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Training Camp | 2023

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Zack Martin explains Cowboys holdout, 'looking forward' to getting 'back to work'


OXNARD, Calif. — It's quite possible that someone sitting in Japan was able to hear the celebration pouring out of the site of Dallas Cowboys training camp on Monday, after it had been discovered that the team reached an agreement with future Hall of Fame right guard Zack Martin on a new deal that ended his holdout, one that lasted roughly three weeks.

Martin, an eight-time All-Pro in his eight NFL seasons, received a pay raise that amounts to $8 million over the next two seasons and, on Tuesday, he was back on the practice field.

But, on Monday, it was a jubilation from every level of the organization that owned the day.

"When we got the news in the offensive staff meeting, the room erupted," said head coach Mike McCarthy. "There were a lot of high fives and hugs, all day and night yesterday. That shows you what he means to us and what he means to our football team, and especially the offense."

That sentiment was echoed loudly by starting right tackle Terence Steele, who couldn't help but put all 32 of his pearly whites on display when asked about Martin's return to Steele's left side.

"I hugged him forever and he smiled ear-to-ear. He's the heartbeat of the team," said Steele.

The eight-time Pro Bowler (yes, he's earned both a Pro Bowl honor and All-Pro nod in every single season since entering the league in 2014) took to the podium on Tuesday to give a bevy of insight into his thought process going into the holdout, during and, of course now that it's concluded successfully. 

"I kept the faith and had a good feeling that we'd eventually reach an agreement," said Martin after practice. "I'm happy to be out here. It's great to see everybody and be back with the guys."

It took awhile, but ultimately the deal was closed by owner and general manager Jerry Jones — who made headlines recently regarding comments about the holdout — when Jones and Martin sat down in the same room last week ahead of the preseason opener versus the Jaguars.

"It all came together when [the team] came back to Dallas," Martin explained. "[Jerry and I] spent some face-to-face time and hammered this thing out. We reached out and some of my buddies here in the organization helped get that going, and it was good to get face-to-face with him."

And, now, Martin is all smiles, to the point he needed an Advil before going to bed.

"It was great, he said. "My head hurt because I was smiling and laughing so much all day. I don't think I stopped talking from the moment I got here to [the moment] I went to bed. … Three weeks doesn't seem that long, but when you're sitting in Dallas with 103-degree heat everyday, and you're seeing your guys out there having fun at training camp, it seems a little bit longer than it is."

Steele probably needed one as well.

"It's awesome to see him back there [at right guard]," he said of Martin. "That's his home spot. Excited to see him back there. … [Our chemistry being regained] comes down to reps. Getting all of the reps we can and making up for lost time. 

"We'll get it done. We already have a natural connection so it shouldn't be hard."

With that, the Cowboys will now field what can only be viewed as their best five going into the 2023 season — a front that includes Tyron Smith, Tyler Smith, Tyler Biadsz, Zack Martin and Terence Steele, respectively. 

And for anyone wondering if Martin was upset by anything Jones might've said publicly, the answer is no.

"I never took anything personal during this whole thing," Martin admitted. "You gotta realize that when you make a decision like that, to hold out, you're stepping into their arena and you've gotta play by their rules. It was a great experience for me — a learning experience — to sit across from a guy like that, with all of the business savvy that he has. I can't say enough about him and the rest of the Jones family. 

"There were some tough times, but there are no hard feelings. We were able to come to an agreement. I was looking forward to getting out here."

That said, he did feel as if this was the right path to take to get to his destination. 

"It was definitely difficult," said Martin. "If you would've asked me a few years ago if I'd be a holdout guy, I'd probably say no. But that's what I felt it had to come down to, to reach some of my goals that I was looking for. Luckily, it worked out."

The 32-year-old is now reunited with teammates he never once stopped communicating with throughout the entire process, texting his fellow offensive linemen and others along the way, confident the entire time that he and the Cowboys would get to this point.

"The love that my [teammates] were showing helped me get through this," he said.

With hands now shaken, and smiles now glowing, it's time to get to the task at-hand: trying to win a Super Bowl in 2023.

The chances of doing so just skyrocketed with Martin back in uniform.

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