OXNARD, Calif. – Yes, this is the real “return to football” for the Cowboys here in training camp.
Why, for the first time this camp, the pads were activated for two consecutive days this week before what head coach Mike McCarthy calls a “mock play” practice on Wednesday, rather a padless practice before two more practices stuffed on Thursday and Friday.
Real man football, these cushioned workouts are, unless you put the guy with the ball on the ground. Just hit them if you know the definition of a thud.
“I want it to go up,” McCarthy said ahead of Monday’s padded practice. “I want the fur to fly. I want the juice.”
Unfortunately, fur theft and leaking juice lead to injuries, and the Cowboys quickly found out about it on Monday and then again on Tuesday.
Confirming once again what my camp roommate has taught me over the years, Brad Sham often says, “We come to training camp to find out who’s going to get hurt. Never fail. And we didn’t have to wait long for some disconcerting _shots_ to drop. Carry on, we’re going fast here.
- Raise the bar: The Cowboys quickly recognized the lack of depth at linebacker, agreeing to terms with ninth-year veteran Anthony Barr, a former first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 2014. That was the concern. If the Cowboys were to play a 4-3 base defense with three linebackers, it would involve Leighton Vander Esch in the middle, Micah Parsons at an outside point and…and…who? It could have been Jabril Cox, returning from the torn ACL as a rookie last year. Sobering may have been Cox missing Tuesday’s practice and Wednesday’s visit with expected knee pain, but is also expected to return soon. By early July, the Cowboys had expressed interest in Barr. Somewhat concerning, Barr has only played 13 games over the past two seasons, just two in 2020 after tearing a pectoral muscle and six in 2021 with a knee and hamstring. It’s also troubling that the Vikings restructured the five-year, $67.5 million, $33 million guaranteed package he signed in 2019. And to do so by freeing up cap space in cutting his 2021 base salary, they allowed Barr to waive the final two years. of his contract. Doing this now costs the Vikings $9.89 million in dead money this year. The Cowboys should get a glimpse of Barr, current senior defensive assistant in charge of linebackers George Edwards, the defensive coordinator for the Vikings in the first six seasons (2014-19) of Barr’s career. Additionally, the Cowboys could get a clear insight into Barr’s abilities by talking to 13-year-old former Cowboys assistant Mike Zimmer (1994-2006), Barr’s head coach throughout his career.
- Fucking 5th Metatarsals: Last year, it was DeMarcus Lawrence who fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot during practice in the second week of the season. Now this. Veteran wide receiver James Washington, part of an exhausted group to start, returned to Dallas on Tuesday for doctors to surgically repair his fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot suffered in Monday’s first-ever padded practice. He had a screw surgically placed at the metatarsal joint to help facilitate a faster recovery. Early estimates have him missing six to 10 weeks. For example, Lawrence missed 10 games last year, a period including the bye, so 11 weeks. The Cowboys’ dilemma will be whether they put Washington on injured reserve 24 hours after landing on the 53-man roster so he can return after four games or do they keep him on the 53-man roster in the roster. hope for a recovery in fewer games. The Cowboys are less than six weeks away from the 9/11 season opener against Tampa Bay. For a non-professional athlete like me, it took three months to get back on the tennis court with the same injury – without surgery – having to go to training camp this summer in San Antonio with a boot and crutches. No bonus.
- What to do: At this point, nothing immediately looks like at receiver, Cowboys COO Stephen Jones said of Washington’s injury: “It’s part of the game, but what injuries do is It’s giving some young people a chance to step in and make plays.” Well, the Cowboys have a number of young guys with those opportunities as projected No. 2 receiver Michael Gallup may miss the first month of the season recovering from his ACL knee repair. This means that aside from No. 1 guy CeeDee Lamb, no other healthy receiver on the current roster has caught a touchdown pass in the NFL. The names you will hear now are third-round pick Jalen Tolbert, sixth-year backup Noah Brown, undrafted first-year receiver Dennis Houston, undrafted first-year receiver Brandon Smith, fifth-round pick Last year Simi Fehoko who played just seven offensive snaps in his rookie season, recently signed rookie free agent KeVontae Turpin and 6-6 freshman TJ Vasher, a rookie practice squad last year. As for recruiting a veteran free agent, Jones said the Cowboys will wait a bit, realizing some of the guys they might be interested in are coming back from injuries and not ready for camp. The list of available free agents includes Will Fuller, TY Hilton, Cole Beasley, Emmanuel Sanders, Odell Beckham Jr., DeSean Jackson, Allen Hurns and Adam Humphries. Betting they sign a veteran in due course, barring at least one flawless takeover by Washington or Gallup.
- Galloping along: Speaking of Gallup, while he’s making good progress, it seems unlikely he’ll be ready for the start of the season. If the Cowboys leave him on PUP to start the season, he must miss the first four games before he can return. If medical staff think he can return sooner, the Cowboys will have to put him on the 53-man roster from the get-go.
- Tackle this too: There appears to be a good chance the Cowboys are in the market for a veteran offensive tackle after potentially losing fifth-round rookie Matt Waletzko. Looks like he suffered a shoulder subluxation, putting him out the rest of this week with possible surgery needed. Medical personnel need to determine if they can play with a shoulder harness like players have done before or if surgery is needed now. That leaves Josh Ball the only likely candidate on the roster to handle the relief tackle and he has yet to play NFL football. Luckily the Cowboys kept their salary cap “dry” if they needed to dip into free agency for a veteran guy. The problem here is that there’s not much available, and if you hear any familiar names of free agents, they’re getting old or just suffered injuries from last year. A relief swing tackle-type veteran just signed by the Bears, Riley Reiff, 33, an 11-year-old veteran who signed a one-year, $3 million deal that can expand to 7.5 million dollars if he plays at least 10 percent of the shots. Get it, Reiff played last season for the Bengals ($7.5 million), but after signing La’el Collins this offseason, the Bengals decided against resigning Reiff again.
- Strain cap: And now you know why the Cowboys had about $20 million in cap space before entering camp. For those emergencies or to postpone them until next season, when Lamb will likely ask for an extension. Maybe Trevon Diggs too. Hey, if they need to sign a backup tackle, a veteran receiver, potentially a veteran kicker and already Barr, that $20 million is going to melt away fast.
- Seesaw battle: Speaking of kickers, that’s what’s been happening so far between undrafted rookie Jonathan Garibay and CFL veteran Lirim Hajrullahu. One day LH shines and Garibay struggles. The next Garibay shines and Hajrullahu struggles. Take Tuesday, Garibay makes six of eight attempts while LH makes three of eight. Now the wind is tough here when it comes to hitting it, like they did in the live special teams sessions. McCarthy said: “It’s necessary, we need this competition. We have to give these guys opportunities. At the moment we don’t know much about either of them.” Other than that they haven’t been consistent.
- Fast hitters: McCarthy says, “I’m not a fan of defensive backs who can’t catch the football.” … Then this from CeeDee Lamb, asked him if he was motivated by the huge contract extensions recently signed by receiver DK Metcalf (3 years, $72 million) and Deebo Samuel (3 years, max 73.5 million dollars) to produce a big 2022 season as he will be eligible for a contract extension in 2023, saying, “Not much. My motivation is the playoffs.” … It’s good news from Tyron Smith, saying how he feels physically at camp, “Actually, I think it’s probably the strongest I’ve felt in a while. It’s the fastest I’ve ever felt. I’ve felt for a while. I feel excited to see how this season is going to go.” …Special teams coach John Fassel had this to say about his inexperienced kickers: “I’d rather they had rough days early on,” that way he sees how they react to misfires, which will happen over the course of the day. of the season. … And a final one from McCarthy when asked what he thinks of young receivers, he said, “I believe in receiver development.
- A turnover of one billion dollars: Sportico ranked the Cowboys as the most valuable franchise in all of sports, with $7.64 billion, an estimate that includes the value of the team, the value of the stadium owner, and any real estate or business investments. The Rams came in second among NFL teams with $5.9 billion, with New England third with $5.8 billion. According to Stephen Jones of Sportico’s rankings, “The sport may not be for everyone, but for those who love it, it’s real fertile ground. Whether it’s a Legends platform , a real estate platform, a technology platform, we’ve seen that you can use the Star, the Cowboys and sports to really improve business.”
And the final word this week goes to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn when asked why he decided to return to the Cowboys after holding talks with the head coach following the excellent coaching job he he did in 2021, toppling what had been a terrible Cowboys defense in 2020 and pointing Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recently said he was taking care of himself financially.
“The first rule of fight club is never talk about fight club,” Quinn began, airing the financial part of the question. “Unless my Jersey roots have changed, you’re not talking about contracts.
“But honestly, I’m really having fun here. I’m enjoying the whole process of what we’re doing. I just want to value Mike first and defense. Every once in a while you find where your feet and you’re in a good space and you feel it, and that’s really how I felt here.”