Tag Archives: Dallas Cowboys Training Camp

GOING LONG: Jerry Jones using Ben Franklin procedure for the Dallas Cowboy decisions

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talks to the media - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones compared his decisions as general manager in deciding what he is going to do at third receiver to being a modern day Ben Franklin.

He is going to the let the preseason play out and then pick a guy or go after another guy on free agency based on his evaluation of what’s best for the team,  which is why doesn’t feel pressure to make a decision on a veteran free agent like Plaxico Burress right now.

“It’s the Ben Franklin procedure,” Jones said. “He would take a sheet of paper and put why and why not. He would look at the plusses and minuses and he would fill in on each side and decide which ever shape he was in. That’s the long way of saying why or why not!

Courtesy: Clarence Hill | FWST

Photos Courtesy: Dallas Morning News

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Ogletree (85) is chased by linebacker Sean Lee (50) - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Ogletree (85) is chased by linebacker Sean Lee (50)

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Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dwayne Harris (17) catches a pass - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dwayne Harris

.Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley (14) catches a pass - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley (14)

.Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) runs after a catch - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) runs after catch

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Dallas Cowboys tight end James Hanna (84) catches a pass - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys tight end James Hanna (84)

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Dallas Cowboys tight end James Hanna, a rookie from Oklahoma, wears No. 84. But his knowledge of predecessors who also donned that digit is limited. Asked by a reporter if he knew of any other notable No. 84 in franchise history, he identified Jay Novacek, a standout tight end from the 1990s. Asked about Pettis Norman, a star tight end in the 1970s, Hanna said: “I don’t know about that. Not familiar with him.”

He is familiar with outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who has helped him with his technique during training camp. 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 special teams coach Joe DeCamillis congratulates wide receiver Andre Holmes - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys special teams coach Joe DeCamillis congratulates wide receiver Andre Holmes

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Cowboys receiver Andre Holmes had a couple of notable catches on fades in the red zone, including one against cornerback C.J. Wilson. Holmes (6-foot-4, 223 pounds) is the team’s tallest receiver and his production in those situations figure to play a prominent role in whether he makes the 53-man roster.

“I’ve been working on that. I felt like it kind of paid off today,” said Holmes, who has strung together a series of solid practices after falling behind others when he failed his pre-camp conditioning test. “I’m trying to show something to the coaches. It’s what I’ve got to do.”

Holmes showed significant emotion after one fade route and indicated he planned to keep the emotional edge front and center.

“It’s not a relief. I know I’m going to make those plays all the time,” Holmes said. “I was just a little more fired up today. That’s what I’m going to be doing every day.”

LETT THREAT: Dallas Cowboys Tyrone Crawford has a bull rush but looking to Leon Lett for another move

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Tyrone Crawford - The Boys Are Back blog

Rookie defensive end Tyrone Crawford said he’s got a good bull rush, but he needs to find another pass rush move to pair with it.

For that, he’s turning to Leon Lett.

“He’s forgotten more moves than I know,” Crawford said after Monday’s practice, when he talked about his showing the Blue-White scrimmage. Coach Jason Garrett said he liked what he saw of Crawford’s pass rush in the live part of the scrimmage.

“I feel like I have a pretty decent pass rush as far as bull rush, but I definitely need to work something off my bull rush,” he said. “That’s definitely something me, Coach Baker and Big Cat have been working on. Hopefully, I can do that in this first game.”

Crawford was slowed a little last week by a calf injury. And he missed the OTAs and minicamp with a calf strain.

But he didn’t miss a day with the latest injury.

“Just coming off that calf, the physical side of it is a little hard,” he said. “But I felt like I was more mentally prepared than maybe I would have been if I was in there playing. I don’t know. The mental part of it, I feel better about. But the physical part, I definitely got to work on some things.”

BIG CAT - Dallas Cowboys Leon Lett - The Boys Are Back blog

Lett was an intern with the Cowboys last year, and they decided to bring him back for another year after the positive influence he had on another end, Clifton Geathers.

“He really grew as a player,” Garrett said of Geathers. “He was kind of flapping around in his career, and he really grew as a player. I think Leon had a lot to do with that.”

Crawford said Lett is understanding as a coach, but pushes hard.

“When you’re doing something wrong, he’ll tell you, and then he’ll get you right on what you’re doing,” Crawford said. “He likes to rep things. Back when I was injured, my calf was still a little bit sore and everything, and he had me out there going 100 times on the sleds.”

So does Crawford see himself in anything Lett did as a player?

Crawford smiled.

“I cannot even compare myself to Big Cat,” Crawford said. “He’s a great pass rusher. I’m just going to take everything in. Everything he says, I’m going to take it in, learn from him as much as I can. Hopefully, I can become the pass rusher that he was.”

Courtesy: Carlos Mendez | FWST

YOUTH MOVEMENT: Jerry Jones dismisses Burress speculation, Dallas Cowboys focusing on young receivers

YOUTH MOVEMENT: Jerry Jones dismisses Burress speculation, Dallas Cowboys focusing on young receivers - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones squelched speculation about ongoing discussions with free-agent receiver Plaxico Burress, who played last season for the New York Jets.

“Not at all. We haven’t even discussed that internally at all. That has not been discussed at any level within our organization, one way or another,” Jones said after today’s evening practice.

Jones did say the Cowboys would “look at any option” later in camp, once they have monitored the progress of the young receivers seeking to land roster spots behind starters Miles Austin and Diamond Dez Bryant. But the Cowboys want to let the young receivers show what they can do in pre-season games before turning their focus toward a veteran receiver.

Jones praised today’s efforts by former SMU receiver Cole Beasley. Andre Holmes also made some notable catches in today’s practice.

“We’re not trying to trade and we’re looking forward to this run of pre-season games to look at these young guys. We like what some of them are doing,” Jones said. “We saw Beasley made some catches out there today. We’re going to stick right there, for right now.”

Courtesy: Jimmy Burch | FWST

BACK IN PADS: Dallas Cowboys rookie wide receiver Danny Coale learning from his mistakes

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Danny Coale - The Boys Are Back blog

Rookie receiver Danny Coale practiced for the first time in pads this Tuesday, and he was glad to listen to the play in the huddle, line up and make mistakes.

Mistakes?

“You never want to go out there and make mistakes, but I personally think I learn best when I make mistakes and learn from them,” he said. “It was good to get out there mentally and get back into the pace of things.”

Coale was sideline with a broken foot for three months. He suffered the injury in the rookie minicamp in April, one week after the Cowboys took the Virginia Tech receiver in the fifth round of the draft.

So he missed all of the preseason work except two rookie minicamp practices. All that was left for him to do was his rehab and playbook study.

“You can study all you want, but nothing beats getting in the huddle and actually hearing the play call live, getting lined up, learning from your mistakes,” he said.

“I don’t know how open I got. But it’s nice just to be out there running around. You find that things sort of come back to you and you remember seeing coverages and making a route conversion versus a certain coverage – certain things you can’t do just watching film.”

Coale, the second-leading receiver in catches and yards at Virginia Tech, said his foot is healed. He just has to trust it now as practice intensity goes up and preseason games approach.

“Physically, I think everything’s fine,” he said. “It’s just the mechanics of getting back into it. Just trusting your foot. It’s fully healed and fully healthy. I just have to get back into running routes like I did 11, 12 weeks ago. There’s going to be a transition phase. You’re going against NFL-caliber guys. There’s going to be a learning curve here, but hopefully it doesn’t last too long.”

Courtesy: Carlos Mendez | FWST

JASON WITTEN: Mr. Nice Guy with different approach this season

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten and son - The Boys Are Back blog

He won’t say it officially. In fact, he’s rather uncomfortable about being at the top of this list.

But like it or not, Jason Witten is the leader of this team.

Not only is he one of the best overall players on the squad, and arguably in the entire NFL for his position, but he’s the most outspoken player the Cowboys have.

One thing is for certain out here in the first 10 days of training camp in Oxnard: Jason Witten has a different demeanor about him.

Call it focused. Call it determined. Call it frustrated or maybe just downright pissed off.

But Witten’s crankiness is evident here as he goes about his business in his 10th pro season. (And let’s focus on that for a second. Ten years for Jason Witten? Really?)

Now, the fans might not even notice a change. Witten still signs as many autographs after practice as any player. He’ll pose for pictures and smile and do the very things that have made him a fan favorite since the moment he got here in 2003.

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten 2012 2013 Training Camp stretch - The Boys Are Back blog

But when it comes to football and the things that matter on the field and in the meeting rooms, Witten has a different mindset.

“I am a little different than I’ve been before and that’s just because I think we feel a true sense of urgency,” Witten said. “We’ve had feelings like this every year, but this year just seems different. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of the same ol’ stuff. We say the same things every year and the results have been the same.

“I think in the past we’ve had an attitude like, ‘Hey don’t worry guys. We’ll fix that problem. We’ll get better here or there.’ And at some time you just want to say enough is enough.”

It actually reminded me of a conversation I had a month ago with former Cowboys safety Darren Woodson, who was also the vocal leader during the last few seasons of his career. Woodson said he realized at some point that being “Mr. Nice Guy” wasn’t going to cut it. Woodson said he ultimately decided he didn’t care if the players liked him or not.

And to some degree, Witten is the same way.

“You can’t be everyone’s friend all the time,” Witten said. “If I see something happen, where a guy doesn’t line up right or keeps making the same mistake, I’m going to say something. I’ve always been that way, but I think it’s a little more of that this year. Players can hear it from the coaches for so long, but when you hear it from a player, it’s different.”

Witten credits former tight end Dan Campbell for having that same approach with him when he first entered the league. And Campbell was a tell-it-like-it-is kind of guy. He was blunt to the media and probably the same way to his teammates.

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten 2012 2013 Training Camp - The Boys Are Back blog

Witten said this year he’s already confronted one of his younger teammates who had made a repeated mistake, basically just laying it out there in simple terms.

“I told him, ‘Hey, you’re not doing anything for them to keep you right now,’” Witten said. “I mean, sometimes you have to be honest like that. But I’ll be honest, this really has been a good group. You have some things that happen and guys need to pick it up, but I think everyone is getting the message.”

And Witten won’t ever call himself the only leader. He said guys lead in their own way, pointing out Jay Ratliff as the emotional leader on the field, while DeMarcus Ware leads by example as one of the best in the NFL. Witten said Tony Romo is “a great leader” in the way he works with the younger players.

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten 2012 2013 Training Camp signing autographs - The Boys Are Back blog

I can’t really speak about those other players’ attitudes this year. Maybe they’ve got a different mindset, too. But it’s rather clear that Witten has cranked it up a notch. That’s definitely what a leader does.

On Twitter, Witten has nearly 144,000 followers. But with this attitude, there are 89 individuals at training camp who need to be following Witten in a different way.

Courtesy: Nick Eatman | Dallas Cowboys

SCOUTING REPORT: Bryan Broaddus – A cure for the Center-QB exchange problems

Just a few ideas from Oxnard:

Dallas Cowboys QB Kyle Orton - The Boys Are Back blog

* On Thursday I asked Jason Garrett about the quarterback–center exchange problems the offense has had during this camp. In  my years working in this league as a scout, I was always taught that if the ball goes straight down to the ground, it’s most likely that the quarterback pulled out from underneath too soon and it’s his fault. I have seen a couple of balls end up like this during camp, but I thought Garrett’s answer was actually a better one. He is not trying to make excuses for David Arkin or Phil Costa, but both the centers and quarterbacks should share in the blame for the ball being on the ground. Arkin, especially, has never played center, and Kyle Orton needs to realize that and try to work with him if he needs more pressure, or to put his hands differently to help Arkin get a feel. What I have noticed about Arkin’s high snaps in the shotgun is that when your butt goes up, the launch angle of the ball goes high. Arkin needs to snap like he is sitting in a chair. When your butt is down, the ball stays down. It’s an old long snapper’s trick.

* Watch the second offensive line in the game against the Raiders on Monday night. There are no rookies in it, which I don’t think is a bad situation when you are trying to evaluate your squad on offense. Jeremy Parnell is the left tackle, Derrick Dockery is at left guard, Arkin is the center, while Daniel Loper is at right guard and Pat McQuistan is at right tackle. It’s a nice mix of some veteran players with a group of first and second year guys as well. It looks like a much better unit than the third, with Levy Adcock, Harland Gunn, Tyrone Novikoff and Jeff Adams out there. Your offensive line plays a large role in how your offense looks in these preseason games once the starters are out. Jason Garrett and his staff will get a chance to look at those younger players in the fourth quarter but until then, they will be able to get a much better read on the skill players, hopefully without many mistakes.

Dallas Cowboys safety Mario Butler - The Boys Are Back blog

* I really have liked what I have seen from Mario Butler in this camp when he has been asked to play both as a corner and in the safety spot. These preseason games are huge for him. The coaches have put him in a spot to make this team in a reserve role and on special teams. If Butler struggles, rookie Lionel Smith or C.J. Wilson will look to take that spot. I really do like Smith because he can play inside on the slot as well.

* Before we came to camp in California, some members of the front office told me that wide receiver Cole Beasley was going to get an extensive look during camp to see if he could line up in the various roles at wide receiver. In the morning walkthrough, Beasley was running with the first receiver group when they went to the three wide receiver package, playing in the slot. Beasley will also take the first rep when the team goes on the punt return against the Raiders on Monday night.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley - The Boys Are Back blog

Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Scout

UPDATE: Mario Butler misses morning drills for birth of child

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Mario Butler missed this morning’s walkthrough to join his significant other in the birth of their child. Coach Jason Garrett said he was unsure about the timetable for Butler’s return to practice.

RELATED: Cole Beasley strong since returning to camp, draws praise from Stephen Jones

Two days away from training camp seems to have done wonders for former SMU receiver Cole Beasley, who had another strong practice Tuesday. Beasley left the team briefly to attend to personal issues but has turned in back-to-back strong efforts in Oxnard.

“I think he’s actually playing better now than he did the first couple of days of camp,” said Stephen Jones, the Cowboys’ director of player personnel. “Obviously, there were some things he needed to get straightened out in his mind. And it looks like he’s gotten that done.”

Jones said that is why the Cowboys remained “open-minded” when Beasley approached coach Jason Garrett and acknowledged thoughts about ending his football career. Beasley, a rookie, missed two days of camp before returning.

Courtesy: Jimmy Burch | FWST

MAN ON A MISSION: Goal-line drill leaves Dallas Cowboys DT Sean Lissemore mad that he got moved

MAN ON A MISSION: Goal-line drill leaves Dallas Cowboys DT Sean Lissemore mad that he got moved - The Boys Are Back blog

Defensive tackle Sean Lissemore is 6-foot-3 and weighs 303 pounds. He does not believe he should be moved off the line of scrimmage in short yardage.

So that must explain the scowl he had on his face after practice.

“There was one play where I didn’t play very well,” he said Tuesday at Cowboys training camp in Oxnard. “And it’s really bothering me.”

What happened?

“I think I just got displaced a little bit on it,” he said. “I want to hold that point pretty tough. I don’t feel like I did that the way I should.”

Who moved you?

“Two guys. Maybe two guys behind them, too.”

He wasn’t smiling.

“It’s a tough job, but it’s got to be done.”

So far, Lissemore must be doing it well. He is getting a lot of work at right defensive end while Marcus Spears is out with a concussion. Lissemore, a seventh-round pick out of William & Mary in 2010, is thriving.

He has been one of the most physical players on the defensive line, and he was competing hard in Tuesday’s goal-line and short-yardage drills, the emphasis of the practice.

“It was pretty physical,” he said.

He said he takes seriously his responsibility to hold his ground.

“Absolutely. It’s something that needs to be done,” he said. “It’s something I don’t take lightly.”

Courtesy: Carlos Mendez | FWST

STANDOUT PLAYER: Undrafted rookie receiver Tim Benford gaining momentum in Dallas Cowboys camp

STANDOUT PLAYER: Undrafted rookie receiver Tim Benford gaining momentum in Dallas Cowboys camp - The Boys Are Back blog

When Cowboys owner Jerry Jones chatted with reporters this week about the Blue-White scrimmage, he talked about the players that stood out to him.

He mentioned Jermy Parnell, Bruce Carter, one or two others.

And Tim Benford.

Who?

Tim Benford, a 6-foot undrafted rookie receiver out of Tennessee Tech. He  was the conference player of the year there as a senior after catching 65 passes for 923 yards.

He smiled when he was told Jones said his name.

“I guess it’s coming from the big man upstairs, so I just got to keep being consistent – come out here and work every day,” he said. “Everybody wants to make the team. Everybody wants to play for the Cowboys, especially me.”

Benford caught two touchdown passes in the scrimmage on Sunday, and he is gaining attention for being the steadiest of the young receivers in camp, a cast that includes veterans Andre Holmes, Raymond Radway and Dwayne Harris and rookies Cole Beasley, Donavan Kemp, Salim Hakim and Danny Coale.

“It was OK, but I can get better,” Benford said of his scrimmage performance. “Try to come out here and work on some things. Being a little more consistent so I don’t have to press and everything. I felt like it was OK, but there’s still more improvement to come.”

Of the touchdown catches, Benford said, “I don’t think I was the first option, but I just tried to get open, make a look for the quarterback going through his progression. If he found me, I just made it happen.”

Benford said Tennessee Tech’s diverse offense helped him learn NFL-type routes.

“We were a multiple offense. We went to the pro, we stayed in the spread,” he said. “It depended on what the other team gave us. I’m used to it a little bit. I’m adjusting to the NFL level, how fast it works. Everybody’s good, so I’m just ingesting. I’m just coming to compete, fighting for a job.”

Courtesy: Carlos Mendez | FWST

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Brandon Carr looking hard to beat in Dallas Cowboys training camp

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley (14) catches a pass between defensive back Brandon Carr (39), linebacker Bruce Carter (54) and linebacker Sean Lee (50) - The Boys Are Back blog

Most of the cornerback chatter in Dallas Cowboys training camp has centered on the health of first-round draft pick Morris Claiborne, who has battled wrist and knee injuries, and the surgically repaired shoulder of Mike Jenkins, a 2009 Pro Bowler.

But the team’s gold standard for the position, Brandon Carr, shows up every day and quietly reinforces reasons why the Cowboys signed him to a five-year, $50.1 million contract as a free agent in the off-season.

"He’s the cornerback that, for the receivers, is real hard to beat," said wideout Raymond Radway, who spent last season on the injured reserve list after breaking his leg in the final preseason game. "Everyone wants to get their plays in with him because, if you can beat Carr, it’s going to be easy on Sunday."

Dallas Cowboys defensive back Brandon Carr (39) defends wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) at the line - The Boys Are Back blog

Rob Ryan, the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator, said Carr has been even better than coaches envisioned when they lured him away from Kansas City, where he had been a four-year starter.

"The guy’s got an unbelievable work ethic. He was the best player in free agency by far. Not even close," Ryan said. "He’s a leader, he helps the other guys around him and he’s a tough kid. We need smart and tough. This guy is not nervous about playing under the big lights. He’s here in Dallas. It’s a different world here. Everything you do is scrutinized. But this guy won’t flinch, I can promise you that."

Nothing in Carr’s background screams "big lights" at the NFL level. Carr, 26, was more serious about basketball than football until his junior year in high school in Flint, Mich. That’s when he realized his size (6-foot, 210 pounds) could limit him as a college or NBA point guard. So he shifted his focus to football and played for an NCAA Division II school, Grand Valley State, where the on-campus stadium seats 8,500 — fewer than the attendees at Sunday’s Blue-White scrimmage in Oxnard (9,008).

Dallas Cowboys defensive back Brandon Carr (39) defends wide receiver Dez Bryant - The Boys Are Back blog

But when Carr speaks, it is clear that he relishes his new environment. Despite growing up in Detroit Lions country, he always cheered for the Cowboys. And longed to play for them some day.

"To come out here and wear that star and come out and represent, that’s what I’ve dreamed of since I was a little boy," said Carr, 26. "It’s all that I expected. I’m trying to make the best of the opportunity."

In training camp, he’s making that happen with a straightforward approach.

"I don’t really do too much talking. I feel like you go out there, you shut them down and you let your play do your talking," said Carr, who made 237 tackles and intercepted eight passes during his four seasons in Kansas City.

"The NFL, pretty much, is a mental thing. We all have the physical attributes to come out here and play. What pushes guys over the edge is that mental piece. You have to find a weakness in your opponent and take advantage of it."

Carr’s primary physical attributes, in the estimation of coaches and teammates, are his technique, upper-body strength and stellar footwork. He credits the latter to his extensive basketball background. But he’s also got a swagger that allows him to live on an island in press coverage.

Asked to identify the NFL’s top press corners, Carr responded: "Can I name myself?"

After a pause, he listed the New York Jets’ Darrelle Revis, Philadelphia’s Nnamdi Asomugha and Denver’s Champ Bailey.

"I still study those guys and take bits and pieces of their game into my game," Carr said. "A good press corner starts with having confidence…that you’ll make more plays than you give up. It’s an attitude. And you have to have the upper body and the feet to pull it off."

Cowboys receivers who have worked against him and studied him in practice vouch for the physical skills. So does quarterback Tony Romo, who credited Carr with a superior athletic move that led to an interception on a pass directed toward Dez Bryant in Sunday’s practice.

"He got inside on a coverage that he really shouldn’t," Romo said. "So I’m excited about that. If he can get there and do things like that, that’s going to help us a lot."

Carr said he is comfortable being looked at by coaches and teammates as the shut-down corner who mentors others, notably Claiborne, at the NFL level.

"It’s a compliment," Carr said. "No one wants to be the weak link. As far as leading, I like to lead by example. So every day I’m going to come in and show these guys how to work and how to practice."

That approach works with coach Jason Garrett, who seconded Ryan’s assessment that Carr was the team’s top priority in free agency.

"He’s big, he’s long, he’s competitive, he’s strong. He knows how to play. I think everybody is seeing that," Garrett said. "I know the receivers are seeing it. The guys on defense are seeing how good a football player he is and how much they appreciate his approach. We liked him a lot when we signed him. Everything we’ve seen makes us like him even more."

Brandon Carr

Age: 26 NFL experience: Fifth season  Height: 6-0  Weight: 210

College: Grand Valley State (Michigan)

Quotable: "I don’t really do too much talking. I feel like you go out there, you shut them down and you let your play do your talking."

Year

Team

Tackles

Solo

INT

Passes def.

2008

KC

73

70

2

6

2009

KC

62

56

1

19

2010

KC

57

46

1

25

2011

KC

45

39

4

15

Courtesy: Jimmy Burch | Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

ROSTER UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys cut safety Brodney Pool, CB Isaac Madison | Sign WR David Little, RB Javarris Williams

The Dallas Cowboys cut safety Brodney Pool - The Boys Are Back blog

The Dallas Cowboys cut safety Brodney Pool and cornerback Isaac Madison and signed wide receiver David Little and running back Javarris Williams.

Pool made this an easy decision for the Cowboys after failing his conditioning test the day before practices began a week ago. Pool, who was signed in the off-season via free agency, is guaranteed only $100,000 on his one-year, $1.2 million deal. So, cutting Pool — the ex-New York Jets player – only costs the Cowboys $100,000.

With Pool gone, it’s all but certain that Barry Church will start at safety alongside Gerald Sensabaugh. Church has been superb the first week of training camp practices and showed the Cowboys enough to win the job. Church gives the Cowboys some flexibility in their defense as well because he excels closer to the line of scrimmage in a hybrid linebacker role.

The Cowboys needed to add another wide receiver and running back for depth after a rash of injuries to players at those positions, including starting wide receiver Miles Austin expected to miss about a week with another hamstring injury. Also, third-string running back Phillip Tanner from Kimball is out indefinitely after undergoing surgery on a broken bone in his right hand.

Little is from Midwestern State and played his high school ball at Garland.

Williams was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the seventh round of the 2009 draft. He played college football at Tennessee State after playing in high school at Richmond (Texas) Foster. He spent the 2009 preseason with the Chiefs before being released. Last year, Williams was signed by the Houston Texans.

Courtesy: Brandon George | DMN

2012 BACKUP QB BATTLE: Carpenter up, McGee down

Dallas Cowboys QB Rudy Carpenter - The Boys Are Back blog

The biggest knee-jerk reaction to the five-possession live session from the Cowboys’ Blue-White scrimmage involves the battle to be the Cowboys’ third quarterback. Rudy Carpenter clearly took a step forward. Stephen McGee, the former Texas A&M quarterback once considered a possible backup, clearly took a step back.

McGee led three of the five drives and never moved the chains. He was sacked once, by Kyle Wilber. He completed 2-of-5 passes, including a wobbler that could have (should have?) been intercepted by Akwasi Owusu-Ansah.

Carpenter had his dubious moments, too. He threw an interception on his first snap, and bobbled an exchange with center Harland Gunn that Carpenter managed to recover. Carpenter also managed to complete passes to Raymond Radway, Donovan Kemp and Tony Benford, all for first downs, that carried the offense into position for a field goal.

Dallas Cowboys QB Stephen McGee - The Boys Are Back blog

Ideally, the Cowboys never need to have a third quarterback take a meaningful snap during the regular season with Tony Romo and Kyle Orton clearly entrenched in the top two spots. But if injuries surface, Carpenter clearly is outplaying McGee in the early stages of camp to be the third guy.

Courtesy: Jimmy Burch | Ft Worth Star-Telegram

BIG MAC BACK: Dallas Cowboys right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau medically cleared to practice

Mackenzy Bernadeau, the Dallas Cowboys projected starter at right guard - The Boys Are Back blog

Mackenzy Bernadeau, the Dallas Cowboys’ projected starter at right guard, took part in this morning’s walkthrough and has been cleared medically to take part in this afternoon’s padded workout.

It will mark the first time for Bernadeau, who has battled hip and knee ailments, to work in pads since he joined the team as a free agent in March. Coach Jason Garrett left open the possibility that Bernadeau, who also doubles as a backup center, could take part in the team’s pre-season opener Aug. 13 at Oakland. But a more realistic timetable may be Aug. 18 against San Diego.

Bernadeau said he was excited to “put some pads on and see what I can do” now that he’s been cleared by the medical staff. For now, he is focused on playing guard although he also worked at center, where the Cowboys lack depth, during the past four seasons with Carolina.

“It felt good to be with my teammates, get some plays down,” Bernadeau said. “They’re monitoring everything I do, so there are no setbacks. Right now, I’m focusing on playing guard … and getting healthy.”

PHILLIP TANNER: With surgery successful, Jason Garrett anticipates return in "next week or so"

Phillip Tanner, who broke his right hand in practice last week, has undergone surgery and could be back in the mix wearing a protective glove by next week, coach Jason Garrett said - The Boys Are Back blog

Phillip Tanner, who broke his right hand in practice last week, has undergone surgery and could be back in the mix wearing a protective glove by next week, coach Jason Garrett said this morning.

“He had his surgery. We feel like it went well and we’re excited to have him back … We’re hopeful he’ll be back in the next week or so,” said Garrett, who likened Tanner’s injury to one that sidelined Emmitt Smith for only one game in the 1990s.

Garrett said Tanner, the frontrunner to be the team’s third running back, could play with a protective glove that would allow him to grip the ball and return to camp more quickly than it seemed the day the injury surfaced.

When I initially heard it, I thought he was going to be out for a while. But we’re hopeful he’ll be back in the next week or so,” Garrett said.

Tanner tweeted: "Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers. Surgery went well, headed back to Cali to continue turning this dream to Reality!

Courtesy: Jimmy Burch

JASON GARRETT: Miles Austin’s versatility keeps Dallas Cowboys flexible in search for third receiver

Dallas Cowboys Tony Romo and Kevin Ogletree - The Boys Are Back blog

In the battle to emerge as the Cowboys’ third receiver, coach Jason Garrett says Miles Austin _ one of the team’s starters _ impacts the thinking because of his versatility. Austin can play inside or outside.

That means the third receiver job basically comes down to the best player available, whether it winds up being Kevin Ogletree, Andre Holmes, Dwayne Harris or someone else.

“We have freedom because of Miles’ versatility, so really what we’re looking for is the best player,” Garrett said. “A guy who can play inside and make that group of few receivers really difficult to defend or (the Cowboys can say), ‘Hey, Miles, you go play inside. We like this guy outside. We like that combination the best.’ So he gives us some freedom. We’re just looking for guys who have the ability to do one of those two things.”

Garrett’s breakdown on the three primary candidates:

Kevin Ogletree: “Kevin has some ability to play outside and inside. He’s done both. He has the physical traits to be an outside receiver and he has the knack and the feel to be an inside receiver. He just needs more snaps.”

Andre Holmes: “We view him as more of an outside guy.”

Dwayne Harris: “Dwayne Harris can do a little bit of both.”

Courtesy: Jimmy Burch

VIDEO–Training Camp Opening Press Conference in Oxnard

VIDEO - Opening Day - Dallas Cowboys Training Camp 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

VIDEO – The annual opening press conference from training camp, as Jason Garrett, Jerry Jones, and Stephen Jones take the stage to open up camp in Oxnard, California.

Click HERE to watch video

CB CHALLENGE: Mike Jenkins training camp update

Dallas Cowboy CB Mike Jenkins did not participate in any voluntary offseason activities - The Boys Are Back blog

OXNARD, Calif. — The Cowboys’ brass is optimistic that disgruntled and injured cornerback Mike Jenkins will be able to play during the preseason and are challenging him to compete when he is medically cleared.

Jenkins, who will begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery, did not participate in any voluntary offseason activities. He asked to be traded after the Cowboys signed Brandon Carr to a five-year, $50.1 million deal and traded up to select Morris Claiborne with the sixth overall pick, but the Cowboys never seriously entertained granting that request.

Jenkins had hoped to tear up the last year of his rookie contract and sign a rich new deal. Instead, he probably lost his starting job.

“I think sometimes your feelings can get hurt when a team goes and signs somebody, they draft somebody at your position,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “But then once those emotions settle a little bit, you come back and you say, ‘OK, this is my situation? What’s the best thing for me to do?’

“Typically, if you have a guy that’s a competitor, he’s going to come back and compete. That’s going to be good for him, that’s going to be good for the other guy and ultimately it’s going to be good for your football team. We’re excited to see Mike’s progress physically and hoping to get him back out here on the football field to be a contributor to our team this year.”

Asked if he could understand Jenkins’ frustration, Garrett answered that the NFL is a challenging league and further emphasized the importance of competitiveness.

“The best players, the best teams compete week in and week out, year in and year out,” Garrett said. “The best guys I’ve been around have been the best competitors. That’s what made them great players. Mike understands that. He’s competed a long time in his life. He’ll be ready to compete when he gets healthy.”

Owner/general manager Jerry Jones has attempted to sell Jenkins on the opportunity he has with the Cowboys. He pointed out that the Cowboys won Super Bowls with a deep defensive line rotation, hinting that the cornerback corps could have similar success.

“Let’s dream a little bit,” Jones said. “What if Mike can be a part of a corner group that because of the skill level (and) size could be an outstanding corner group?

“He’s a free agent. … So he could be a part of quite a story, and in doing so greatly enhance his stature as far as the NFL is concerned. We know that he’s capable physically of doing that, so my point of view would be, hey, this is a great opportunity to come in here with this kind of talent, be a part of a unit that does innovative things at that position.:

Jones continued: “On an individual basis, in my mind, he’s given himself a best chance when you look to the future. And the future could very well be under those circumstances right here with the Dallas Cowboys. We will write a check for a good football player.”

Jones said Jenkins has bought into that concept during their conversations for it. It’s wise to take that with a grain of salt, at least until Jenkins ends the silent treatment he’s given the media while agent Drew Rosenhaus tried to get the Cowboys to trade his client.

TRAINING CAMP UPDATE: Competition heats up at safety position

Dallas Cowboys rookie S Matt Johnson eyes starting job - The Boys Are Back blog

OXNARD, Calif. — The good thing about coach Jason Garrett is he wants competition at various positions.

One main position that will it is safety.

Gerald Sensabaugh is one of the starters, but who starts next to him is uncertain. Brodney Pool signed a one-year free agent deal in the offseason, and the Cowboys drafted Matt Johnson in the fourth round. Those players join Barry Church and Danny McCray, who enter their third NFL seasons.

There are no guarantees Pool makes the roster, given his $100,000 signing bonus. The Cowboys like the playmaking ability of Johnson, who had 17 career interceptions in four seasons at Eastern Washington.

Church played well in a limited role on defense, and McCray has led the team in special teams tackles the last two seasons.

"We want to give those guys a chance," Garrett said. "We drafted Matt Johnson in the fourth round. Barry Church has been with us, he’s improved, a very good special teams player, right from the start. But he’s improving as a defensive safety. We want to give those guys a chance. We like Brodney a lot, he’s played a lot of games in this league, a very athletic safety. He’s got a good feel for playing. There’s a reason we went and signed him. But at the same time, again, we want to create competition and we want to give these other guys a chance to show us what they can do."

ARE YOU READY?: 2012-13 Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders training camps | Oakland Raiders first on preseason schedule

2012 Dallas Cowboys Training Camp logo

Everyone is counting down to the first day of training camp for the Dallas Cowboys on July 30th. But the real first day is today, July 25th. Quarterbacks, rookies, and injured players who were not able to fully participate in the OTAs and minicamp get to report.

The Dallas Cowboys, thanks to the pre-season schedule, are one of the last two teams to start camp. They and their opponent in the first pre-season game, the Oakland Raiders, are forced to wait because they were "favored" with being shown on Monday night in their pre-season opener.

Football’s back!

Courtesy: Tom Ryle

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ARE YOU READY?: 2012-13 Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders training camps | Oakland Raiders first on preseason schedule

RELATED: Raiders announce time, location for Raider Nation Celebration

The Raiders already gave the date of this year’s Raider Nation Celebration as Aug. 12, and Wednesday the team announced the time and location — from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in parking lot of the Coliseum Complex.

Following is the rest of the official release:

This family-friendly event is free and open to the general public and takes place one day before the Oakland Raiders kick off the 2012 campaign in the national spotlight, hosting the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night, August 13.

The Raiders have hosted variations of this fan rally since 1998 at a number of locations throughout Oakland, including Jack London Square, Frank Ogawa Plaza and the Coliseum.

The Raider Nation Celebration will be highlighted by the introduction of first-year coach Dennis Allen and the 2012 Raiders and Raiderettes.

The event will also feature an interactive Kid’s Zone as well as autograph opportunities with Raider Legends and Raiderettes.

A number of exclusive opportunities – locker room tours for season ticket holders and a food tasting for suite holders – will also be part of this year’s Raider Nation Celebration.

Those attending the Raider Nation Celebration will be able to shop at special on site Raider Image, the team’s official store, and food and alcohol-free beverage concessions stands will be available to fans.

There will also be the opportunity for fans to select tickets for Raider games in what stacks up to be a challenging, exciting 2012 schedule. The Raiders also open the 2012 regular season in prime time, hosting AFC West rival San Diego Chargers on Monday night, September 10, in the second half of the ESPN double-header.

Courtesy: PAUL GUTIERREZ

2012 Raiders vs Cowboys | Dallas Cowboys vs Oakland Raiders | Oakland vs. Dallas

TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: Youth movement could be taking over on the Dallas Cowboys D-Line

Training camp begins soon, and it’s time to start counting off the days. The position-by-position primer the Dallas Cowboys defensive line position - The Boys Are Back blog

Training camp begins soon, and it’s time to start counting off the days. The position-by-position primer the Dallas Cowboys defensive line position.

Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware (R) pressures Seattle Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (C) before Jackson throws an interception as tight end Zach Miller looks to block in the second half - The Boys Are Back blog

Big Issue: There are some question marks here on the defensive line at both end and nose tackle and how the playing time will shake out. But possibly the biggest issue from this group will be the emergence of Jason Hatcher. Coming out of minicamp, Hatcher arguably had the best set of practices among any defensive player. He was as active as one could be in non-contact drills and his coaches and teammates believe he’s primed for a breakthrough season. That’s what the Cowboys need from Hatcher, who has been more of a role player and rotation end during his career. But he asked DL coach Brian Baker to promise him a year ago that he’d be the starter if he was clearly the best coming out of camp. Hatcher was the best, got the starting job and played well last year when healthy. Now the question is, can he take it to another level?

Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware, defensive end Marcus Spears, defensive end Sean Lissemore, defensive end Kenyon Coleman, and defensive tackle Jay Ratliff pray while team personnel attend to defensive end Clifton Geathers after he was injured - The Boys Are Back blog

Scouting Department: In my view, the defensive line has the least amount of questions going into to camp, unlike offensive line or wide receiver. I know there are those of you that don’t believe what I just said, but it’s true. If Jason Hatcher starts at right defensive end with Sean Lissemore and rookie Tyrone Crawford as the backups, it’s a good rotation. If Kenyon Coleman, Marcus Spears and Clifton Geathers work on the left side again, it’s a good rotation. At nose, Jay Ratliff will once again be your starter but there will be an interesting battle at the backup spot with Josh Brent and Robert Callaway trying to win that job. I really liked what I saw from Geathers and Callaway in the minicamps so we will see if they can carry that over into training camp. Callaway also showed me some ability when I studied him in the preseason for the Detroit Lions last year. There is some position flexibility with Lissemore jumping inside to take some reps at nose. He will most likely be paired inside with Ratliff when Rob Ryan goes to his four-man nickel front as a rusher with DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. I think there is a pretty good shot that we could see Lissemore as a starter on that open side next to Ware. It will be the job of these defensive linemen to keep blockers off the linebackers to allow them to run and make stops.    – Bryan Broaddus

Rookie Watch: All eyes will likely be fixed on rookie Tyrone Crawford, a third-round pick from Boise State. Crawford  (6-4, 282) didn’t do much this summer because of a quad injury he sustained early in the OTA practices. The club has Crawford pegged as a high-motor, ultra-intense defensive player who should be able to contribute in spot duty this year. His progress and development might be a big factor in the Cowboys’ decisions to keep a couple of veterans at defensive end in Spears and Coleman.

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TRAINING CAMP UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys CB Mike Jenkins expected to report Wednesday

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins tackles Washington Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins will report with rookies and injured players to start training camp Wednesday, according to a source.

Jenkins missed voluntary workouts because he was irked by a lack of progress regarding a new contract, but he did report for mandatory workouts. He hasn’t yet been medically cleared to practice as he’s still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

The veteran cornerback played through neck and leg injuries last season and, despite having just one interception, finished tied for the team lead with 10 pass breakups.

During the 2012 draft, the Cowboys placed Jenkins on the trade market but didn’t receive an offer to their liking. Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said Jenkins is in the team’s long-term plans.

Orlando Scandrick and Carr worked with the first-team defense during offseason practices while Jenkins and Claiborne (wrist) were out with injuries. Claiborne has yet to sign his rookie contract.

TRAINING CAMP COUNTDOWN: Tentative 2012 practice schedule for the Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are headed back to California for the start of training camp and it’ll be one of the longer visits out west this team has had in a while – staying 25 days. 

For the seventh time in the last 12 years, the Cowboys are heading back to Oxnard, Calif., where they will stay and train at the Marriott Residence Inn (2101 West Vineyard Ave., Oxnard, CA 93036). 

Here’s a look at the tentative daily practice schedule.

The team will depart for Oxnard on July 28, with the first practice beginning Monday, July 30 at 2:30 p.m. (PDT).

Because of the changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams can only practice once a day and must have a scheduled day off within a seven-day period.

Therefore, most practices will occur at the same 2:30 time slot, including a Blue-White controlled scrimmage on Sunday, Aug. 5.

Aside from a Monday night game in Oakland on Aug. 13, the Cowboys will be in Oxnard through Friday, Aug. 17, when they depart for the second preseason game against San Diego.

After the Aug. 18 game with the Chargers, the Cowboys will stay in San Diego and practice against the Chargers at their practice facility for two days before heading back to Dallas on Aug. 22.  As always, the practice schedule is subject to change.

2012 Tentative Practice Schedule for Dallas Cowboys Training Camp

City of Oxnard Fields next to the Marriott Residence Inn

2101 West Vineyard Ave., Oxnard, CA 93036

Schedule is subject to change (all times Pacific Coast time)

DATE TIME
Monday, July 30th 2:30 p.m. Practice
Tuesday, July 31st 2:30 p.m. Practice
Wednesday, August 1st 2:30 p.m. Practice
Thursday, August 2nd No practice
Friday, August 3rd 2:30 p.m. Practice
Saturday, August 4th 2:30 p.m. Practice
Sunday, August 5th 2:30 p.m. – Blue-White Scrimmage
Monday, August 6th 2:30 p.m. Practice
Tuesday, August 7th 2:30 p.m. Practice
Wednesday, August 8th No practice
Thursday, August 9th 2:30 p.m. Practice
Friday, August 10th 2:30 p.m. Practice
Saturday, August 11th 2:30 p.m. Practice
Sunday, August 12th TBA – Walk-Thru
Monday, August 13th

No practicePreseason Game Dallas @ Oakland

Tuesday, August 14th No practice
Wednesday, August 15th 2:30 p.m. Practice
Thursday, August 16th 2:30 p.m. Practice
Friday, August 17th TBA Morning Walk-Thru
Break Camp

WIDE RECEIVER ROSTER RACE: Dwayne Harris, better versed in playbook, expects tough competition in training camp

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dwayne Harris - The Boys Are Back blog

Dwayne "Hairy” Harris said he expects a tough competition for the receiver spots in training camp.

The second-year receiver, a sixth-round pick out of East Carolina a year ago, is in the running with Kevin Ogletree, Andre Holmes, Raymond Radway and Danny Coale, at a minimum, for the third, fourth and fifth receiver spots, if the Cowboys keep that many.

But the Cowboys will also have three undrafted rookies in camp, Donavon Kemp, Tim Benford and Saalim Hakim.

That’s a lot of competition for three spots behind Miles Austin and Diamond Dez Bryant.

“It’s going to be tough,” he said Thursday at Cowboys Stadium after the final minicamp practice of the offseason. “Everybody wants a roster spot. Everybody wants to show the coaches what they can do. I wouldn’t expect anybody to come out here and not give their all. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be fun.”

Harris allowed himself a bit of a smile at that thought. He’s already been through a training camp and won a job. He did it last year, making the team after averaging 23 yards on six catches in the preseason, including a 76-yard touchdown.

This year, he’ll have more of a head start, thanks to the OTAs and minicamp he didn’t have last year.

“Every day I got a little better, progressed every day,” he said. “My knowledge of the playbook got better every day. I think just the whole offseason helped out a lot. Last year, we didn’t have this much time to learn the playbook. It was harder for the rookies coming in. I think this year made it easier for everybody.”

Harris did not catch a pass in the regular season last year. He returned 15 punts and eight kickoffs. His 28.9 average on kickoff returns led the team.

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