NFC East: Dallas Cowboys
While Weeden's balance and memory tested out fine, he had a headache that was enough to keep him off the field after taking a sack. Weeden has improved, which was evident by his attendance of Tuesday's walk-through even if he didn't participate.
"If you're ankle's hurt, yeah, I'm fine throw some tape on it. But you have a headache? Yes? All right, you want to be smart," Weeden said. "I'm 31 years old and I don't want to be 50 and not be able to know my kids' names. To me that's a lot more important than trying to play it out for one more series in a preseason game. It's not worth it. Super Bowl? Little different deal.
"But I'm good. I'm making good progress."
Weeden isn't sure if he will be able to play in Saturday's preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings. He has to follow the concussion protocol before getting cleared. Tight end Gavin Escobar was able to play against the 49ers after suffering a concussion in practice against the St. Louis Rams.
Weeden completed 2-of-5 passes for 7 yards in three series' of work.
"It takes time," Weeden said. "You can't really put a day on it. You just have to make sure you're symptom free, then you start the process and when that runs its course. When the trainers say, 'Hey, you're good to go today,' I'll throw my helmet on and go practice."
Bryant's return doesn't mean he will be a full participant in practice. As they did with other players, such as Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar, Bryant will likely be worked into practice over the next few days with the possibility of playing Saturday against the Minnesota Vikings.
Bryant will "get involved in individuals and see how he does and how he responds to that," coach Jason Garrett said.
Bryant has missed 10 practices and the first two preseason games. After missing the offseason program as he awaited a long-term contract, the Cowboys did not want to overwork Bryant early in camp. He was held out of one-on-one work and had his snaps monitored but still had moments of dominance in practice.
In the past week, Bryant stepped up his rehab work off to the side during practice with resistance training. He went through the walk-through sessions and the pre-practice 11-on-11 work as well. While not practicing, he also played catch nonstop.
Garrett has been impressed with Bryant's work off the field when not practicing.
"Stayed very engaged, really good in meetings, good at the walk-through, engaged with his coaches, engaged with his teammates," Garrett said. "He's a professional."
What it means: Thankfully for the Cowboys, this means nothing, but it does show there has to be some concern about the depth, especially along the offensive line.
The Cowboys did not have left tackle Tyron Smith (biceps), Zack Martin (stinger) or Ronald Leary (back) on the field Sunday. Doug Free lasted two series. Travis Frederick lasted three. Rookie La'el Collins and Darrion Weems failed to pick up a stunt that led to a sack. The running game averaged 3.3 yards per carry in the first half.
Slow going: Darren McFadden returned to the Bay Area as the Cowboys’ starting tailback and had three carries for 4 yards and caught one pass for 3 yards in two series of work. Lance Dunbar caught Tony Romo's only pass but slipped and lost a yard. Joseph Randle had seven carries for 30 yards. So far the Cowboys have not been able to answer the running back question.
Stat of note: Through two preseason games the Cowboys have scored two touchdowns on 22 possessions. It’s not time to panic but it is worth noting. But remember this: The starters have yet to play a snap together in the preseason. Perhaps things get better next week if Dez Bryant gets on the field.
Injuries of note: Backup quarterback Brandon Weeden went to the locker room after taking a blow to the head on a 9-yard sack from Quinton Dial and Eli Harold. Weeden lasted just nine plays and completed two of five passes for 7 yards.
What’s next: The Cowboys return to Oxnard, California, for the final week of training camp before returning home for their first preseason game at AT&T Stadium against the Minnesota Vikings.
OXNARD, Calif. -- The list of injured Dallas Cowboys continues to grow.
As of Tuesday, it was 25 players long. Here is the rundown:
Cole Beasley (Achilles), Dez Bryant (hamstring), Antwan Goodley (hamstring), Gus Johnson (shoulder), James Hanna (knee), Gavin Escobar (concussion), Ronald Leary (back), Tyron Smith (biceps), Doug Free (foot), Zack Martin (stinger), Ken Boatright (neck, back), Nick Hayden (ribs), Terrell McClain (knee), Tyrone Crawford (back), Sean Lee (knee), Anthony Hitchens (foot), Byron Jones (shoulder), Corey White (unknown), Barry Church (ribs), Brandon Carr (hand), Orlando Scandrick (knee), Ken Bishop (unknown).
Some players are at various points in their recovery. Some could be back today. Others could need a week or more.
Free has taken some team snaps in the past three practices after resting his surgically-repaired foot. Scandrick was in pads for the first time since Aug. 6 on Tuesday but just worked on the side. Bryant was in full pads and was begging for a snap but the hope is he can return to practice next week. The same goes for Tyron Smith.
The numbers of injuries affect practices in terms of quality and quantity. Because of the injuries, the number of snaps was cut back.
"You cross your fingers every day you walk out here in these training camps," executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "...We obviously have a big injury list right now. I think it's over half our team has something they're getting treated right now. We have to continue to monitor it, manage it and do the best we can. As you we all know, a lot of these injuries out here, people missing practice, we are being conservative in terms of not letting them get out here and really let the injury escalate."
The injuries have made the jobs of Jones and senior director college/pro personnel Will McClay challenging. With 90 players in 32 camps, there aren't enough players available.
Since camp started, the Cowboys have added running backs Ben Malena and Michael Hill, wide receiver David Porter, offensive linemen Cody Clay, tight end Brandon Barden, linebackers Keith Smith, Jonathan Brown and Ka'Lial Glaud and cornerback Brandon Smith.
On Wednesday, the Cowboys had players in for workouts on a day off, including a few defensive linemen. The ultimate goal is to find players to possibly help during the season, but the immediate goal is find players to get through practice.
"Everybody's got their nicks and bumps and bruises and you have 90 players on the roster and to find someone to replace that player that you've studied as much and have a new guy come in, it's a very difficult deal," McClay said. "But I think our guys do a good job. We've got lists of players that are not anywhere. We've got a list of players that have been somewhere and we've got their college reports. So we try to find a way to match it. Some positions are harder than others. I mean offensive line? Are you kidding me? Thirty-two teams and 90 players, they've got 15, 16 linemen; they don't make them in college football, so it's hard to find them now."
The Cowboys' No. 1 goal of training camp is keeping players healthy. Their eyes are not on Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers. It's the Sept. 13 regular-season opener against the New York Giants.
But in order to get ready for that game, practice is critical. Before the brawls ended the practices against the Rams, injuries curtailed the number of snaps per practice period.
"This is an important time for us as we're building our team," Jones said. "We all know that this next 10 days leading up and through that third preseason game are going to be a big, big deal in terms of how we get this team prepared for the season. Maybe things [with injuries] will slow back down a little bit, but these next 10 days will be tough. This is part of it. This is when you build your football team and hopefully we'll do a good job doing it."
Of course, it was red zone work where his 6-foot-6 frame makes him a nightmare matchup for defensive backs. In one-on-one drills, Escobar could not be stopped. In the compete period, he plucked a Tony Romo fade over safety Jeff Heath for a touchdown. He had a touchdown negated in team drills because of a push off on Barry Church but there was no doubt Romo was going to him before the ball was snapped.
"I like it because I feel like that's where my strengths are," Escobar said. "My size. My catching ability. I feel comfortable down in there."
Escobar had four touchdown catches last season and all but one came in the red zone. Of his six career touchdowns, four have come from inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
"Dez is going to see a lot of double coverage in the red zone," he said, "so we've got to take advantage of our one on ones."
As he enters his third season, Escobar has just 18 career catches for 239 yards. He has played in every game with two starts, but he was unable to unseat James Hanna as the No. 2 tight end behind Jason Witten in the running game last season.
Run blocking was not Escobar's strong suit when he came to the Cowboys and they continue to work with him on it. He had a key block on a Joseph Randle run in Sunday's practice but he also had a holding penalty in the first preseason game against the San Diego Chargers.
"I mean if I look at film from two years ago, I've definitely made a lot of strides," Escobar said.
What Escobar suffers from mostly, however, is the same thing that afflicted Anthony Fasano and Martellus Bennett, second-round picks in 2006 and '08. Because Witten does not come off the field, all three have been labeled disappointments.
"Gavin's arc has a lot to do with the guy who is our starting tight end," coach Jason Garrett said. "[Witten] is pretty good. It's hard to get those reps when Jason Witten is in front of you. We recognize that. It's hard for James Hanna to get those reps. To a certain extent it's hard for [Geoff] Swaim to get those reps. The guy [Witten] is good and he plays every snap. He's played every snap for a long, long time around here."
While Garrett has seen improvement, the lack of statistical production leads to an unfair labeling that Escobar has not lived up to expectations when the team has not found a way to utilize him best. When he was picked, the Cowboys were going to move to an offense that featured two tight ends the way the New England Patriots featured Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
It was the same thought Bill Parcells had when the Cowboys took Fasano in 2006 and Wade Phillips had when the Cowboys took Bennett in 2008.
It didn't work for them with the Cowboys. Escobar has two more seasons to make it work for him.
"A lot of people say when you drafted a guy that high, they want him to come in and be an immediate starter," Garrett said. "What he needs to focus on is taking full advantage of his opportunities and trying to get better each and every day, and he's certainly done that. He's the right kind of guy. He works really hard at getting better every day and we've seen that progress. When he gets an opportunity, he'll be ready for it. ...I certainly have no regrets about us drafting him. We like what he's done and he's going to be better and better each and every day he's out there."
Why watch: While stars such as Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are not expected to play, the first-team defense figures to get a little bit of work, which means Greg Hardy will play in his first game since Week 1 last season with the Carolina Panthers. Hardy will miss the first four games of the season because of a suspension, but he needs to work as much as possible during the preseason. After going up mostly against All-Pro tackle Tyron Smith in practice, Hardy will be glad to go against what the Chargers have to offer.
Did you know: Linebacker Andrew Gachkar will make his Cowboys debut against his former team in San Diego. The Cowboys signed Gachkar in free agency to shore up their reserves and bolster their special teams. In the last week of camp, Gachkar has come up with an interception and several big hits. He spent the first four years of his career with the Chargers, starting eight games in the last two seasons.
Darren Woodson was a rookie when Charles Haley was traded to the Dallas Cowboys in 1992. Haley quickly made an impression on Woodson. It wasn’t a good one.
"I was getting taped and I'm on the table and he wants to get taped, being the old vet," Woodson remembered. "We had some words and almost had a scuffle, and everybody broke it up. The next day he walks up to me, he says, 'I love your attitude. You got a little feistiness about you.' And that was it."
As Haley gets ready for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday as the only player with five Super Bowl rings, the stories about Haley are legendary, be it with the Cowboys or the San Francisco 49ers.
He made the Hall of Fame because of the Super Bowl wins, the five Pro Bowl selections, the two All-Pro teams, the two defensive player of the year awards and the 100.5 career sacks. But it's what Haley brought to the Niners, with whom he won Super Bowls XXIII and XIV, and the Cowboys, with whom he won Super Bowls XXVII, XXVIII and XXX, that helped lead him to Canton, Ohio.
"The craziness," former Cowboys guard Nate Newton said.
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has said on more than a few occasions that the Cowboys could not spell "Super Bowl" before Haley arrived. The Niners were tired of Haley's act and sent him to Dallas, who needed a pass-rusher the way a 6-year-old needs ice cream.
They were aware of what they were getting, but Jones was more than willing to take the risk. He developed an affinity for Haley.
"I had him stick a helmet up about a foot and a half from me in a sheetrock wall in the middle of the locker room," Jones said. "I had to basically look deep right then and know that if I walked over and grabbed him around the waist and said, 'Let’s all calm down here,' that he was going to calm down. And I knew he would because I had some good experiences with him."
The Cowboys largely let Haley be Haley, and he helped deliver Super Bowls.
When Woodson arrived, he kept hearing how the Cowboys needed a pass-rusher. Newton was entering his seventh season with the Cowboys at the time and knew they needed a pass-rusher.
But teammates said Haley brought "some dog" with him to a defense that needed it.
"We had a lot of guys that could play the game, but he was the guy who was unafraid to say what he felt," Woodson said. "And a guy that spit on you while he was talking, but he was always the guy that just wasn't afraid. He didn't back down from [then-Cowboys coach] Jimmy [Johnson]. He didn't back down from any of the coaches."
The respect of his Super Bowl wins in San Francisco carried weight with the players. They listened. And Haley taught. He spent countless hours on the field with defensive linemen such as Leon Lett, Tony Tolbert and Tony Casillas in helping with their pass rush. He taught Woodson the importance of hand placement as the safety blitzed off the edge.
"When Charles first walked in and we were getting ready for practice, he ran down a scouting report from Troy [Aikman] on down to the sock man," Newton said. "He could tell everybody a little bit about their game and let you know right away that it was, 'As crazy as I am, don't take me for a mental midget as far as being a football player.'
"He knew football and he knew he had a look. He had a scouting report on just about anybody on offense that you can name. That was Charles. He was smart. Sometimes, he played crazy, but he was smarter than you think."
This year his biggest worry is an aggravating sty below his left eye.
“When I had back surgery, it sucks,” Romo said after Thursday’s morning walkthrough. “You go through surgery and deal with it and then you man up and go out and get better. It’s all you do. It’s the same thing now. I get to string together far more days of consistency now than I did when I was coming back from it.”
That’s not to say Romo isn’t worried about his back. He continues to do daily exercises to strengthen his core and back. He will spend time in an ice tub after practices as well.
Last year, Romo didn’t practice for more than two straight days in camp as he worked back from surgery. He called last year’s plan more “trial and error,” but he has a stronger base at the start of this year’s camp.
Romo said there could days when he works two days and rests or works three straight days. The Cowboys and Romo could coordinate his off days with the scheduled off days throughout the summer.
“In general, you want to always be feeling good,” Romo said. “You don’t need to push it to a point that sometimes can take you to where you need multiple days [of rest]. It’s smart to be smart about it. I’ve been that way. At the same time, some strength in my base to be able to handle and withstand multiple days. I think we’ll practice more this year than we did last year.”
Romo isn’t worried about taking hits, although he is considered untouchable by the defense in drills. He missed one game last year after suffering two transverse process fractures unrelated to the discectomy he had in December 2013.
“What you find is it’s mostly about the torque consistently you’re putting on your back would be for me more of a hurdle necessarily than hits,” Romo said. “Obviously if you take the wrong kind of hit, like Washington last year, that’s going to hurt. But over time I found that I have to manage just the constant torque you put in your back through repetition. So you just have to manage that. If you do that, then I’m able to handle hits better, I’m able to move better, I’m able to fire when you decide to move and run more explosively. I think all that goes hand in hand.”
OXNARD, Calif. -- Unless Tom Brady takes the NFL to court and is successful in appealing his four-game suspension, the Dallas Cowboys won't see the New England Patriots quarterback when the teams meet Oct. 11 at AT&T Stadium.
From a football perspective, that is absolutely good news for the Cowboys. They would much rather see Jimmy Garoppolo, provided he holds onto the job in camp, than Brady, the future Hall of Famer.
From a fan of the game perspective, it's bad news. This is likely Brady's one and only appearance at AT&T Stadium. With the scheduling the way it is, New England won't be back in Arlington until 2023. Brady might be a marvel but he won't be playing football at 46 years old.
It is special to see future Hall of Famers play in person, especially at a venue like AT&T Stadium, but the chances of seeing Brady are slim. It was special to see Peyton Manning play in Arlington two years ago with the Denver Broncos in one of the most memorable games of the 2013 season, a 51-48 Denver win.
Most fans won't look at Brady's suspension that way. They'll just see the benefit of playing the defending Super Bowl champion without their starting quarterback, which is perfectly understandable.
Just because Brady won't be at the game, doesn't mean there won't be a lot of storylines. CBS will still get the ratings. The Cowboys and Patriots are two of the most popular teams with outgoing owners in Robert Kraft and Jery Jones.
But the most intrigue will remain at the quarterback position. Garoppolo is an Eastern Illinois product, like Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. That's quite a feat for a small school.
Like Brady, Hardy could take the NFL to court to seek further reduction of his suspension but a decision has not been made. Hardy saw his 10-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy reduced to four games by an arbitrator.
Maybe he would be a golfer. Maybe he would be coaching football or basketball. Maybe a teacher. Maybe some sort of businessman.
The folks at DirecTV have a take on what Romo would be.
Somehow, the alternative Romo is not what I pictured.
Well, no. Not really. That’s the activity of one “Arts & Craftsy Tony Romo,” the quarterback’s alter-ego in his new DirecTV spot. It’s modeled off of the famous Rob Lowe alter-ego ads and is part of a new, pre-football season ad campaign that also features New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and “Bad Comedian Eli Manning.”
What’s glorious about this is the disguise Romo puts on for it, covering up a swath of hair up and over the top of his head and replacing it with a scraggly beard. He’s got the just-tight-enough-to-make-the-viewer-uncomfortable jeans, the paint-stained apron, the glasses on a chain… If he walked by you on the street looking like this, you’d never know it was Romo. And yes, he put a cupcake on a brownie. And he’s calling it a crownie.
That’s right, Dallas Cowboys fans. You wanted your guy to play less golf in the offseason; this is what you get. Be careful what you wish for.
With the five-year, $70 million deal that ESPN Insider Chris Mortensen reported, Bryant should be plenty happy. And a happy Bryant makes for some happy Cowboys.
It's not that Bryant wouldn't have given the same effort if he had to play the season on the $12.823 million franchise tag, but he might have wondered what else he had to do to get long-term security from the only team he has known and the only team he has truly wanted to play for.
The Cowboys' offense would have been OK without Bryant. Tony Romo has made it work with receivers at all levels since becoming the Cowboys' starting quarterback. The offensive line would have been good enough to make things just good enough.
But Bryant changes the dynamic of the offense.
He can score from anywhere on the field. There are few receivers in the NFL like that.
As coach Jason Garrett likes to say, defenses know where No. 88 is on every play, and they do as much as they can to slow him down.
Without Bryant, those running lanes would have been smaller. The Cowboys can tout the offseason progress of Terrance Williams and the development of Devin Street, but they don't force defenses to keep the safeties deep.
He keeps defenses honest. He will make life easier for Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar or whoever is running the ball behind the offensive line. Bryant makes life easier for Williams, Street, Cole Beasley and whoever else lines up at wide receiver. Bryant makes life easier for TE Jason Witten, who would have faced extra defensive attention without Bryant on the field.
Most importantly, he makes life easier for Romo.
The Cowboys have opened up a second window of contention in Romo's career with their 12-4 finish last season and their recent personnel acquisitions. Romo, who turned 35 in April, is coming off his best season. He threw 34 touchdown passes with nine interceptions and led the NFL in Total QBR, passer rating and completion percentage.
At the scouting combine in February, owner and general manager Jerry Jones related a story from the famed Cowboys bus at the Super Bowl about a conversation with Romo in regards to what the team needed to do with RB DeMarco Murray.
With Stephen Jones and Garrett within ear shot, Romo told the owner, "Jerry, see Stephen, he's got himself about 25-30 years of this ahead. Jason, coach, maybe something similar to that. Me, I'm three to five. You're three to five. We got to stick together. It's now for us."
The Cowboys didn't move much to keep Murray, who left for the Philadelphia Eagles, despite Romo's plea.
By signing Bryant to this type of deal, the Cowboys showed they needed him more than Murray, and they've shown everybody that the time is now for them to compete for a Super Bowl.
IRVING, Texas -- Dez Bryant is among the most physically-gifted players in the NFL. He can do things on the field few others can do.
He is also extremely prideful.
As the hours tick away on Bryant and the Dallas Cowboys being able to reach a long-term deal, Bryant has reinforced how serious he is about sitting out of training camp and possibly missing games.
Here is what he tweeted not too long ago:
— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) July 13, 2015
Bryant wants a deal with long-term security. The Cowboys are not willing to set the receiver market, despite what Bryant has accomplished the past three years.
Both sides have an argument.
Getting to that resolution by 4 p.m. ET Wednesday will be difficult but not impossible.
If they are unable to agree to a deal, then it will be up to Bryant to uphold his tweet.
Given his pride, there is no reason to doubt him, even if it could cost him $754,000 a week once the regular season starts.
IRVING, Texas -- Time is closing in on the Dallas Cowboys' July 28 flight to Oxnard, California, for the start of training camp.
Now that the Cowboys know Greg Hardy will miss the first four games of the regular season (provided he does not take the NFL to court), they will have to put a plan in place for him to be ready for his debut, Oct. 11 against the New England Patriots.
A year ago the Cowboys knew they would not have Orlando Scandrick for the first four games of the regular season after he violated the league's substance abuse policy. That suspension was reduced to two games when changes were made to the policy.
Scandrick took his normal turns during training camp with the first team in practice. He also didn't play in the first preseason game but he started the final exhibition while most of the other starters sat. Perhaps the move was made at that time knowing he would be out of action for a month or perhaps the Cowboys were thin at a few spots and just needed him for a few snaps.
With Hardy, things are a little different.
He played in one game last season. He was inactive for the second game and moved to the commissioner's exempt list for the final 14 games of the season.
During the upcoming training camp practices, Hardy needs to get as much work as possible. He needs to work inside and outside to help get rid of the rust that has to accumulate from missing so much time. His work in the offseason program helped but was not enough.
And in the preseason games, he needs to play. Maybe he doesn't need to play every game, but he needs to get time against various offensive linemen. The two days of practice in training camp against the St. Louis Rams will also help.
There is a balance Jason Garrett and the coaches have to walk with all of their regulars during training camp and the preseason. How much work is needed and how much is too much?
With Hardy having missed 15 games last year and, as of right now, missing the first four games this season, the Cowboys have to give him more work than they would normally. They can't afford to have a four-game suspension turn into a six-game suspension of sorts because he won't be ready to go immediately.
Now that Harold Henderson has reduced Hardy's suspension from 10 games to four, we can start mapping out the salary-cap implications of the deal that could have paid Hardy as much as $13.1 million if he played in every game in 2015.
Hardy's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said he will confer with the NFL Players Association and Hardy's attorneys about seeking a further reduction through the court system.
But based on what we know now, the maximum cap figure this year will be $10.626 million if he hits on all of his incentives. If he doesn't hit any incentives, he would count $8.822 million against the cap in total.
Hardy has already collected $1.311 million in a workout bonus. His $750,000 base salary will be roughly $573,521 this year if he misses four games. If he is on the 53-man roster for 12 games, he will earn $6,937,500 in roster bonuses. He can earn up to $1.804 million through incentives if he gets 14 or more sacks.
He can earn $500,000 with eight sacks, $1 million for 10 sacks and $1.4 million for 12 sacks.
Hardy's current cap number is $2.639 million. Only two of the 16 per-game roster bonuses count toward the cap at present because he was on the Carolina Panthers' 53-man roster for two weeks last season before he was moved to the commissioner's exempt list.
The Cowboys will not receive a cap credit until the suspension starts prior to Week 1. Once he is on the 53-man roster for two games, then they need to account for $578,125 each week for the roster bonuses.