance abuse policy.

"He's doing very well," Garrett said. "He did a good job keeping himself in shape. He's done a good job since he's been here, so he's making progress. But we don't want to compromise him early on here and put him a couple weeks behind where he should be."

Gregory counted toward the 90-man roster while on NFI, so the Cowboys didn't have to make a roster move in order to activate him.

Phillips: Brick By Brick, Sanjay Lal Puts His Stamp On The WRs

(Aug. 1; 10 a.m.) – New wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal continues to get creative during and after training camp practice.

Not only do the Cowboys' receivers work on balance and release without the football in certain drills, Lal asks them to walk the width of the field with 25-pound bricks in each hand. The purpose is to strengthen their hands and fingers for catching and gripping the football.

As a motivational tactic, Lal participates in the drill himself.

"They never want to lose to the coach, right?" Lal said. "If the coach can walk down and back, they're going to find a way to beat the coach."

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