Dallas Cowboys: Lawrence Vickers

Cowboys have to spend, choose wisely

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
IRVING, Texas -- The free-agent shopping starts today at 3 p.m. CT.

If the Dallas Cowboys have learned anything, it’s that they should use coupons.

From 2006-11, the Cowboys signed 12 players in unrestricted free agency. Only two players who signed multi-year deals reached the end of their contracts: Kyle Kosier signed a five-year, $15 million deal with the Cowboys in 2006 and was with the team through 2011. Keith Brooking signed a three-year, $6 million deal in 2009 and was a contributor through 2011.

Igor Olshansky (2009), Leonard Davis (2007) and Akin Ayodele (2006) are the only other players who made it more than one season on their original deals, and Olshansky and Ayodele made it only two seasons.

The Cowboys signed seven unrestricted free agents in 2012 and three lasted one season (Dan Connor, Nate Livings and Lawrence Vickers) on multi-year deals. Brodney Pool signed a one-year deal and barely made it to training camp.

Three members of the 2012 free-agent class remain: Brandon Carr (five years, $50 million), Mackenzy Bernadeau (four years, $11.5 million) and Kyle Orton (three years, $10.5 million). Carr is coming off a disappointing 2013 season, Bernadeau took a pay cut last week and Orton is not sure he wants to play.

Spending money in free agency is hardly ever the answer. The Cowboys will not have a ton of money available to them when the market opens until the DeMarcus Ware situation is resolved, and even then they will have to be wise with how they spend it and who they spend it on.

The needs are obvious: defense, defense and more defense. That’s what happens when a unit finishes last in the NFL in 2013. But the Cowboys could use a veteran presence at wide receiver (Robert Meachem, Jason Avant) and a backup quarterback if Orton walks away (Shaun Hill).

Finding defensive line help is a must, but the Cowboys will have to be budget conscious. They have had on and off talks with Jordan Woy, who represents free agents Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer, for most of the offseason. Both players could find better financial opportunities elsewhere.

Hatcher turns 32 in July and is coming off a career-high 11 sacks. He was added to the Pro Bowl. Spencer played in only one game in 2013 because of a knee injury that will not be healed enough for him to be 100 percent ready for training camp.

How much of a commitment can the Cowboys make and feel like they will get their money’s worth?

Ties to new defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli could help in the pursuit of Henry Melton, but he is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Value is often the most overlooked part of free agency. The big-money signings lead to the biggest headlines, but do not correspond enough to wins and losses.

The Cowboys found value in Kosier, Brooking, Gerald Sensabaugh and Bernadeau but did not or have not received enough bang for the buck in Carr ($26.5 million guarantee) and Davis ($18.75 million guaranteed).

As the Cowboys look to clear this 8-8 bump that has turned into Mt. Everest, they need to spend wisely, but more importantly they need to choose wisely.

Win or lose, jobs at stake Sunday vs. Eagles

December, 23, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- As thrilling as Sunday’s 24-23 win against the Washington Redskins was, it might have only delayed the inevitable for the Dallas Cowboys.

With a loss this week against the Philadelphia Eagles in a third straight NFC East championship game, there will be change. Actually, win or lose there will be changes, because that is just the nature of the NFL. How grand and how widespread are the questions.

Speculation abounds about Jason Garrett’s future. Twice in the past two weeks Garrett said he is focused on doing his job to the best of his ability. There is nothing else he really can say. Would Jerry Jones have the patience to bring Garrett back for a fourth season after three crushing Week 17 losses?

After last season’s loss to the Washington Redskins, Jones promised an uncomfortable season for everyone in the organization ... not named Jones.

Would it have made a difference if the Cowboys beat the Redskins last season? Would Jones have stayed with the status quo? They didn’t win, so changes were made.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was fired. So was running backs coach Skip Peete. Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis was allowed to leave for the Chicago Bears. Garrett’s brother, John, was allowed to leave for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson was named “senior coaching consultant,” however, he has not been seen at one practice the entire season.

Ryan’s replacement, Monte Kiffin, would appear to be on thin ice after this historically bad season as the Cowboys switched to the 4-3. He has consistently said retirement is not in his plans, but at 73 years old that could change quickly.

Players, like Gerald Sensabaugh, Marcus Spears, Lawrence Vickers and Dan Connor, were cut in the offseason. Doug Free had his base salary cut in half. Players like DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin could be in the crosshairs this year win or lose to the Eagles.

A lot is at stake against the Eagles, and for some people it could be more than just a playoff spot.

Why a fullback doesn't make sense for Cowboys

December, 4, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys seemed to make a lot of fans happy on Tuesday when they signed a fullback. It wasn’t Lawrence Vickers, which still had some upset, but at least Tyler Clutts actually has played fullback in an NFL game.

To me, however, the signing does not make a lot of sense.

The Cowboys’ pro personnel department deserves a lot of credit for finding guys. George Selvie, Nick Hayden and Jarius Wynn have all helped this year. You can go back to last year for guys like Ernie Sims, Sterling Moore and Eric Frampton. And who can forget the Laurent Robinson signing?

This is not a knock on Clutts, who was described by a personnel chief as a “workmanlike lead blocker.” He might be another solid find. I just don’t see how he fits in what the Cowboys do well in their running game.

The weather will be cold in Chicago on Monday. It could be cold when the Cowboys play the Washington Redskins. And Jason Garrett keeps saying you want to be a physical team in December. I get all of that, but what the Cowboys do best when they run the ball is spread the field with three wide receivers.

Maybe it’s the curse of Tony Fiammetta, another pro department find who helped DeMarco Murray bust out in 2011. The fullback is a revered spot around here, going back to Walt Garrison and leading us to Daryl Johnston.

But it is also a dying position with offenses designed to pass the ball more or run out of “11 personnel,” like the Cowboys.

The Cowboys offensive line is not the ‘90s version of the Cowboys’ line. They do not overpower people. The scheme is not really a power scheme. They look to create creases, not gaping holes. Nate Newton and Larry Allen are not walking through that door to do that.

Murray is averaging 5.5 yards per carry for his career when he runs out of three-wide receiver looks. This year the Cowboys have gained 531 yards on 114 carries and scored five touchdowns out of 11 personnel. Against the Raiders they had 92 yards on 11 carries in 11 personnel. Lance Dunbar’s 45-yard run came out of 11 personnel. Even without that run the Cowboys averaged 4.7 yards a pop when they ran out of three-wides.

So this brings me to Clutts. Will he play five snaps a game? Is it worth it? Was using a tight end or linebacker Kyle Bosworth at fullback that bad? Not really.

The Cowboys could have gone a number of different ways in replacing Dunbar, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a knee injury. They worked out Clutts and a handful of other runners that have barely made their mark in the NFL. Would any of those guys helped? If you’re going to look for a runner, find a tested runner -- even one that has not played this year -- who might have six weeks left in him.

The better move would have been to poach from a practice squad. They did it late last year with tackle Darrion Weems. Maybe he develops into a backup. Maybe he never develops. But they at least had the chance to develop a player. They could look at any position really. In my Five Wonders post, I wondered why they don’t add a No. 3 quarterback for the stretch run. He’d be inactive for the final four games anyway, so at least get a guy in here to learn how they do things as they head into the offseason.

Maybe Clutts will help the running game, but statistics suggest otherwise.

Little to show for 2012 shopping spree

August, 8, 2013
OXNARD, Calif. – Much was made of Dallas’ free agency shopping spree in 2012. Less than a year and a half later, the Cowboys don’t have much to show from the seven-player class.

If the Cowboys had their choice, only one of those players would see significant playing time for the team this season.

A quick recap on the class’ contributions to the Cowboys and where they stand with the franchise now:

Todd Archer joins Galloway and Company live from Oxnard, Calif., to discuss the latest Cowboys news and which players they will keep on their roster.

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CB Brandon Carr (five years, $50 million): Jerry Jones readily admitted the Cowboys paid “retail” to fill a major need. Carr had a solid first season in Dallas but didn’t perform well enough to merit serious consideration for his first Pro Bowl appearance. The hope is that he’ll benefit from Monte Kiffin’s scheme, which relies on cornerbacks to get in receivers’ faces and play physical.

OG Nate Livings (five years, $18.7 million): The Cowboys hoped that Ronald Leary would beat out Livings even before the veteran needed arthroscopic surgery on his knee, likely sidelining Livings for the rest of training camp. The question now is whether the Cowboys will cut Livings despite his $1.7 million salary being guaranteed this season.

OG Mackenzy Bernadeau (four years, $11 million): The Cowboys tried to replace Bernadeau with Brandon Moore, but the ex-Jet changed his mind and decided to retire. Bernadeau, who was demoted to a backup his last season in Carolina, has had injury issues since arriving in Dallas. The Cowboys clearly aren’t confident that they can count on him after he struggled last season, missed all of offseason workouts while recovering from shoulder surgery and was sidelined the first two weeks of camp with a strained hamstring.

QB Kyle Orton (three years, $10.5 million): Orton threw only 10 passes last season. The Cowboys would love it if he played that little again this year. They signed him purely as an insurance policy, albeit a pretty expensive one. They’re confident that they’ll have an adequate quarterback if Tony Romo goes down, but it’d be a major dropoff.

LB Dan Connor (two years, $6.5 million): It’s funny to think that a year ago Connor vs. Bruce Carter was considered one of the best position battles in camp. Connor, who got a $2.7 million signing bonus, became a cap casualty after a 58-tackle season. He signed a one-year, $780,000 deal with the New York Giants.

FB Lawrence Vickers (two years, $2.4 million): Vickers was a bit player for a team that statistically had the worst rushing attack in franchise history. He’s out of football now, cut by the Cowboys after they decided to scrap the fullback position in favor of using multiple tight ends.

S Brodney Pool (one year, $1.1 million): Pool was guaranteed only $100,000. He didn’t exactly earn that money, flunking the pre-camp conditioning test and getting cut soon thereafter when it was clear he had no chance to beat out Barry Church for the starting job.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- When the Dallas Cowboys released fullback Lawrence Vickers, it saved $1.2 million against the salary cap and gave the team approximately $10 million in cap space.

Mark Schlereth joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Ted Emrich to discuss the Cowboys and their place in the NFC East.

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The Cowboys have three available spots on the 90-man training camp roster, so adding a fullback before Sunday's first training camp practice is a possibility. Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said the team most likely will sign a quarterback to fill one of the spots.

But getting rid of Vickers means the Cowboys could devote four roster spots to tight ends and four more to running backs for the 53-man roster.

"That's the way we operated throughout the offseason," coach Jason Garrett said. "Lawrence wasn't available to us because of injury and we liked how it looked and how it felt. There's no guarantee we'll continue in that mode, but we feel good about the four, five, six tight ends we have on our roster right now and how they'll compete and how the whole thing looked. We'll play that out through training camp and make the best decision for our team."

The projected roster spots at tight end go to Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar, James Hanna and Dante Rosario.

The projected roster spots for running back are DeMarco Murray, Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner.

Three spots open after Cowboys cut two

July, 17, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys have three roster spots available before the team flies to Oxnard, Calif., on Friday for the opening of training camp after releasing tackle J.B. Shugarts and quarterback Dalton Williams.

Shugarts signed with the Cowboys at the end of May and went through the June minicamp. Williams, a Coppell, Texas, native, signed with the team as an undrafted free agent in April.

With last week’s release of fullback Lawrence Vickers, the Cowboys have 87 players on the roster but expect to fill the vacancies upon arrival in Oxnard. It is possible they could gain a fourth roster spot if Josh Brent's situation is clarified by the end of the week.

The Cowboys worked out several players (quarterbacks Alex Tanney, Kyle Padron and Chase Clement, and receivers Lavasier Tuinei, DeWayne Peace, Gino Crump, Devin Goda and Antoine Hicks) on Tuesday and could look to add one of the quarterbacks to fill in behind Tony Romo, Kyle Orton and Nick Stephens.
We took two weeks of vacation to regroup, and, with that, we've got some random thoughts before the Cowboys head to training camp.

ESPNDallas.com's Todd Archer joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss Sean Lee, Gavin Escobar, Dez Bryant and more as Cowboys training camp nears.

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1. There are no major decisions looming for the Cowboys before leaving Dallas for Oxnard, Calif. That's a positive thing. The only real decision revolves around defensive tackle Josh Brent, and it seems the NFL will make a decision on his case. Jay Ratliff has a court case in August, but it's doubtful the team and the NFL will discipline him severely. He won't get suspended, and, at worse, he'll get fined. So, all the major decisions for the Cowboys come on the field. The other safety spot could go to Will Allen, and the starting center might be Travis Frederick, but if Phil Costa wins the gig, that's not a bad thing. The No. 3 receiver is either Dwayne Harris or Terrance Williams. The Cowboys, unlike the New England Patriots, go into training camp with little or no distractions.

2. Defensive end Anthony Spencer enters the 2013 season a man in charge of his financial freedom. He'll play under the franchise tag of $10.6 million, but he wants a long-term contract with the Cowboys. He won't receive one, so instead he'll play this season out and become an unrestricted free agent in 2014. Spencer is coming off a career season, during which he compiled 11 sacks and was the main focus of the defense in the last two weeks of the season with DeMarcus Ware nicked up with shoulder and elbow injuries. If Spencer is to command a hefty salary in free agency next year, how he performs in the new 4-3 scheme at end will dictate plenty. Spencer also has the flexibility of going back to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme in 2014, which increases his marketability among teams. A good season helps Spencer. An average season merits a short-term deal.

3. Some fans expressed dismay at the release of fullback Lawrence Vickers last week. If the Cowboys really wanted a fullback on the roster, they would not only have cut Vickers, which they did, but signed Vonta Leach, the best fullback on the free-agent market, which they didn't. The Cowboys will go with four tight ends, and the signing of veteran Dante Rosario meant the end of Vickers. Rosario will play special teams, and that made Vickers expendable. Sure, Vickers would have played special teams, too, but new special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia trusts Rosario more.

4. If you want to say Dez Bryant had the most impressive offseason for the Cowboys, that would be accurate. But backup running back Lance Dunbar was impressive as well during offseason workouts. Dunbar is a speedy back who could be used in third-down situations. Dunbar needs improvement on pass blocking, size could be an issue, yet, he's someone worth watching in training camp. We're not saying he should become a starter if DeMarco Murray gets hurt again, but Dunbar should see more playing time than he did last season.

5. The Cowboys offense had a delay of game penalty during offseason practices with Bill Callahan calling the play and Wade Wilson standing next to him on the field. What's going to happen with Callahan in the press box and Wilson on the field during games? The Cowboys made the switch to take some duties away from head coach Jason Garrett. For this move to work, the Cowboys need to work the mechanics of this smoothly. Having five preseason games will help in this process, but I question having Callahan in the press box relaying the play call to Wilson, who will be on the field. If things get haywire, moving Callahan to the sidelines could solve any problems.

Why the Cowboys support Josh Brent

June, 28, 2013
It would be easy for the Dallas Cowboys to release Josh Brent.

He's failed two drug tests while on bail for an intoxication manslaughter charge resulting in the death of his best friend and practice squad player Jerry Brown. Brent, in my opinion, should be released.

Galloway and Company discuss Josh Brent's second failed drug test and how the Cowboys should handle the situation.

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The Cowboys won't do it, at least for now.

It's not a financial reason because Brent's base salary is $630,000 and he counts $641,889 against the salary cap, so you're not saving a lot of money here by letting him go.

One of the big reasons Brent remains on the roster is he knows he's going to jail for a period of time. It's not a matter of if he goes to jail, it's when. How long is uncertain.

Those close to Brent say he's living with tremendous guilt over the death of his best friend. Last December at the memorial service for Brown in Dallas, numerous teammates hugged Brent and welcomed his presence. Brent attended the first half of the Cowboys' game against the Pittsburgh Steelers last season, though he left after his presence irked some fans and members of the media.

"At the same time, you know he's probably beating himself up inside," defensive end Jason Hatcher said last year of Brent. "But just being around the game he loves and to come in there and put a smile on our face as well as him, that was an unbelievable feeling. From now on, I don't know what will happen as far as him coming to a game. But the support of him is going to be amazing from us."

Brent is described as a well-liked player who would talk all day with reporters and teammates about who the best point guard in the NBA is, debate the best teams in Big 10 basketball (he attended Illinois) and at times would sit at his locker and just relax.

"Support is support," fullback Lawrence Vickers said after the car accident last December. "Josh understands the things that are going on, we understand the things that are going on, but one thing -- our house is going to stay good and strong. We're going to stick with our values and the morals that we have, and that's being there for each other."

Brent would hang out with his fellow defensive linemen, a close-knit group led by nose tackle Jay Ratliff and Hatcher. The players don't care what the media or the fans think about keeping Brent around on the roster because at some point he won't be here come September.

Some players have been in Brent's shoes before, although maybe not to the same extent, so there's a compassion there. Nearly two months after Brent's car crash, Ratliff was arrested for a DWI.

"With me, I just think about making the right decisions," DeMarcus Ware said on Sirius/XM radio after Ratliff's arrest in January. "Sometimes you just got to get people around you that you can trust. If you’re staying out late, get a driver, get a taxi. That’s been the main thing in general with drinking and driving. In Texas, they do not play. They do not play at all with that. Just being careful with that. You got families and you have a lot of things at stake, and you have to be careful."

People outside the Cowboys believe cutting Brent is the right thing to do. But for the Cowboys, keeping him around to support him, to help him get through his mess is the right thing to do, too.

Cowboys position series: Tight ends

June, 26, 2013
The fourth in ESPNDallas.com’s 10-part position series:

Roster locks: Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar, James Hanna

On the bubble: Dante Rosario, Lawrence Vickers*

Long shots: Colin Cochart, Andre Smith

*Plays fullback, a position the Cowboys might eliminate with their emphasis on multi-tight end sets.

Nate Newton, Todd Archer and Calvin Watkins join Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss all the latest Cowboys news as training camp approaches.

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What’s new?: Stop us if you’ve heard this before: The Cowboys intend to feature two tight-end sets after using a second-round pick on a player to complement Jason Witten.

It didn’t pan out with Anthony Fasano. Martellus Bennett’s blocking helped, but he didn’t come close to becoming the impact player in the passing game the Cowboys envisioned. Is the third time the charm or will Gavin Escobar be strike three?

It remains to be seen whether the 6-foot-6, 251-pound Escobar, the 47th overall pick, will be ready to contribute as a rookie. The Cowboys picked him with the anticipation that Escobar’s hands, height and ball skills would allow him to help right away as a receiving threat, especially in the red zone. He needs a lot of work -- in the weight room and from a technical standpoint -- before he can be a reliable blocker.

James Hanna, the speedy 2012 sixth-round pick, should be ready for an increased role after showing some playmaking promise toward the end of his rookie season. Hanna’s presence made John Phillips expendable as a free agent and the decision to draft a pass-catching tight end in the second round somewhat of a head-scratcher.

Camp competition: Escobar isn’t just going to be given the No. 2 tight end role. He’ll have to beat out Hanna, and that’s far from a guarantee.

Late free-agent addition Dante Rosario and fullback Lawrence Vickers, who missed offseason workouts after undergoing back surgery, are probably competing for a roster spot. The Cowboys are seriously considering phasing out the fullback position, although they’d have to figure out a way to fill the lead-blocker role in short-yardage situations. Fullback has been a part-time position, with Vickers averaging less than 20 snaps per game last season.

Rosario has an edge over Vickers for two reasons not related to the Valley Ranch tight-end craze.

First, Rosario has proven himself capable of being a special teams contributor while playing for new special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia the past two seasons in San Diego. Rosario had five tackles, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt on special teams for the Chargers last season. Vickers had only one special teams tackle for the Cowboys.

Second, the Cowboys can create $1.2 million in cap space by cutting Vickers, money that could be useful for linebacker Sean Lee’s long-term contract extension. Rosario would only count $620,000 against the cap.

2013 hope: The Cowboys are counting on another Pro Bowl campaign from Witten, who returned to Hawaii last season after a one-year hiatus, catching a career-high 110 passes for 1,039 yards and three touchdowns despite a slow start due in part to a lacerated spleen suffered in the preseason opener.

They need Escobar and/or Hanna to step up as a receiving threat that must be respected by opposing defenses. There probably won’t be a lot of passes thrown to the young tight ends, with Tony Romo needing to feed Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Witten, DeMarco Murray, etc., but they should have opportunities to make a handful of high-impact plays.

Expect to see Escobar/Hanna working the seam against one-on-one coverage relatively often. They need to be able to exploit those situations.

The Cowboys plan for their multi-tight end sets to put defenses in pick-your-poison mode. Stay in your base defense and the Cowboys will have mismatches in the passing game. Go to the nickel package and good luck stopping the run with a slot corner forced to pretend he’s a linebacker. Sounds good in theory, but we’ve heard it all before around here.

Future forecast: The 31-year-old Witten hesitates to estimate how many good seasons he has left, but he feels great physically and firmly believes that he’s in the middle of his prime.

Is Escobar his eventual successor? He better develop as a blocker before the Cowboys seriously consider that option.

After restructuring his contract this offseason, it would cost the Cowboys a small chunk of cap space to cut Witten before next season. There’s no chance of that happening.

If Witten has shown signs of slowing down, it might make sense in 2015. He’d represent $5.2 million in dead money if not on the roster that season, but that’s $3.3 million less than his scheduled cap hit if he’s still under contract. The cap savings for parting with Witten would be $5.6 million in 2016.

Finances aside, Witten isn’t close to done and would love to finish his career as a one-team man.
IRVING, Texas --The Cowboys' offseason workouts ended Thursday at Valley Ranch and the next time coach Jason Garrett will officially see his team on the practice field is July 21 in Oxnard, Calif., to start training camp.

So are the Cowboys ready for camp?

Cowboys wide receivers coach Derek Dooley joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to talk about Dez Bryant's talent and potential.

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"I believe we are," Garrett said. "I think we've had an outstanding offseason. You heard me say this a number of times. The attendance we've had in our offseason program was nearly 100 percent every day and certainly in the OTAs and minicamp and that's a reflection of the kind of commitment this football team has made.

"We've worked very hard. I think we've made progress. I think the younger players have improved in a very short period of time. The older players, the guys who have been here, are understanding some of the changes we've made that we think can benefit our football team and trying to understand what those changes are and get acclimated to them."

Among the highlights:

*New defensive scheme moving from 3-4 to a 4-3. A new offensive playcaller with Bill Callahan replacing Garrett. There are new coaches at running back, wide receiver, tight end, defensive line and special teams.

*There were several players who missed the entire offseason, including quarterback Tony Romo and fullback Lawrence Vickers for back surgery. Numerous other veteran players getting time off for rest included Jay Ratliff, Miles Austin and Jason Hatcher.

*Anthony Spencer hyperextended his knee during the OTAs and missed the entire veteran minicamp. DeMarco Murray missed the first four OTA practices with a hamstring tweak.

*First-round pick Travis Frederick moved into the starter's role at center over Phil Costa and third-round selection, Terrance Williams is the No. 3 receiver over Dwayne Harris.

*Kyle Wilber moved from outside linebacker to defensive end. Barry Church and Will Allen were the first-team safeties the majority of the offseason.

*Dez Bryant was outstanding in the offseason, beating the Cowboys cornerbacks in a variety of routes.

*The backup quarterbacks were inconsistent, including veteran Kyle Orton, which raised concerns among team officials who put a claim in for Mike Kafka.

Overall, Garrett said the team has made progress and he likes "the chemistry of the football team."
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys defensive end Anthony Spencer missed Tuesday's veteran minicamp practice because of a hyperextended left knee.

Spencer suffered the injury in last week's organized team activities and underwent an MRI afterward.

ESPN NFL Insider John Clayton joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the Cowboys and Tony Romo missing OTAs.

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Spencer said he also has a bone bruise and that he will try to practice Wednesday.

"It could have been a lot worse," said Spencer, who walked around the Cowboys' complex with no limp. "You can't play football without having contact."

Spencer said he suffered the injury when he bumped knees with another player.

Numerous other players missed Tuesday's minicamp practice. Among the notables:

*Tony Romo is out the rest of this week as he recovers from back surgery to remove a cyst. Romo said he's throwing and should be ready for training camp.

*Morris Claiborne missed Tuesday's session with a migraine.

*Joseph Randle won't return to the practice fields until training camp. Randle has a cast on his thumb and it won't be removed until later this summer.

*Lawrence Vickers will miss the veteran minicamp as he recovers from back surgery.

*Nate Livings has a knee injury and should be ready for training camp.

*Mackenzy Bernadeau did some individual work in Tuesday's session and is out of team drills with a shoulder injury.

*Jermey Parnell has a hamstring injury.

*DeMarcus Ware (shoulder) participated in individual drills. He's going to miss the veteran minicamp but should return for training camp.

*Dwayne Harris suffered a sprained right ankle during a running play Tuesday. Harris said he's fine and will try to practice Wednesday.

W2W4: Cowboys veteran minicamp

June, 10, 2013
The Cowboys conclude their offseason work with a three-day mandatory veteran minicamp that starts Tuesday.

ESPN senior NFL analyst Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss another busy week for the Cowboys at Valley Ranch.

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Who will participate: It's mandatory, so if you don't have an excused absence, players will be fined. So expect 89 players in attendance. Why 89? Defensive tackle Josh Brent is on the reserve/non-football illness list and didn't attend any of the organized team activities this offseason. Brent is awaiting trail for an intoxication manslaughter charge resulting in the death of practice squad player Jerry Brown. Fullback Lawrence Vickers (back surgery) will be in attendance, but will be limited to rehab work. Quarterback Tony Romo (back) and defensive end DeMarcus Ware (shoulder) are not expected to practice as they continue to heal. Several others might also be given some time off, including WR Miles Austin, DT Jay Ratliff and guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau. RB Joseph Randle, the team's fifth-round pick, has a cast on his thumb and is out.

Who needs the minicamp? Center Travis Frederick was getting first-team reps over Phil Costa during OTAs and that might continue this week. Frederick is projected as the starter, and the more practice time he gets, the better. Safety Matt Johnson, who missed all of last season with hamstring injuries, got first-team reps with Barry Church during OTAs over veteran Will Allen, who was getting some rest. Johnson has to prove he can become the playmaker the Cowboys thought they had when he was drafted in the fourth round last year. With Ware out, DE Kyle Wilber needs snaps as he was moved from outside linebacker to end this offseason to add depth. Wilber's ability to play end will dictate how much playing time he receives in 2013.

So the playcaller is? The biggest offseason secret was revealed last week when Bill Callahan confirmed he'll call the offensive plays. One problem: Coach Jason Garrett hasn't confirmed it, despite owner/general manager Jerry Jones implying it last week. Garrett most likely will be asked about the play-calling situation again this week. It will be interesting to see if he confirms anything.

Players worth watching: Guards Ronald Leary, Kevin Kowalski and David Arkin; wide receivers Danny Coale, Eric Rogers and Cole Beasley; running back Phillip Tanner and tight end Dante Rosario; right tackles Doug Free and Jermey Parnell.
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys finished three weeks of organized team activities Thursday with a high school football camp. Next up is the mandatory veteran minicamp June 11-13 at Valley Ranch.

ESPN senior NFL analyst Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss another busy week for the Cowboys at Valley Ranch.

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Defensive end DeMarcus Ware (shoulder) and quarterback Tony Romo (back) are expected to miss the sessions as they recover from injuries.

How the Cowboys go about their business during the minicamp remains the same.

"We can have a little bit longer day with them in minicamp, but we still want to keep it tight and want to get them to come out and get their work done and get them out of here," coach Jason Garrett said. "It's a good review off what we just did in the OTAs, and we'll see how guys are doing. It's a good way to wrap up the offseason and give them a little bit of time before we go to camp."

The three weeks of organized team activities went off without much fuss in terms of attendance, but there were some other issues.

Fullback Lawrence Vickers (back) and nose tackle Josh Brent (non-football illness) missed the sessions, as did Romo, who is recovering from back surgery.

And of course there was Tuesday's drama with Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones implying that Bill Callahan will call the offensive plays. Callahan later confirmed it, while Garrett didn't.

Running back DeMarco Murray missed four OTA sessions with hamstring issues, and several players, including Miles Austin and Jay Ratliff, were given some time off to rest their bodies.

"We almost had 100 percent attendance throughout the offseason and 100 percent attendance through OTAs," Garrett said. "You put a lot of information in front of these guys each day and you see how they respond to it. This is the first day of installing your offense, your defense and your kicking game. Our guys responded well to it. We'll have a chance to look at it in minicamp next week."

Caleb McSurdy takes fullback snaps

June, 5, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- Caleb McSurdy did not need to be asked twice to play some fullback Tuesday.

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With Lawrence Vickers recovering from back surgery, the Cowboys turned to McSurdy, a linebacker, to play fullback in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

“I met with the tight ends for like half of a position meeting and then went back to the linebackers,” McSurdy said. “It was only five or six plays they had me look at but, yeah, it was a lot of fun just being out there. Offense, defense, special teams, if you’re playing ball, you’re playing ball.”

When the Cowboys worked out McSurdy prior to taking him in the seventh round of the 2012 draft, it was almost exclusively as a fullback. But he did not take a snap there before tearing his Achilles in training camp.

“Who was the guy at Stanford? Owen Marecic?” McSurdy said. “If that’s what they want, I’ll do it.”

Marecic was used primarily as a fullback in his first three seasons at Stanford. In his junior year, Marecic was brought in as an inside linebacker in short-yardage situations. He became a full-time linebacker his senior season.

McSurdy said he is just about 100 percent after the Achilles injury and is done with the rehab process. He and Barry Church went through the same rehab process together.

“I’m thankful they gave me another shot,” McSurdy said.

Either at linebacker or fullback.

Dante Rosario isn't just a camp body

June, 3, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- What does the signing of veteran Dante Rosario mean for the Cowboys?

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This is not a camp body just to get through a couple of days. If the Cowboys wanted one of those, then they could have added some unknown face as the 90th guy on a 90-man roster or they just could have kept Paul Freedman, who was cut in favor of Rosario.

Rosario is more like James Hanna and second-rounder Gavin Escobar than he is Jason Witten. One scout described Rosario’s blocking as “serviceable.” He has some skill. He is big enough. He can also play special teams. He had four tackles in San Diego for the Cowboys’ new special teams coach, Rich Bisaccia.

Even after taking Escobar in the second round, the Cowboys have kept the search for another tight end alive. They missed out on a waiver claim on Mickey Shuler Jr. and now they have added Rosario.

Are they down on Escobar? It’s way too early for that. Are they down on Hanna? He’s done a nice job in the offseason and has maintained his No. 2 role in organized team activities.

The Cowboys are clearly marrying themselves to “12 personnel” with how they have looked at the position.

If anything it continues to spell the end for a traditional fullback on the 53-man roster. Lawrence Vickers is recovering from back surgery and has been unable to practice in the offseason. When he is healthy, he will have to show he’s worth keeping.