The Cowboys’ decision to pass on signing veteran center Jamaal Jackson is an illustration of how difficult it is for teams to find players at this time.
Conditioning will be a factor for those out of work at this stage, especially veterans. The increased roster sizes from 80 to 90 players mean there are 320 fewer players available than in the past. The three-day acclimation period does not help fill an immediate need.
From all indications, Jackson was not in good enough shape to warrant a signing. He has not played a meaningful down since 2009. If you’re wondering about Andre Gurode, well, conditioning was a factor when he was under contract and took part in an offseason program. You would have to guess there would be conditioning issues now.
The Cowboys have short lists at all positions of need, and they’ve debated the merits of all kinds of players, while wondering what we’ve already discussed.
For now the Cowboys will stick with what they have.
If they need to find somebody in the near future to either get them through practices or have a legitimate shot at making the 53-man roster, then look for them to grab players who have been to a camp and cut recently. They will be in better condition and will not be held to the three-day rule.
Courtesy: Todd Archer | ESPN Dallas
Being at Cowboys training camp is like being at home for rookie fullback Jamize Olawale, who grew up in Long Beach, Calif., and went to junior college at El Camino in Torrance. He’s trying to make the team as a blocking back and on special teams. He might get a chance to showcase his running and catching ability in Monday night’s game because of injuries to Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar. But being at an NFL training camp is an eye-opening experience for any rookie. The former North Texas receiver talks about five things that make rookie life in the NFL an experience to remember.
1 The environment. "Just getting to know all the fans, all the attention that the Cowboys get, is interesting. It’s fun."
2 Learning how to prepare. "You bring your hard hat to work every day, as coach [Jason] Garrett says. Come to work. Have that mindset every day when you wake up."
3 The apartment setup. "It’s nice. It’s nicer than what I stay in at home, so I have no problem with that. And they feed us well. We’re taken care of."
4 Initiations, like carrying the veterans’ pads in after practice. "It’s not the first time. It’s cool, it’s fine. It’s part of the game, part of being a rookie. I’ll take it in stride."
5 It’s tough. "I expected it to be hard. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. So far, Coach has been helping us get through it and prosper."
Cole Beasley, the tiny undrafted receiver from SMU, has a ton of fans already at Cowboys training camp. And why not? He keeps making catches — and tough catches. After he went to the ground for one ball, grabbing it and holding on as he went down in the arms of cornerback Lionel Smith, a fan yelled out: "Pay attention, coaches! We need a Welker!"
Fox Sports reporter and MMA entrepreneur Jay Glazer visited the Cowboys sideline for Friday’s practice. He has an eye for MMA talent, and he said DeMarco Murray is excellent. "He’s got great knees," Glazer said.
Brill Garrett, the wife of Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, spent practice on the sideline with her trusty camera. She’s a photography enthusiast, and collecting her own camp pictures is a tradition.
They said it
"If we weren’t in the system we are in, I’d probably wreck this thing trying to spend money to get players to win a Super Bowl. But that’s not the system we are in. We’ve got to do it other ways." — Jerry Jones
Former Cowboys defensive tackle Tony Casillas got away from three days at Disneyland to make it to Friday’s practice. He liked the shape the players are in, and he said he’s down to about 240 from his playing weight of 295. But he said that’s nothing compared to how Leon Lett, coaching for the Cowboys, looks like a different person.
Courtesy: Carlos Mendez
Dallas Cowboys running back Ed Wesley, a rookie from TCU, seeks to make the team as a free-agent signee. Wesley grew up as a huge Cowboys fan and, at one point in high school, lived in apartments across the street from the team’s Valley Ranch training facility. He shared his five favorite Cowboys memories thus far:
1Emmitt Smith sets NFL career rushing record… "It was awesome. Emmitt was my favorite."
2Smith inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame… "My first time playing football, when I could choose my own number, I chose No. 22 because of him."
3Cowboys beat Pittsburgh 27-17 to win Super Bowl XXX… "I was in the first grade. I was 7 years old and I watched every bit of it."
4Cowboys beat Philadelphia in 2009 playoffs, the team’s first postseason triumph in 13 years… "The guys were giving me crap at TCU… because I was like, ‘We’re going to the Super Bowl.’ And they lost in the next round."
5Getting the call to join the team… "It was a dream come true."
Cowboys cornerback C.J. Wilson, a former Baylor standout, missed most of the morning walkthrough while having a root canal but took part in the padded practice during the afternoon. It made for a memorable day. "The pain medicine wore off as soon as we got out here, so I’ve been spitting out blood. But I’m fine," Wilson said after the afternoon session. "You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, man. If you don’t, somebody else will."
Because of injuries to Lance Dunbar (hamstring) and Phillip Tanner (broken hand), free-agent running backs Ed Wesley and Tavarris Williams figure to log significant snaps Monday at Oakland. Running backs coach Skip Peete said both are "a little behind the 8-ball" in learning the offense because neither went through off-season drills. Asked about Wesley, a TCU product, Peete said: "He’s an exciting young kid. He has some good run skills and has ability to run routes out of the backfield. He’s still behind, but that’s not his fault. If you’re three or four months behind everybody else, you’ve got to catch up quickly."
Actor Ashton Kutcher watched Saturday’s practice. He strolled the sideline like an assistant coach but wore a Boston Red Sox cap.
They said it
"I can’t accept … that we will be as disappointing as we were last year. I can’t accept that. Because I know that it was my most disappointing year as a Cowboy. We can’t have, individually, players play at the level they played at last year and not do better." — Jerry Jones
With the preseason opener looming, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett reflected on his first snap as a rookie quarterback in the NFL. Playing for the New Orleans Saints, Garrett handed off on a reverse against Buffalo. Then, he turned to block defensive end Bruce Smith, a future Hall of Famer. "He looked like he was 48 feet tall," Garrett said. "So you dive at his knees, he throws you to the ground and he makes the tackle."
History lesson, reality check
Cowboys tight end James Hanna, a rookie sixth-round pick from Oklahoma, wears No. 84. But his knowledge of predecessors who donned that digit is limited to Jay Novacek, a standout tight end from the 1990s. Asked about Pettis Norman, who made the number notable in the 1960s, Hanna said: "I don’t know about that. Not familiar with him." He is familiar with outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Asked to cite the moment he realized the NFL would be significantly different from college, Hanna said: "The first time I blocked DeMarcus Ware. Or tried to. It didn’t go well."
Dallas Cowboys Injury Report
WR Miles Austin, hamstring, 1 week
WR Dez Bryant, hamstring tightness, day-to-day
RB Phillip Tanner, hand, 1-2 weeks
G Kevin Kowalski, ankle, on PUP
G Bill Nagy, high ankle sprain, day-to-day (UPDATE: Waived)
G Nate Livings, hamstring, day-to-day
LB Anthony Spencer, hamstring, day-to-day
DE Jason Hatcher, hamstring, day-to-day
RB Lance Dunbar, hamstring, day-to-day
DB Matt Johnson, hamstring, day-to-day
TE John Phillips, ankle, day-to-day
WR Saalim Hakim, dislocated finger, 1 week
CB Mike Jenkins, shoulder, on PUP
Courtesy: Jimmy Burch
OXNARD, Calif. — The needs?
What are the Dallas Cowboys’ needs as training camp entered a third week out here right down the road from Ventura County beaches?
The No. 1 need at the moment is…
For all the cussing we do every August about NFL exhibition football, enough is enough at this camp of the same players facing off against the same players on the practice field.
As the last NFL clubs to play an exhibition game, the Cowboys’ Monday night encounter in Oakland with the Raiders can at least provide an early road map in several areas of concern.
Start with wide receiver. Very, very iffy in depth and proven talent. Don’t get me started again on how Jones and Co., or even Jason Garrett, has ignored this position, but "a game" can at least provide the opportunity for an unknown name to emerge.
Include the interior of the offensive line in this preliminary road map, because an injury wipeout in camp has both guard positions and center in a holding pattern.
Cornerback, which on paper is the most improved position for the Cowboys, is also on hold at the moment because of injuries.
Don’t forget safety, also a position of weakness in the past. Will the Barry Church who has surfaced as a positive on the practice field continue that trend Monday night?
OK, you get the point. Even exhibition football will be welcome come Monday night.
Meanwhile, a few observations from eight days of watching practice-field activity, observations that may or may not mean anything:
Tony Romo is a "meaner" quarterback.
"Yeah, I guess I am," answered Romo, who in a show of meanness then cussed at me (joking, I think) but also continued to expand on his noticeable verbal practice-field displeasure when plays are not executed properly.
"It’s about doing what you have to do, and about certain guys responding better to different things."
But why now has his barking at teammates expanded after six years as the starting QB? More leadership?
"It not just a now thing," Romo answered. "It’s not like I just started it. But you let it evolve more and more over the seasons. And now you’ve noticed.
"This has been a progression. Over time, things evolve. Being more vocal has evolved."
From quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson: "Oh, no doubt he’s being a lot more demanding of guys. The good thing is, it’s not been a case of him grandstanding. The positive impact with teammates happens when they know you are sincere instead of grandstanding with it. Tony is good about doing this the right way."
This is as physical a Cow camp as I’ve seen in years, including maybe the Parcells days. The practice-field difference from last August, with the NFL coming off a lockout shutdown, is a one-eighty.
Jason Garrett was a first-time full-time head coach last August.
So, Red J, you’ve really jacked up the intensity this summer, right?
"No," answered Garrett. "There’s not that much difference, not at all."
Huh? Eyes don’t lie. It’s totally different.
But it’s interesting that Garrett dismissed the topic, and for, I guess, psychological reasons, such as he doesn’t want to read or hear that he’s now gone hardball head coach. Or something. I’ve got no answers, really.
But it’s still the most physical and also entertaining training camp I’ve seen in years.
Even if he wants to also deny it, Garrett himself is a one-eighty from a season ago. Instead of the buttoned-up, boring robot when dealing with the media, he’s loose, funny, smiling, engaging, and all this carries over to his practice-field demeanor.
Garrett acts like a head coach totally in charge. Can he be? With Jerry? I guess we’ll see.
I’ll say it again. Sean Lee. Wow. DeMarco (In a Hurry) Murray. Wow. Brandon Carr. Wow
I’ll say it again. It’s a joke, a bad joke, that the Cowboys came to camp with this limited collection of wideouts.
As much as Garrett brings up the name of Kevin Ogletree, as much as we hear publicly about Ogletree being the top candidate as the No. 3 receiver, with an Andre Holmes and a Dwayne Harris the other top contenders…
Late last week, there was one whisper from inside the organizational door that rookie free agent Tim Benford had already become the top candidate as the No. 3 receiver. He’s from Tennessee Tech, and has been impressive.
For seniority reasons, others will get first call on the field Monday night, but Benford, all 5-foot-11 (if that) of him, is definitely a name to remember if you’re watching the Raiders game.
Plaxico Burress? There is limited interest here in plucking this guy off the NFL streets, but he’s signing somewhere soon, and the Cowboys don’t appear ready yet to take a nutcase gamble. It’s a risky gamble I’d take, seeing the state of the receivers in this camp.
On that topic of this being a highly physical camp, I went to new backup quarterback Kyle Orton for an opinion.
Orton has been in camps with the Bears and Broncos. Is this one more physical than those?
"No, not really," he said. "It’s about the same as the others."
So either the eyes did lie, or Garrett has now upgraded the intensity to that of other camps. I believe the latter to be the case.
With so much valid criticism on failed Cowboys drafts in the past, we still don’t know much about the highly acclaimed new cornerback, Mo Claiborne. But future expectations remain high for him.
Meanwhile, keep an eye on defensive end Tyrone Crawford, the third-rounder last April out of Boise State. Maybe his impact won’t happen immediately, but this guy at least has the look of a real find.
All of the above comes under the category of mere observations. They are being offered at no extra charge. Meanwhile, let’s please see "a game."
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The Cowboys’ center troubles are far from over.
Before departing for Oakland on Sunday, the team had hoped to finalize a one-year deal with veteran center Jamaal Jackson, helping to ease the strain caused by a slew of injuries at the position. However, Jackson’s workout was apparently so poor that the Cowboys chose not to sign him after all. The 32-year-old had been released by Philadelphia in March after eight seasons, then signed by the New York Giants. But he left the team after one practice in New York, with head coach Tom Coughlin believing he had intended to retire.
If Jackson does have anymore football in him, it won’t be in Dallas.
The club still has about five free agent centers in mind, according to a source, but the clock is ticking. After a signing, three work days must pass before the player can join the team in practice. Without getting to see the center in pads, the team might be reluctant to dress him against San Diego, in the second preseason game on Saturday.
To make room for Jackson, the team had planned to waive/injured one of the centers who had been hurt, last year’s seventh-round pick, Bill Nagy. Under that designation, Nagy will be exposed to a waiver claim for 24 hours. If no team picks him up, the Cowboys will retain his rights and place him on the Injured Reserve, ending his season.
Nagy, who was not a starter at the end of his career at Wisconsin, impressed the Cowboys during training camp last year, earning a starting nod on opening night. He started four games near the beginning of 2011, but was lost for the year when he broke his left ankle at New England.
Nagy had opened training camp this year in a competition with Phil Costa for the first-team center job, but suffered a high left ankle sprain after just a couple days of practice. He is visiting foot and ankle specialist Dr. Bob Anderson in Charlotte, and is expected to require serious surgery.
If a deal is struck later on Sunday, the earliest a new center would be eligible to practice with the club would be Thursday. If nothing happens until Monday, the player couldn’t practice until Friday, when only a walkthrough is scheduled before the team departs for San Diego.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant’s availability for Monday night’s preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders is in jeopardy after the third-year pro suffered a hamstring strain Saturday, ESPN Dallas reported.
The Cowboys don’t have a great deal of depth at receiver and will be without No. 1 wideout Miles Austin, who has been sidelined by a hamstring injury of his own.
With four preseason games in a 16-day span, and the regular-season opener against the New York Giants coming up in just 3½ weeks, the Cowboys are unlikely to push Bryant to play a dozen or so snaps in the preseason opener.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones admitted as much Saturday.
"This early in camp, we’re not going to push hamstrings," Jones said. "That’s just the policy, and this is exactly why we have the policy. When a player gets a little tightness, then we will be very conservative. The word is conservative, how much he pushes it, and there wasn’t any need of him to go through the last drill. And that may be the extent of the precaution."
Courtesy: Brian McIntyre
RELATED: Dez Bryant part of walk-through
One day after leaving practice with a left hamstring strain, Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant worked with the starters during Sunday’s walk-through and will be a game-time decision for Monday night’s preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders.
The Cowboys will determine whether Bryant will play after he warms up before the game.
Bryant’s left hamstring tightened during the middle of team drills Saturday, but he said he was "fine" as he walked off the field.
Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Saturday if there was any "sensitivity" to further injury then Bryant would not play against the Raiders.
"At this juncture, I don’t have anything to be concerned about," Jones said Saturday.
The Cowboys already are without wide receiver Miles Austin, who also has a hamstring strain.
Kevin Ogletree, who is subbing for Austin, and Dwayne Harris worked as the starting receivers to close Saturday’s practice.
"This early in camp we’re not going to push hamstrings," Jones said. "That’s just the policy, and this is exactly why we have the policy. When a player gets a little tightness, then we will be very conservative. The word is conservative, how much he pushes it, and there wasn’t any need of him to go through the last drill. And that may be the extent of the precaution."
Austin has not practiced in a week because of his strain. He missed six games last season with two hamstring injuries, and the Cowboys will be cautious given his history with the injury.
Courtesy: Todd Archer and Calvin Watkins | ESPN Dallas
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The Oakland Raiders host the Dallas Cowboys on ESPN’s Monday Night Football
A NEW ERA OF EXCELLENCE: The Raiders enter the 2012 season under new leadership for the first time in nearly five decades. Owner Mark Davis named Reggie McKenzie the team’s General Manager on Jan. 10, making McKenzie the first person to hold the GM title since Al Davis was named Head Coach and General Manager in 1963. McKenzie named Denver defensive coordinator Dennis Allen head coach on Jan. 30.
TRAINING CAMP 2012: The Raiders checked into training camp at the Napa Valley Marriott on July 29. This marks the organization’s 17th year of training in the Napa Valley. The team will conduct all of its day-to-day football operations in Napa until the team returns to its permanent Alameda facility after the third preseason game.
FAMILIAR FOE: Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys have squared off only 10 times in the regular season, but the two teams have played 27 times in the preseason, with the Silver and Black holding an 18-9 all-time advantage in a series that dates back to 1972. This week’s matchup marks the third time in four seasons that the two teams have met in the preseason and the first time in Oakland since a 31-10 Raider victory in the 2009 preseason opener. The Raiders lead the all-time regular season series, 6-4, with the teams last squaring off on Thanksgiving Day 2009 in Dallas, a 24-7 Cowboys victory.
EXTENDING THE SERIES: The Raiders and Cowboys have squared off 27 times in the preseason, making Dallas the second-most common preseason opponent for Oakland. The Silver and Black’s most familiar opponent is the San Francisco 49ers, with the two teams having played 39 times in the preseason. The Raiders and Cowboys played a preseason contest in Oakland in 2009, ending a five-year hiatus, and most recently faced off in Dallas in 2010.
OXNARD TIES: The Cowboys are no stranger to California during the summer months, as Dallas hosted training camp in Thousand Oaks from 1963-89. The Cowboys returned to Southern California in 2001, training in Oxnard, Calif. The Raiders’ training camp site was also in Oxnard from 1985-95 after moving from the El Rancho Tropicana Hotel in Santa Rosa,
Calif. The Raiders moved training camp to Napa, Calif., in 1996, a year after the franchise returned to Oakland.
NOTABLE CONNECTIONS: RB Darren McFadden and Cowboys RB Felix Jones occupied the same backfield at the University of Arkansas … CB Bryan McCann played for the Cowboys from 2010-11 before signing with the Raiders … S Michael Huff is from Irving, Texas … Cowboys’ recently-signed OL Dan Loper played for the Raiders in 2010 … RB Lonyae Miller played four games for the Cowboys in 2010 … LS Jon Condo played for Dallas in 2005 … Special teams coordinator Steve Hoff man spent 16 seasons (1989-04) as kicking coach with Dallas … Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan served as defensive coordinator for the Raiders from 2004-08 … Cowboys’ offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan was an assistant coach for the Silver and Black from 1998-01 and served as head coach from 2002-03 … Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete was an assistant coach for the Raiders from 1998-06 … Former Raiders QB Wade Wilson is the Cowboys’ quarterbacks coach … Tight ends coach Mark Hutson was a Cowboys’ third-round draft pick in 1988.
• at Oak. 19, Dal. 13 (Oct. 2, 2005): The Raiders posted the organization’s third straight win in the regular season series against the Cowboys in front of 62,400 fans in Oakland. K Sebastian Janikowski kicked four field goals, including two from 40-plus yards, and RB LaMont Jordan rushed for 126 yards and one touchdown to lead the Raiders.
• Oak. 13, at Dal. 12 (Sept. 27, 1998): QB Jeff George and WR James Jett connected on a 75-yard touchdown strike and the Raiders held off a late charge to edge the Cowboys by one point. A fourth-quarter Cowboy touchdown brought Dallas within three points, and Oakland P Leo Araguz ran out of the back of the end zone to give Dallas a safety but preserve a one-point lead that would ultimately hold up.
• at Oak. 27, Dal. 23 (Dec. 14, 1974): QBs Ken Stabler and George Blanda combined to throw three touchdown passes and the Raiders posted a 27-23 victory in the first meeting between the two teams. The win capped a 12-2 regular season for the Raiders that culminated in an AFC Championship-game appearance.
WINNING WAYS: The Raiders and Cowboys are among the elite teams in the NFL, with both ranking among the top-four since 1963 in winning percentage. The Dallas Cowboys top the chart with a .591 regular season winning percentage, while the Raiders rank fourth with a .567 percentage since Al Davis was named head coach and general manager in 1963.
HEYWARD-BEY REPLAY: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey recorded his first career TD reception the last time the Raiders faced the Cowboys in a regular-season tilt. On Thanksgiving Day 2009 at Cowboys Stadium, the rookie hauled in a 4-yard pass from Bruce Gradkowski, the Raiders’ only score.
PLAYOFF PEDIGREE: The Raiders’ 2012 training camp rosters includes 15 players that have earned postseason experience during their respective careers. Seven players have combined to be a part of 10 Super Bowl squads and have claimed seven championships.