Daily Archives: August 20th, 2012

HIGH POINTS: Dallas Cowboys K Dan Bailey likes the grass in California

Dallas Cowboys punter Chris Jones (6) kicker Dan Bailey (5) D long snapper LP LaDouceur (91) long snapper Charley Hughlett (44) and punter Delbert Alvarado (4) - The Boys Are Back blog

Dan Bailey has had a perfect preseason – 3-for-3 on field goals, 2-for-2 on extra points – and he drilled a 49-yard field goal Saturday night against the Chargers.

So he’s ready for the regular season, right? Surely he doesn’t need to kick any more in preseason.

“I just enjoy playing,” he said. “So any opportunity I can get out there, it’s fun for me. It’s also good to get the game experience. I like it. … You can always get better, so I don’t know if there’s really a benchmark that I’m hoping to achieve, necessarily, to get myself ready for the season. My idea is to just improve each game throughout the whole year. It’s good to get some attempts now, early on, especially a long one like the kind I had tonight.”

Bailey said the long kick was into the part of the stadium where the wind was pushing the ball, and the kick drew back left on him. But he said he struck it well, and it felt good off his foot.

Bailey also credited the work of long snappers Charley Hughlett and L.P. Ladouceur and holder Chris Jones. Hughlett, a rookie, was the snapper for the field goals, and he and the veteran Ladouceur each had one of the PAT snaps.

“The operation’s been great,” Bailey said. “Everybody worked really hard in the offseason. I think it’s just really been a smooth process. Everybody’s locked in and focused. It’s been a pretty easy transition coming back into this year.”

Now it’s time to go back to turf. The next two games are at Cowboys Stadium, then the Cowboys go to MetLife Stadium (Giants) and CenturyLink Field (Seahawks) before coming home for two more home games.

“I don’t think about it too much,” Bailey said. “Especially Cowboys Stadium. That’s like a kicker’s paradise there. We’ve been fortunate enough. We’ve had pretty good grass in Oxnard, and the grass was good here tonight.”

Carlos Mendez

REST PRESCRIBED: Dez Bryant’s MRI reveals Patellar Tendinitis, no major damage

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) jumps to catch a pass at practice - The Boys Are Back blog

An MRI on Dez Bryant‘s injured knee revealed patellar tendinitis, according to a source, which should only require rest before the star receiver can return to practice.

Bryant hurt his knee Monday practicing against the Chargers when he slipped coming out of a break. The MRI revealed no major structural damage and provides a much less severe diagnosis than originally feared when Bryant limped off the field. It’s unknown at this time how long Bryant will be out.

Patellar tendinitis is also known as "jumper’s knee," and occurs most frequently in athletes who jump routinely, as Bryant did when he soared into the air to snag a ball in the back of the end zone Saturday.

The Cowboys are short in receiving threats, with Miles Austin and Jason Witten both sidelined. A spleen injury to Witten and a lingering hamstring issue for Austin raised the dependence on Bryant in the passing game. Bryant was one of the few starters not dealing with an injury in training camp, besides missing the end of a practice in Oxnard, Calif., with a sore hamstring.

The receivers finished Saturday’s preseason game healthy against the Chargers, but they couldn’t stay on the field in Monday’s practice against San Diego, as Bryant, Andre Holmes and Donavon Kemp joined the injury list.

Kemp also suffered a knee injury and Holmes left with a sore back. Wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson said he knew Holmes’ tight back flared up on him, but he didn’t see what happened to Bryant, who slipped coming out of a break and limped off the field. 

“Hopefully it’s not anything too serious,” Robinson said.

Bryant’s been on point with Tony Romo throughout the preseason, making athletic catches routinely, including a one-handed grab in the back of the end zone against the Chargers that was called back for a penalty and ruled out of bounds. Bryant didn’t play much against the Chargers, catching two passes for 15 yards on three targets.

San Diego Chargers defensive back Atari Bigby breaks up a pass in the endzone intended for Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Ogletree - The Boys Are Back blog

Kevin Ogletree took a majority of the first-team snaps in practice after Bryant’s departure. He said Bryant “became a man” this offseason and preseason with his consistent play.

Ogletree also didn’t see the play that forced Bryant to the sidelines.

“We all know his talents and how hard he works and his determination and drive and competitiveness,” Ogletree said. “You can give a bunch of words to describe his role on the team and how important he is to us. He’s a leader, one of our best players and I’m praying for him. I’m sure he’ll be fine. He’s a strong kid.”

The injury to Austin already bumped Ogletree to the starter opposite Bryant. His practice reps increased more when Bryant left Monday.

He said the practices at the end of training camp are essential with the Sept. 5 opener against the Giants looming in a couple weeks.

“It was a great opportunity for myself and some of the other young guys to get some extra practice reps with some unfamiliar corners and secondary’s and defenses,” Ogletree said. “It’s something I think we took advantage of as a group today.”

Rowan Kavner

CO-PRO PRACTICES: Jason Garrett said Dallas Cowboys benefit from shared drills with San Diego

Norv Turner San Diego Chargers and Jason Garrett Dallas Cowboys - The Boys Are Back blog

Despite watching three receivers, including starter Dez Bryant, leave the practice field with varying injuries in today’s joint practice with the Chargers in San Diego, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he likes what the team accomplished in the session. The teams work together again Tuesday before the Cowboys return to Texas.

Bryant (right knee) and Donavan Kemp (left knee) both left the practice with knee ailments and were scheduled to undergo MRIs. Andre Holmes departed after his back stiffened during drills.

Garrett cited a “similar value system” between the two franchises that enables Dallas and San Diego to benefit from the shared practice with a minimum of chippiness during drills.

“We as coaches try every day to create competitive situations for our guys. Whether it’s one-on-one, two-on-two, seven-on-seven or 11-on-11,” Garrett said. “We’re always trying to do that and that’s an important part of growing as an individual player and as a team. That happens really naturally when you’re working against other teams.

“We have a real similar value system, the Cowboys and the Chargers. I’ve been around (Chargers coach) Norv (Turner) for a number of years … We both know what we want out of these practices. We had great work with them last year. We were dying to do this again this year because the work was so good against them last year (in Dallas). We practice hard. We compete. We’re not going to have a lot of fights. We understand what we’re trying to get out of it. Throughout the practice, the 1-on-1’s, they were competitive, but I think everybody understood there was a healthy respect for each other. Tomorrow’s going to be a little more situational. We’re going to move the ball a little bit. We’re going to have some two-minute, do a little red zone. We’ll have some more competitive situations but the tempo’s right. I think both teams are getting a lot out of it.”

Jimmy Burch

INJURY UPDATE: Dez Bryant injured in Monday’s workout

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant appears to get both feet down inbounds while making a touchdown reception - The Boys Are Back blog

PHOTO: Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant appears to get both feet down inbounds while making a touchdown reception in Saturday’s preseason game vs. San Diego. ‘Holding’ was called on the Dallas offensive line. Tony Romo appeared to be throwing the ball away, and Dez Bryant leaped up and caught the ball with one hand.

A Cowboys team that can’t afford to lose any more offensive skill players holds its breath as it awaits the result of an MRI on Dez Bryant’s right knee.

The receiver suffered the injury during a one-on-one drill in the early part of Monday’s practice with San Diego and didn’t return. On his way to have the MRI, Bryant replied “yeah’’ when asked by reporters if he was OK.

The club won’t know if he is OK until it receives the results later today.

“Hopefully this injury is not too severe,’’ head coach Jason Garrett said. “But if it is, we’ll deal with it and go forward.’’

The offense has had a lot to deal with this training camp. Receiver Miles Austin hurt his hamstring and has been held out since the opening days of camp. Tight end Jason Witten lacerated his spleen against Oakland and has availability for the regular-season opener on Sept. 5 is in doubt.

That left quarterback Tony Romo without his three top targets for the majority of Monday’s practice. Kevin Ogletree and Dwayne Harris lined up with the starters with John Phillips at tight end.

“Dez has become a man out here,’’ Ogletree said. “We all know his talents, how hard he works, his drive and competitiveness. He’s one of our best players.

“I’m praying for him. I’m sure he’ll be fine.’’

Garrett and owner Jerry Jones have both commented that Bryant’s conditioning is noticeably improved in this camp compared to his first two. Bryant did have him hamstring tighten up two days before the Cowboys played the Raiders, but he played in that game and hauled in a 24-yard reception from Romo.

“Dez has been outstanding,’’ Garrett said. “He’s been outstanding all through the off-season. He really came back committed to being in the best shape possible. He’s practiced really well.

“I think he’s matured in a lot of ways as a receiver.’’

Receivers Andre Holmes (back) and Donovan Kemp (left knee) were also forced to leave practice early with injuries.

NFC EAST UPDATE: RGIII’s tough night fails to create QB controversy

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) is tackled by Chicago Bears defensive end - The Boys Are Back blog

WASHINGTON (AP) — Robert Griffin III: three sacks, no touchdowns.

Kirk Cousins: three touchdowns, no sacks.

If preseason stats could be taken at face value, one could have fun cobbling together yet another Washington Redskins quarterback controversy, this one involving a pair of rookies.

For one thing, fourth-rounder Cousins from Michigan State is naturally more comfortable in the pocket than No. 2 overall pick Griffin, who didn’t get a chance to learn the nuances of a pro-style offense at Baylor.

Of course, there is no such QB competition. Griffin played with and against starters during the first half of Saturday night’s 33-31 loss to the Chicago Bears, while Cousins was on the field in the second half with quite a few players who will soon be looking for work. Griffin would have to be inept or injured not to remain the No. 1 guy when the regular season opens, and so far he’s been neither.

But he did get his first taste of NFL pressure after a relatively smooth quarter of work in the preseason opener the week before. He lost a fumble deep in Redskins territory on one of the sacks and completed 5 of 8 passes for only 49 yards.

"We never really got into a rhythm," Griffin said. "I think everyone on the (first-string) wanted to go back in the second half."

Growing pains aside, Griffin can’t flourish if he’s always on the run. The game reinforced an ongoing concern about an offensive line that was missing three projected starters — Kory Lichtensteiger, Chris Chester and Jammal Brown.

The Redskins (No. 25 in the AP Pro32) are reasonably hopeful that Lichtensteiger and Chester will be healthy when the regular season starts Sept. 9.

And Griffin is also going to need more help from the starting defense, which gave up big plays and lost two starters — two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo and strong safety Brandon Meriweather — to injuries in the first quarter.

Orakpo and Meriweather were both scheduled for MRIs on Sunday, with coach Mike Shanahan expected to divulge the results when the team reconvenes for practice on Monday.

Orakpo reinjured his left shoulder trying to tackle Bears receiver Devin Hester; it’s the same shoulder that required surgery after the linebacker tore a pectoral muscle in the final game of last season.

Meriweather, a significant offseason free agent signing, hurt his left knee when a player fell on him during a touchdown run by Michael Bush.

In addition, linebacker London Fletcher added more intrigue to his recent spate of missed practice work by sitting out the game. Shanahan said Fletcher was "not feeling right" and declined to give any more details.

The Redskins can’t afford to lose any of those players for long — because the defense is expected to keep games competitive while Griffin deals with the inevitable ups and downs of his rookie season.

Not that Griffin appeared rattled by his uneven night. Shanahan’s best compliment about the rookie’s performance had nothing to do with a particular throw.

"I liked the way he handled himself," the coach said. "He is very poised. He is cool, calm, collected. He never seems to lose his composure."

About to take the field with the Redskins trailing 20-10 at halftime, Cousins said he told his fellow second-teamers: "Let’s go down swinging." He went on to complete 18 of 23 passes for 264 yards and a 154.1 rating, leading a comeback that actually made the waning minutes of the fourth quarter somewhat interesting.

While he’s no threat to overtake Griffin anytime soon, Cousins could make a strong challenge to Rex Grossman for the No. 2 job.

"There were a lot of plays that I liked, and a lot of where I’m still learning and needing to grow and get better from," Cousins said. "There were some rookie mistakes, but a good preseason game and a lot to build off of."

JOSEPH WHITE, AP

UPON FURTHER REVIEW: Major blunder by replacement officials in San Diego

Replacement NFL Officials - The Boys Are Back blog

Be glad Saturday night’s game against the Chargers didn’t count, because this one really might have been the refs’ faults.

Saturday night’s Cowboys-Chargers game had the worst call of the preseason so far — a preseason that is being officiated by replacement officials.

On a pass to Cowboys receiver Andre Holmes, Chargers safety Eric Weddle applied an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit.  The ball bounced around and Chargers linebacker Donald Butler came up with the interception before it hit the ground.

Following yet another extended discussion after the play, the officials gave the ball to San Diego and marked off the personal foul against the Chargers for the illegal hit.  The correct move, as anyone who pays attention to NFL football knows, would have been to wipe out the interception, give the ball back to the Cowboys, and mark off the penalty against the Chargers from the previous spot.

The article goes on to point out that it’s a more embarrassing gaffe, since under the new rules, all turnovers are subject to review, and even after a replay review, none of the officials properly returned the ball to the Cowboys and wiped away the interception.

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett joins his staff with an inquiry to side judge Mike Riley - The Boys Are Back blog

We all know preseason wins and losses don’t count, but you can bet Kyle Orton would love to have that interception next to his name erased, and a number of Cowboy receivers on the 53-man roster bubble would have liked one more red-zone opportunity to get a key touchdown that could bring them one step closer to a roster spot.

And so the Cowboys lost what should have been a first down on the San Diego 15 with 53 seconds left in the second quarter.

Even though this game didn’t count, we’ve got a feeling that the league office will be hearing from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

FOCUSED AND RELAXED: Morris Claiborne avoids being ‘star-struck’ in first NFL action

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne (24) listens to music prior to the game - The Boys Are Back blog

PHOTO: Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne listens to music prior to the game in San Diego. Michael Ainsworth/Staff Photographer

Morris Claiborne had that moment – when he knew he was in the NFL – right away.

He saw Robert Meacham of the Chargers lined up against him.

Then, tight end Antonio Gates.

The Cowboys’ No. 1 pick knew – he was in the NFL.

“A couple of months ago, these were guys I was looking at, ‘Man, those guys are beasts,’ ” Claiborne said. “Just to be in front of those guys and play with those guys, it’s just been a blessing for me to even be here, be in this moment. I’m just trying to seize the moment.”

Saturday night’s game was the first preseason action for Claiborne, the Cowboys’ No. 1 pick, who missed close to two weeks of padded practices in training camp with a knee injury.

He said he had a good game mentally. “I didn’t blow any assignments,” he said.

And he got confirmation from one of the Chargers.

“Meacham walked by me and tapped me on the side, was like, ‘Good job,’ on one of the plays,” Claiborne said, breaking into a grin as he spoke to reporters. “I looked back. ‘Wow!’ You know?

But Claiborne said he put the compliment aside and went to back to work.

“I know what I have to do. I know all the people who are counting on me,” Claiborne said, describing how he was able to keep his focus. “So I can’t just get out there and be star-struck. ’cause those guys, they don’t care. They know who they are. If you’re a rookie, those guys are going to come at you and give you 100 percent. I just got to put that beside me. It’s easy for me to do. Just go out there and play football.”

Carlos Mendez

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