NFC East: Dallas Cowboys

OXNARD, Calif. -- Defensive end George Selvie started every game last season, but he's still the same guy who spent the first few days of training camp hoping his phone would ring.

The Dallas Cowboys, desperate for bodies after a rash of injuries to the defensive line early in last year's camp, finally called Selvie. He signed a two-year, minimum-salary deal with nothing guaranteed but a plane ticket to Southern California.

Selvie
Selvie, who had three sacks and played for three teams in the first three years of his career, showed up to Oxnard believing that this could be his last opportunity to stick in the NFL. He made the most of it, recording seven sacks last season and returning to Oxnard as the starter.

Yet Selvie still feels like he has to compete for a roster spot.

"A lot has changed, but I've got to move forward and go with what I've got now," Selvie said. "I'm very blessed to be in the position that I am in right now. I'm just moving forward and trying to get better.

"I'm not a big-time guy. I'm not getting paid a lot of money. Even those guys are fighting to stay on the roster. If they don't perform, you can get cut. I'm definitely out here trying to get better and trying to fight for a job."

Selvie is fired up about the perception that the defensive line is Dallas' weakest link. He was reminded of that the other night as he watched television with some of his linemates. They were excited to see their pictures flash across the screen, only to then see the words "Biggest Question Mark in the League."

Selvie wants to prove that perception wrong. He wants to prove his performance last season wasn't a fluke. He wants to prove again that he belongs in NFL.

"People still don't give me credit for last year," Selvie said. "But that comes with the territory. I was a no-name guy. I came off the couch. I've just got to go out there and prove myself again. That's what football is all about. Year after year, you've got to come out there and prove yourself."
OXNARD, Calif. -- Left tackle Tyron Smith benefited tremendously from his daily battles with DeMarcus Ware, the best pass-rusher in Dallas Cowboys’ history, during the past few training camps.

It wasn't just the reps against Ware that helped prepare Smith to fulfill his Pro Bowl potential. Ware often worked with Smith after practices, offering tips on footwork and hand placement from an edge rusher’s perspective.

The Cowboys would love to see Smith form a similar competitive mentor relationship with rookie pass-rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, the second-round pick drafted to replace Ware.

"One of the most underutilized resources in football are offensive guys talking to defensive guys and defensive guys talking to offensive guys," head coach Jason Garrett said. "That's with coaches and that's with players. I think it's important to understand the other person's mindset, what they're trying to get accomplished, both with scheme and technique. So any kind of communication that happens between those guys I think is really, really good, particularly with the younger players."

Smith typically isn't a man of many words, but he said, "I'll try my best to teach the new guy."

The Smith-Lawrence competition has gotten off to a slow start. One of the most highly anticipated one-on-one matchups in camp has been seen a grand total of once in the first two full-pads practices.

Lawrence is working with the second-team defense now, so veteran defensive end Jeremy Mincey is the one matched up with Smith on a regular basis. Lawrence has been dominating backup left tackle Darrion Weems, but he got stonewalled on his one pass-rush rep against Smith.

Lawrence, who has set a goal of double-digit sacks as a rookie, eagerly anticipates more action against arguably the NFL's best left tackle.

"I look forward to it because he ain't doing nothing but getting me better," Lawrence said. "If I go against the best, then I know what to expect."

Garrett shot down a theory that the Cowboys are trying to build Lawrence's confidence by letting him compete against lesser tackles. It sounds as if Lawrence will see plenty of Smith.

"It's not like we're saying, 'OK, you're in eighth grade and you're going to go against this guy who is playing college football,'" Garrett said. "These are the kinds of guys he's going to face in this league and he has to understand the approach he needs to take. He's going to have some success at times and he's going to have some difficulties at times, but he's just got to keep going, keep playing."

There's no better way for a young player to learn than by facing elite competition in practice. Smith's success serves as proof.
OXNARD, Calif. -- First-round pick Zack Martin had a welcome-to-the-NFL moment on the first full-speed practice rep of his NFL career.

Defensive tackle Henry Melton exploded past the rookie right guard in the one-on-one pass-rush drill. In the blink of an eye, Melton got Martin to lean a little to his right, changed directions and ripped through with his hands to win the rep about as convincingly as possible.

"I just had to let him know that I'm here and it's going to be a long training camp," Melton said.

Martin has made it clear that he's ready for it. That first rep is the only time Martin has looked like a rookie during his first two days wearing pads with the Dallas Cowboys.

The Cowboys were confident that Martin, who set the Notre Dame record for games started with 52, could make an immediate impact when they drafted him with the 16th overall pick. He has done nothing to dispel that notion during his first couple of full-contact practices.

"I know there's a lot of expectations," Martin said. "Like I said in the past, I'm just trying to be consistent and show these guys that I can show up every day."

A couple of defensive assistant coaches offered high praise for Martin, saying he carries himself like a veteran on the practice field. He's held his own against Melton, a 2012 Pro Bowler, and has often dominated other defensive tackles.

"He's good," Melton said. "I purposely line myself up with him. He's coming on strong. If I'm working with him, he's making me better and I'm making him better. There's no one else better to work with."
OXNARD, Calif. -- Trying to figure out the truth from Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones can be difficult.

Take Johnny Manziel for example.

Speaking on NFL Network during Sunday’s practice, Jones talked about just how close the Cowboys were to taking Johnny Football with the 16th pick of the first round in the May draft.

Manziel
“Well first of all, I feel so strongly about Tony Romo,” Jones said. “That Tony Romo could have handled being on the same team with Johnny Manziel -- both quarterbacks. He could have handled that in spades. I thought, ‘Jerry make the same kind of decision that you made when you bought the Dallas Cowboys.’ Nobody thought it would work. They were busted. Cowboys were busted. Broke. Nobody thought it would work. Make a more of an unconventional decision here and basically take the risk. And I want you to know that almost as I was handing in the card, it was that close to put that Manziel card in, it was that close. And I looked over at my son Stephen, our oldest son is the chief executive officer, and I said, ‘I took the right pick.’ If I had made this kind of pick when I bought the Cowboys, I’d never have bought the team. That’s not how you get there.”

Speaking at a function in June in Arkansas honoring Jones’ former coach, Frank Broyles, Jones had this to say about how difficult it was to pass on Manziel:

"Well, it was,” Jones said. “Yes, it was. First of all, I couldn't believe he had fallen there. And secondly, we had spent a lot of time, I'd spent a lot of time. He's the kind of player that can be that kind of difference-maker. There's no doubt in my mind that he'll be a successful player. We have in Romo what I consider to be the better quarterback. But there's also the future, there's also insurance if you don't have him. If anybody could have adjusted to Manziel's style, we could have because we're a lot like that with Romo.”

And finally let’s revisit what Jones said at a news conference on draft night after the Cowboys took Zack Martin in the first round .

“As you well know in here, Romo, by contract as well as by commitment, is certainly the quarterback for the Cowboys for several years to come,” Jones said. “There is no moving around that. I don’t care who you draft, that’s the way it would have been. That was going through our minds from the get-go. That’s why we didn’t spend a lot of time at all in this draft considering Manziel.”

The next time Jones is asked about Manziel he just might say the Cowboys had his name on a card ready to turn in to the commissioner.
OXNARD, Calif. -- Throughout the offseason, Dallas Cowboys teammates, coaches and staff noticed a difference in Morris Claiborne.

On the first day of full-padded practices Saturday, Claiborne showed part of that difference for everybody else to see.

On his first snap of one-on-one drills against wide receiver Terrance Williams, he fought, clawed and talked back. On the second he pushed Williams to the ground, yelling, "Get Dez over here," which prompted some more talking with a perturbed Williams.

Later Claiborne was beat by Bryant on one deep ball, but he broke up a comeback to Bryant and a deep ball to Devin Street before cramps knocked him out of the final team session.

[+] EnlargeMorris Claiborne
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports"A lot of things happened in my life that you had to face and had to make changes," Morris Claiborne said. "For that, I feel like I'm a better person from it even though it might've hurt at the time."
“I’ve got a different approach just from football, from life period,” Claiborne said. “A lot of things happened in my life that you had to face and had to make changes. For that, I feel like I’m a better person from it even though it might’ve hurt at the time. I feel like I’m a better man after it and it’s carried over to football.”

In a span of only a few days last December he experienced the birth of his daughter, Madison, and the death of his father, Robert Owens. He alternated from joy with the birth of his second child to sorrow over the death of his father, who was 64.

He could not go to his escape on the football field because he was dealing with a hamstring injury that kept him out of six games last season. He used the word “funk” to describe what was happening.

“Life,” he said. “Not being able to play football because you’re injured. You got people saying this and people saying that, so now you’ve got so much pressure and you can feel it from coaches and players. You can feel that pressure and all of a sudden to go back and have somebody close to you taken away from you and you’ve got to deal with that too. It’s hard. Your family has changed so now you’re the head man in charge and everybody is looking at you now because the head man pretty much died. Then you have a baby. I couldn’t hide from it.”

Time has helped, and, in his mind, he speaks regularly to his father.

"Anybody can feel different, but that’s my belief,” Claiborne said of his conversations. “That’s my feelings.”

He also keeps a tangible part of his father with him -- a rubber Cowboys bracelet. Owens got the bracelet when his son was picked in the first round of the 2012 draft. The Cowboys moved up to the sixth pick to get Claiborne, whom they called their highest-rated defensive back since Deion Sanders.

Claiborne’s first two seasons have not gone the way he wanted, the way the Cowboys wanted or the way the fans wanted. It's not what any of them expected. He intercepted just two passes in his first two seasons. He battled through wrist, shoulder, knee and hamstring injuries. He missed a game with a concussion and busted lip as a rookie.

The confident player who roamed the LSU secondary was replaced by someone unsure of himself.

“I don’t need to really remind him or anyone the commitment we made and the commitment he made,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “He’s got a lot of pride. He’s certainly got some things you can point to the last couple of years. But if he can get out here and be the player, he has the skill level ... [He has to] work through just this kind of thing [in practice], have good things happen, get tired, have things go against him a couple of plays, if he can work through that, he’ll be an improved player and be the guy we want to have out there.”

At the first team meeting of camp, coach Jason Garrett highlighted Claiborne’s work in individual drills to the rest of the team.

“His approach mentally has been outstanding and I think it’s going to reflect in his play,” Garrett said.

One practice does not reflect a complete change, and Claiborne knows it. It’s about doing his job every day, which is something he learned from his father.

“I feel like I have something to prove to myself,” Claiborne said. “It starts with myself. I have to prove it to myself. I’m very comfortable where I’m at now.”
IRVING, Texas -- Examining the Dallas Cowboys' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)


Romo's health will be something that will be monitored throughout camp and perhaps it could force the Cowboys to carry a third quarterback on the 53-man roster as insurance. That would benefit Caleb Hanie, who joined the team in April, or undrafted rooke Dustin Vaughan. The Cowboys haven't kept three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster since 2011, but they don't want to get caught needing a quarterback if something were to happen to Romo and Weeden had to start. For now, however, the plan is to stick with two on the 53.

RUNNING BACKS (4)



Murray had a fumble on his second carry of team drills, but ball security has not been an issue for him in his career. Dunbar has shown up well. Randle's vision and quick feet give him an edge, to me, in this system. He makes it to the hole quicker than Ryan Williams, who is built a little more powerfully. Both players will have to work on pass protection. The fullback role remains in Clutts' possession. It's been too early to see much from the fullbacks.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)


These five remain unchanged, but Jamar Newsome bears some watching as camp goes on. He looks the part. He has decent speed and he has decent hands. It will be interesting to see how he handles the preseason games.

TIGHT ENDS (3)



The Cowboys added Dallas Walker before coming to camp, but he is more about saving the legs of the top three guys. There is a clear gap from Hanna and Walker and Jordan Najvar. I believe the Cowboys will still be looking for more of a blocker as camp goes on.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)


Nwaneri takes the final spot over Brian Clarke from the first projection to open camp. This will likely flip flop throughout camp and the preseason. A lot of it will depend on injuries among the top eight linemen and cost. If a younger player emerges, like Clarke or Ronald Patrick, then they could win that last spot. Leary is battling a hamstring strain that has kept him out the first few days of camp, so Bernadeau is getting the jump on the left guard position with the first team.

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)

Sticking with the same 10 players for now. Gardner injured his shoulder in the first practice and could need some time to heal before he gets back to practice. That could hurt his chances and help somebody like a Ben Bass or Caesar Rayford. Coleman could be the latest of the Cowboys' undrafted finds. He is active but before we get too carried away we need to see how he performs against better than backup competition.

LINEBACKER (7)

I don't like carrying seven linebackers right now, but I'm sticking with it. McClain took second-team middle linebacker snaps, which was surprising considering he was not with the club in the offseason. The Cowboys will give him every chance to show his potential and are hoping the talent is there. He made a tackle on his first snap in team run drills, shaking off a block and bringing down the runner.

CORNERBACK (5)


Carr has not been at camp as he tended to his ailing mother. Claiborne came out as fired up as he had been in his first two years on the first practice. He knows the importance of the season. For now I've got five corners, but I'm going to look to see if it is worth keeping a sixth. Tyler Patmon and B.W. Webb would be in that mix.

SAFETY (5)

Dixon gets the final spot, but he would be out if I do go with six corners for the next projection. And he also needs to watch undrafted rookie Ryan Smith. He's splitting time on the third team with Dixon right now. This spot won't shake out until the preseason ends.

SPECIALISTS (3)


No change here. Not sure there will be a change all camp.

Cowboys Camp Report: Day 4

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
10:20
PM ET
OXNARD, Calif. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Dallas Cowboys training camp:
  • Tony Romo averaged just 7.2 yards per attempt in 2013 as the field shrunk on the Cowboys. Through two padded practices Romo is looking to get the ball down the field. On the first play of team drills he connected with Dez Bryant on a deep ball after Bryant left cornerback Morris Claiborne. In seven-on-seven drills he led Terrance Williams for a big gain with Williams out-jumping B.W. Webb for the completion and getting his feet down before he went out of bounds. In team and seven-on-seven drills Romo completed 13-of-17 passes. He was intercepted for the first time in camp when Devin Street slipped, allowing Sterling Moore to make the pick.
  • DeMarco Murray showed a burst of speed on a run up the middle of the Cowboys’ nickel defense that had running backs coach Gary Brown oohing and aahing. After seeing the hole open in front of him, Murray accelerated through the line untouched and then received some down-field blocking help from Bryant. Later in third-down drills, Murray caught a Romo dump off for a first down working his way through cornerback Orlando Scandrick for the pickup.
  • Injuries are always a worry early in camp and the Cowboys lost Matt Johnson (hamstring), Terrell McClain (ankle) and DeVonte Holloman (dehydration), and it could have been worse. Safety Jeff Heath jammed his right wrist while attempting to tackle Lance Dunbar on a run. He was examined by the medical staff and was able to return after a tape job. Bruce Carter left briefly during one-on-one drills with a sore knee but he returned and said after practice he was OK.
  • There could be something of a rotation in the battle to be the Cowboys’ third running back. Ryan Williams took the third-team snaps over Joseph Randle, who took that work on Saturday. Williams showed great patience on a screen pass from Brandon Weeden in third-down drills. He nearly came up with a Dustin Vaughan throw on a wheel route after beating linebacker Dontavis Sapp down the sideline, but the pass was just out of his diving reach.
  • Dan Bailey made five of six kicks in his first live work of training camp. Bailey made kicks from 34, 38, 41, 44 and 48 yards. His one miss came from 51 yards in which he hooked the ball left. An interesting note with the first-team field goal protection team: center Travis Frederick lined up as the left wing. Normally that position has been reserved for a tight end or defensive lineman. And for some reason the Cowboys keep Witten on the field goal unit as the right wing.
OXNARD, Calif. -- Head coach Jason Garrett pretty much guaranteed an elite performance by Dez Bryant during Sunday’s practice.

Bryant
Bryant
Garrett made sure to get under Bryant’s skin the previous afternoon, throwing another log on the Pro Bowl receiver’s competitive fire. The head coach loudly provided some intentionally inaccurate color commentary after Bryant got wide open but was overthrown on a pass during 1-on-1s, barking that cornerback Orlando Scandrick had kicked Bryant’s butt on the rep.

“I had my reasons for saying what I said, and so, Dez Bryant’s going to be ready to go today,” Garrett said before Sunday’s practice. “Trust me.”

Not exactly a bold prediction, but it proved to be true.

Bryant actually got off to a bit of a slow start in 1-on-1s, as cornerback Morris Claiborne had pass breakups on their first two reps. Claiborne would have been called for holding on a curl route, but he made a nice play to bat away a deep ball on the second throw.

That didn’t sit well with Bryant, who responded in spectacular fashion, torching Claiborne on a slant-and-go the next time they matched up.

Claiborne was toast as soon as Bryant made the double move, having bitten hard on the slant. Claiborne was at least 15 yards behind Bryant as he caught the pass and sprinted into the end zone.

In team drills later in the practice, Bryant put another highlight on the reel at Claiborne’s expense, burning him on a go route for what would have been another long score.

Claiborne had taunted Terrance Williams during 1-on-1 drills Saturday, shouting that they better bring Bryant over to compete against him.

Be careful what you wish for, especially after the head coach has been talking trash to the No. 1 receiver.
OXNARD, Calif. -- Three thoughts on Day 4 of Dallas Cowboys' training camp:

1) It was one play, just about as meaningless as can be, considering it was the first day players wore pads, but Morris Claiborne wanted to establish a tone.

Claiborne
First, he locked down Terrance Williams, forcing an incompletion. Then he jumped up and started woofing. Eventually, the players were separated.

It was the first time since he arrived that we’ve seen that type of feistiness from Claiborne.

Hey, whatever it takes. He’s been the epitome of a bust his first two seasons, allowing 70 completions in 117 attempts with only two interceptions and 13 pass deflections.

For a guy who was supposed to be the best defensive player in the 2012 draft that’s not nearly good enough.

Jason Garrett said he’s improved significantly during the offseason. It’s time for him to take it to the field.

Better secondary play is the fastest way for this defense to improve, since their pass rush remains suspect.

Smith
2) The Cowboys are moving closer to a long-term agreement with left tackle Tyron Smith, who’s going to deserve every nickel of whatever he gets.

Smith is man-handling the defensive ends on this roster, the way DeMarcus Ware used to destroy tackles, including Smith, during training camp.

Smith is only 23, so don’t be surprised if he signs a deal that’s nine or 10 years long. When he does, it’ll be interesting to see if Dez Bryant can continue to ignore his contract situation and play well.

After all, the club has already taken care of Sean Lee, who was drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft. Bryant was the Cowboys’ first-round pick.

3) Kyle Wilber spent his first two seasons bouncing around between outside linebacker in the 3-4 and weakside defensive end.

Injuries last season created some playing time for him at strongside linebacker and the Cowboys suddenly found a player.

Wilber has the strength to hold the edge and consistently force running plays inside, in part because of the time he spent at defensive end, and he made several important plays for the Cowboys last season.

He finished the season with 44 tackles and two sacks, while starting six games.

34

The Cowboys were tied for 25th in the NFL with 34 sacks. Only five teams had fewer.

Their sack total was 10 fewer than the average 2013 playoff team.

Teams that don’t get many sacks often say they’re overrated. Well, they’re not. Pressure is good, but sacks are a momentum-changer and usually result in a punt at the end of the drive.

You must rush the passer and put quarterbacks under duress, or it’s hard to force turnovers and win games.

The Cowboys are counting on defensive Henry Melton, who missed the last 13 games with a torn ACL, to provide pressure up the middle. He has been a terrific pass-rusher, and they need him to command double teams to help other players get to the quarterback.

Player to Watch: Gavin Escobar

The Cowboys wasted Escobar’s rookie season. Hopefully, they’ve learned their lesson.

It’s dumb to ask a tight end who should excel at working from the slot and creating mismatches with his size to be the same type of player as Jason Witten.

Escobar can help this team by making plays downfield and giving Tony Romo one more vertical threat.

He caught nine passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. He can be a playmaker, if Scott Linehan gives him a chance to do it. If not, he’ll be a wasted pick.
OXNARD, Calif. -- Cole Beasley wants to prove he’s more than just a slot receiver after feeling like he’s been pigeonholed in his NFL career.

“That comes with being 5-8 and 175 pounds,” Beasley said.

 The Cowboys plan to give Beasley every opportunity to prove he can make plays as an outside receiver. It’s not just about expanding the role of a receiver who emerged as a significant contributor in his second NFL season, catching 39 passes for 368 yards and two touchdowns. If Beasley can do more than just play in the slot, it opens up possibilities for the Cowboys coaches to create mismatches with their most dangerous weapon.

For the first few seasons of his NFL career, the Cowboys featured Dez Bryant solely as the X receiver, keeping his role as simple as possible. They moved him around some last season, and he’s mentally prepared for much more of that entering his fifth year, often working out of the slot in three-receiver sets with Beasley outside.

“I think there’s really no limit on what we can do with him, and I believe that,” receivers coach Derek Dooley said. “We started moving him around last year, and that’s the only way to continue to get him the production that he needs to get because defensive coordinators are too good. If they know where he’s going to be, it’s going to be a long Sunday.

“So the sky’s the limit. It’s a matter of repping. To your point, moving him into the slot, we’ve got to figure out what Cole’s role is, so that’s what we’re working through right now.”

It’s a challenge that Beasley embraces.

“I’d just say [I am] more confident after being in the last two seasons and getting some time to actually play,” Beasley said. “Knowing I can do it and knowing how good I can be, that really excites me. I wouldn’t say I’m a different player. I’d just say with more opportunities, I’ll get better and better.”
OXNARD, Calif. -- In some ways Lance Dunbar still carries himself as an undrafted running back from North Texas.

It doesn’t matter that this is his third training camp with the Dallas Cowboys. It doesn’t matter that he already has a role as the third-down back. It doesn’t matter that he could be a core player on special teams.

Dunbar
“I wouldn’t say I like it that way better, but it kind of pushes me, made me work harder, made me the guy I am today,” Dunbar said.

Dunbar is not established the way DeMarco Murray is established. He had just 30 carries last season and caught just seven passes before suffering a knee injury last Thanksgiving against the Oakland Raiders. But it was what Dunbar did in that game -- 12 carries, 82 yards; one catch, 12 yards -- that has many intrigued about his role in 2014.

“This league has kind of evolved into a two-back type league, meaning two marquee backs instead of that one bell cow,” coach Jason Garrett said. “That was the case in this league for a number of years, but very few teams have that one guy who is going to get it 25 times a game. We want to make sure DeMarco Murray gets his touches. We play well on offense, we play well as a team when we hand him the football so we’ll keep trying to do that, keep trying to get him the ball in the passing game too. But anybody who has followed our football team the last couple of years sees that Lance Dunbar can contribute and he continues to get better and better.”

Dunbar’s recovery from knee surgery went better than anybody could have expected. He was not limited in his offseason work and there won’t be any rest in training camp. Garrett said the scores Dunbar put up on tests – benching, squatting, change of direction drills, vertical jump - this spring were better than they were a year ago.

“I couldn’t feel sorry myself,” Dunbar said. “I had to do it myself to get better each and every day. I just pushed myself and I came back stronger and a better player.”

Cowboys Camp Report: Day 3

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
10:39
PM ET
OXNARD, Calif. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Dallas Cowboys training camp:
  • All eyes were on Tony Romo as he practiced in pads for the first time since Week 16 last season because of a back injury. Romo completed nine of 12 passes in team and seven-on-seven drills. The offense attacked downfield with Romo opening the seven-on-seven drills with a back-shoulder throw down the seam to tight end Jason Witten. He connected with Dez Bryant on a deep ball in seven-on-seven drills but overshot Bryant on a deep throw in team drills.
  • The Cowboys threw Rolando McClain into the action right away. He took some of the second-team middle linebacker snaps despite not being acquired until earlier this month and missing the first two days of camp to stand trial in Alabama. On his first play in team run drill, McClain shrugged off tight end James Hanna and tackled running back Lance Dunbar for a short gain. McClain’s conditioning will have to be watched since he was not in football during the spring.
  • Owner and general manager Jerry Jones was impressed with the work of defensive tackle Henry Melton. The Cowboys will limit his work in team drills as works his way back into form from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. After one play defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli yelled, “Go to the ball, Henry. Every play is your play.”
  • Rookie defensive end Ben Gardner suffered a shoulder injury in practice and will have an MRI. He was the only player injured in camp. During the pre-practice festivities a Cowboys cheerleader suffered a knee injury and needed to be carted off the field.
  • Like they did in the June minicamp, the offensive and defensive linemen were required to wear knee braces. The Cowboys want to limit the possibility of injuries with players falling to the ground. The offensive linemen are more accustomed to wearing the braces. The second the first-team defenders were done with team drills they unfastened their braces.
OXNARD, Calif. – For a one-on-one session, Morris Claiborne lived up to the hype of that 2012 draft night.

After the Dallas Cowboys packaged their first two picks to move up to select Claiborne with the No. 6 overall pick, owner/general manager Jerry Jones bragged to anybody who would listen that Deion Sanders was the last cornerback the team gave a higher draft grade. Well, Claiborne did a pretty good Prime Time impersonation in his first few full-contact reps of his third training camp.

Claiborne
Claiborne, a massive disappointment during his first two injury-plagued seasons, showed a physical style and swagger that hadn’t been seen from him since he won the Jim Thorpe Award as a junior at LSU.

“I can play,” Claiborne said after the practice. “I’m that same guy that they traded up to go get.”

Claiborne made much more colorful statements to Terrance Williams while dominating four consecutive one-on-one reps against the Cowboys’ No. 2 receiver. At one point, Claiborne barked that they had better bring Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant over to compete against him. Several of his comments aren't suitable to be printed on a Disney-owned website.

Claiborne got in Williams’ face at the line of scrimmage and stayed in the receiver’s face well after forcing each incomplete pass. Williams returned the verbal fire at his friend – all was well between the two after the practice ended – but Claiborne clearly got the best of the matchup. He at least flashed the potential of being a premier press cornerback, something that frankly hadn’t happened in the previous two seasons.

“I’m just playing. I’m just competing,” Claiborne said. “I’m not out there thinking about anything, thinking about what went on yesterday or last year. I’m not thinking about none of that. My focus is on one place and one place only. I’m thinking about going forward, building off this day.”

Claiborne couldn’t sustain that energy or excellence for the entire practice. He gave up a couple of big plays in 7-on-7 drills and needed attention from associate athletic trainer Britt Brown after cramping up later in the practice.

“That’s what this is about for him is keeping his confidence at a high level,” Jones said. “We obviously know his talent, his speed and that was good to see him over there competing. And his coaches were pointing that out to him. He’s got to really fight through it at the end of practice.”

It wasn’t a perfect afternoon, but this practice was a heck of a first step in Claiborne’s fight to prove he isn’t an epic draft bust.

“I’m just playing. I’m just competing,” Claiborne said. “I’m not out there thinking about anything, thinking about what went on yesterday or last year. I’m not thinking about none of that. My focus is on one place and one place only. I’m thinking about going forward, building off this day.”
OXNARD, Calif. – On Friday, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain was found guilty on two misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in a Decatur, Alabama, courtroom. On Saturday morning he was taking part in a special-teams walkthrough.

McClain
McClain spoke for the first time since being acquired in a trade from the Baltimore Ravens earlier this month.

“It’s my first day here. Really just this will be my first practice with the guys, this will be my first time seeing the guys run around,” McClain said. “I’m just taking it for my first day, enjoy my mistakes, enjoy when I do something well. Yesterday I was sitting in a court room not knowing what was going to happen. Today I’m here with the Dallas Cowboys with an opportunity to make a football team and fight for a position. You can’t argue with that.”

McClain said he was surprised by the judge’s decision but would not elaborate. He appealed Friday’s verdict. but the expectation is that he will not miss any more time on the field.

McClain retired twice after stints with the Oakland Raiders, who made him the eighth pick of the 2010 draft, and Ravens and was involved in numerous off-field incidents. Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones had extensive conversations with Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome when the teams made the trade, and coach Jason Garrett spoke with Alabama coach Nick Saban, McClain's college coach.

“My life wasn’t going in the right path,” McClain said “Me being a young father of two, I had to sit down and realize I have things I need to do to be a better man for those two little boys. The best thing for me to do is get away from football and work on my personal life. I told Mr. Newsome when I felt like I had that clear I would come back. Unfortunately when I did come back everything wasn’t settled. At the end of the day, I still have to stay true to my word and true to my family.”

The Cowboys are taking a low risk in McClain. If he does not make the team, the Ravens do not receive any compensation. He is also being paid the minimum.

The Cowboys have an obvious need with Sean Lee out for the year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. McClain has not played since Nov. 12 when he was with the Raiders, but he was suspended by the team for two games and did not play the rest of the season.

“His slate is completely clean with us,” Garrett said.

A phone call with owner and general manager Jerry Jones after the trade made a big impression on McClain.

“No, I think he convinced me I needed to play again,” McClain said. “He called me from Turkey and I figured that had to be an expensive phone call, so … It was pretty serious with me from that point.”
OXNARD, Calif. – It seems almost daily that pass-catchers are cashing in on new deals.

Bryant
Bryant
On Saturday, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson signed a four-year extension worth $39 million that included an $11.5 million signing bonus, according to ESPN Insider Adam Schefter. Earlier in the week, Roddy White signed a four-year extension worth $30 million that included $18 million guaranteed.

Last week, the New Orleans Saints signed tight end Jimmy Graham to a four-year, $40 million deal with $21 million guaranteed.

Where does this leave Dez Bryant?

ESPNDallas.com columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor wrote earlier in the week Bryant views himself as one of the game’s top five receivers, worth at least $12 million annually. The Cowboys don’t, despite what Bryant has done the past two seasons.

Nelson is 29. White turns 33 in November. Graham is 27. He might be a tight end by trade, but his production has been similar to Bryant’s, as I noted here.

Bryant turns 26 in November.

For those believing Bryant deserves to be paid the same $12 million-a-year neighborhood or more than what Mike Wallace got with the Miami Dolphins or what the Seattle Seahawks gave Percy Harvin after acquiring him in a trade, the situations are different. Wallace hit the open market. Harvin was in a position of leverage in the same way Roy Williams was in a position of leverage after the Cowboys traded for him.

The threat of the franchise tag looms in these talks. The Cowboys have gone down that road in recent years with Anthony Spencer (twice) and Flozell Adams.

For now, a deal does not appear close but things can change quickly. The Cowboys have used training camp in the past to get deals done with free-agents-to-be, like Sean Lee last year.

The Cowboys want to get something done. Bryant does not want to leave the Cowboys.

Finding a middle ground should start becoming easier now that these other deals have come in.

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