- With Tony Romo sitting out of the afternoon workout Brandon Weeden took the first-team full-pad reps for the first time in camp. He completed 13 of 18 passes in team and seven-on-seven drills. In the two-minute drills he directed the offense to a game-tying 41-yard field goal by Dan Bailey at the end of regulation. Weeden completed six of eight passes on the drive, and his best throw might have been one of his incompletions.
With nine seconds left, Weeden looked in the end zone for Dez Bryant, but Morris Claiborne was in good position.
“In that situation you have three points,” Weeden said. “We have a great kicker so you can’t turn the ball over. You’ve got a chance to make a play and put it where he can catch it or nobody else ... I knew the DB wasn’t going to catch it. That’s the main thing.”
Weeden took all of the first-team reps in the spring but noticed a difference in running it with pads on for the first time.
More than anything it’s in the run game and the pass rush,” Weeden said. “You’re banging. It’s more of a bomb went off back there. That’s what a game will be like ... With the pads on it’s easier to do that stuff. Without pads, you can’t really do a lot of that stuff we’re trying to do now. It was good. It feels like real football.”
- The hit of the day might have belonged to rookie linebacker Anthony Hitchens in one-on-one pass rush drills with running backs. Hitchens flattened Joseph Randle in the drill and immediately had fellow linebacker Justin Durant jumping on his back in celebration. To Randle’s credit, he responded in his next two reps, including a good standstill with Orie Lemon. All of the running backs not named DeMarco Murray struggled in the pass-protection drill. When coach Jason Garrett had Murray go up against Bruce Carter in the daily offense vs. defense matchup, Murray won the matchup.
- Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan is considered a very technical coach. During individual drills, the offensive line worked on the proper way to throw a forearm shiver as they moved up on combination blocks. Callahan explained that the move has to be short and quick and the lineman cannot wind up or get his arm outside the framework of his body. The work paid off later in running drills with some good combination blocks from the line.
- Caleb Hanie had his first extended work of camp with Romo sitting, moving up to the second team. He was late on a throw to tight end James Hanna, who beat linebacker DeVonte Holloman, allowing Holloman the chance to recover and make the pass deflection. He was short on a deep throw to Jamar Newsome that gave Tyler Patmon the ability to make the break up.
- After DeMarcus Lawrence went down with an ankle/foot injury, Martez Wilson seemed to kick in. Wilson had two sakcs in team drills (one of Hanie, one of Dustin Vaughan). He also added a pressure of Vaughan.
Lawrence was injured during pass rush drills and limped off to get examined before he was taken by cart to the locker room. He was scheduled to have an X-ray after practice. The Cowboys are looking for Lawrence to be a major part of their defense as a rookie, as he's contending with Jeremy Mincey for a starting position,
“Hopefully it’ll be OK,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said.
Jones has been impressed by Lawrence’s early work.
“His attitude and you can’t discourage him,” Jones said when asked what caught his eye most. “Physically his hands, his quickness, his athletic ability, but basically the fact that he doesn’t get discouraged. Matter of fact, if he’s blocked he’s that much more tenacious, and that may be the quality to have other than athletic ability as a pressure player.”
Linebacker Rolando McClain left after the early part of practice because of a stomach virus.
Others not practicing Tuesday: Tony Romo, Ronald Leary (hamstring), Darius Morris (hamstring), Ben Gardner (shoulder), Terrell McClain (ankle), Will Smith (groin), Matt Johnson (hamstring)
Nor did he seem concerned about it.
"The first I heard about it, I thought it was somebody playing a joke on me about him going to San Antonio."
The San Antonio Express-News reported Davis met with several city officials on the weekend of July 18, including then-mayor Julian Castro and city manager Sheryl Sculley.
The report said the Raiders could play at the Alamodome until a stadium was built for them. The Raiders' lease at O.Co Coliseum expires following the 2014-15 season.
For an NFL franchise to change cities, it needs support from 24 of the 32 teams.
The Cowboys have held training camp in San Antonio six times since 2002. Jones has always been protective of the San Antonio market.
"What I will say is San Antonio is very important to the Dallas Cowboys," Jones said. "We have the exact same percentage of fans in San Antonio as we do in Plano, Texas -- about 98 percent.
"It would be difficult for them to make headway. I'll make sure of that. That would be very difficult. Now the Spurs are another story."
Jones said Romo has not missed any more practice time than the team anticipated when the Cowboys opened camp. Head coach Jason Garrett said earlier Tuesday that Romo's rest is based in large part on "honest feedback" from the quarterback.
"We feel real good," said Jones, who visited with Romo before the afternoon practice that the quarterback observed. "We're really pleased with the way he's practicing and the work he's getting done and what he's doing both on and off the field, but nothing in any way would concern you certainly about his back."
Jones said Romo might get less preseason playing time than normal, but he attributed that to the Cowboys wanting to get new backup quarterback Brandon Weeden as much work as possible.
"In the practices that we've had so far, it's just been really impressive the way he executed, the way he's picked his receivers," Jones said. "You weigh it all and I'm really pleased with where we are and I'm certainly pleased with how his back's feeling."
His football career has been full of injury misfortune, preventing him from fulfilling his Pro Bowl potential. He ended the past two seasons on injured reserve, where he'll spend this entire season after tearing the ACL in his left knee on the first day of organized team activities in May.
"I don't like that question," Lee said Tuesday, the first time he's spoken with the media since his latest injury. "The main reason, from an adversity standpoint in the real world, I'm not dealing with much. So for me to sit and pout when there's other people dealing with adversity that's a lot worse, what I call like real-world adversity, there's no room for that. It only makes you worse. It only makes your rehab slower.
"So on that standpoint, I can't even go there. Why me? Because there's a lot worse out there. I know how to handle this. I know how to come back from this injury. You just have to deal with it. You take it on the chin and you figure it out."
Lee doesn't feel sorry for himself. More than anything, Lee feels guilt for letting down his teammates and franchise, although he knows logically that it isn't his fault he's out for the season again.
"That was probably one of the toughest parts, feeling like you're letting people down," said Lee, who rehabs his knee for four to six hours per day and attends all meetings during training camp.
Lee certainly acknowledges being frustrated about his situation. That was evident as he was shouting expletives when he was helped off the Valley Ranch practice field in May, well aware that he had torn his ACL.
But being frustrated won't help Lee make a comeback or the Cowboys win games this season. He tries to stay as positive as possible and find ways to contribute, which is why he's serving as sort of a volunteer coach, as he did while recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee during the 2008 season at Penn State.
"I was frustrated, but at the same point, I was prepared for it and I know that I can come back from it," Lee said. "I obviously haven't shown an ability to stay on the field consistently, but I have shown the ability to come back from injuries and come back better sometimes. So that's my plan."
Lee has tremendous perspective. Lee has a sound plan. Now all Lee needs is a little luck.
"I think I'll come back completely healthy," Lee said Tuesday in his first comments since suffering the injury in May. "Now, the question is, can I stay out there? That's something that, obviously, I'm hopeful for, and I'm going to do everything I can do to do that and control everything I can. But at the end of the day, there's situations that you might not be able to avoid. I'm not going to stress too much about that end. I'm just going to do what I can do."
Lee suffered the injury during the Cowboys' first organized team activity. He was attempting to change direction when his leg buckled. Having torn his right ACL at Penn State, Lee immediately knew he had torn his left ACL.
The Cowboys have placed Lee on season-ending injured reserve, but he is with the team in Oxnard, California, for rehab and is involved in the defensive meetings on a daily basis. It is possible he could travel with the team for road games during the regular season.
The Colts signed former Dallas Cowboys running back Phillip Tanner and linebacker Jonathon Sharpe on Tuesday.
Tanner spent the past three seasons with the Cowboys, primarily on special teams. He has only 56 carries for 149 yards and two touchdowns in his career.
The Colts released running back Chris Rainey for violating team rules Monday.
Sharpe had 132 tackles, including 23.5 for a loss, 5.5 sacks and three interceptions, in two years at North Greenville University. He took part in the 2014 Super Regional Combine in Detroit.
He has yet another hamstring injury -- this is three training camps in a row -- and he’s expected to miss at least a week. That said, who among us will be shocked if he misses more than that.
The Cowboys have liked Johnson’s potential so much that they’ve kept him on the roster, even though the former fourth-round pick has never appeared in a game in his first two seasons.
He’s been good in practice, according to coaches and teammates, but will that be enough?
It’s hard to believe they would keep him for another year, which means paying him for a third year, if he can’t stay healthy and compete for a job. The competition at safety is taut. Every day he misses diminishes his slim odds of making the team.
Yes, he’s been hurt frequently. Too frequently. And the reality is the Cowboys can’t really depend on him because he hasn’t shown an ability to stay on the field.
But his injuries are the result of bad luck -- not poor conditioning or training -- and you can tell he’s miserable about the missed time. He doesn’t have to be at training camp.
He could be rehabbing in Dallas, but he wants to be around his teammates. He’s sitting in on meetings and film sessions. He’s doing everything the other linebackers are doing except playing.
Not many other players would do that.
That’s why the preseason games will be so important to Melton, especially as an interior lineman. He must get used to players falling on his legs or banging into them.
He must get used to the game’s physicality, and he must become adept again at maintaining his balance and staying on his feet when guys around him are falling down.
When he does -- no matter how long it takes -- that’s when he’ll return to being a Pro Bowl-caliber defensive tackle.
Key Number: 71
The Cowboys gave up 71 pass plays of 20 yards or more last season. No team allowed more.
Super Bowl champion Seattle allowed 30. The 12 playoff teams yielded an average of 51.
The Cowboys have no chance to win if they don’t stop the big plays. It makes it too easy for the offense. Improved safety play will help, but the Cowboys must figure out how to rush the passer and remove quarterbacks from their comfort zone.
Player to Watch: Cole Beasley
This is the first time Cole Beasley has ever entered training camp with outside expectations.
He seems ready to meet them.
He caught 39 passes for 368 yards and two touchdowns last season. More important, he earned Tony Romo's trust.
On third down, he caught 14 of the 18 passes directed toward him for 146 yards, 11 first downs and a touchdown. When the Cowboys use Beasley in the slot on third downs along with Jason Witten at tight end, it gives Romo a pair of players with good hands who can work underneath and make first downs.
Beasley played only 247 snaps last year. Miles Austin, who had 541 snaps, is gone. Look for Beasley to gobble up a bunch of Austin’s playing time, which means he could easily catch 60 passes this season.
"Yesterday I was talking to my brother and stuff and I had a pity party, and you can't do that because it's not going to solve anything," Johnson said. But I just don't know. I've done everything I could -- stayed late, get here early, rehab it. I've done more in the month off that we had from the summer than I ever have in my life. Not as far as overworking it but as far as trying to get it ready. The conditioning test, felt fine. The first couple three days, felt good. I felt really good warming up I was like, 'You know what I'm going to give it all I had,' and ... it wasn't anything bad, but it's just frustrating knowing you can't got 100 percent and in the NFL you have to go 100 percent."
Johnson had an MRI on Sunday that revealed a strain. Coach Jason Garrett said defensive tackle Terrell McClain (ankle) could miss a week or so. Darius Morris (hamstring), Will Smith (groin) and Ben Gardner (shoulder) did not take part in the walkthrough. Executive vice president Stephen Jones said he hoped Gardner could practice in the afternoon.
In fact, head coach Jason Garrett made a point to publicly challenge Melton during Tuesday afternoon's press conference, noting that he'd been dominated by center Travis Frederick in a pass-rush drill Sunday.
"I think he is getting his feet underneath him, getting stronger, and as much as anything else when you've had an injury like this, it's the confidence to be able to do naturally what you have done your whole life," Garrett said. "He's getting to that point. We had a good 1-on-1 pass rush between Travis Frederick and him the other day and Travis won handily. I think knowing what I know about Henry Melton from afar, he is going to respond the right way."
The Cowboys are encouraged by Melton's progress in his return from the knee injury. There have been flashes of the quickness and explosiveness that helped Melton, who started his college career at Texas as a tailback, earn a Pro Bowl bid while playing for Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli in 2012.
Garrett said Melton looks good in non-contact individual drills but must work on his "contact balance," which is to be expected for a player coming off a major knee injury.
"It feels good," Melton said. "I was testing it out obviously the first day. I haven't been in pads since late September last year. It was good to kick the rust off. I've got a long way to go, but we're just going to keep working."
The Cowboys are being careful with Romo during the early part of training camp and effectively allowing him to set his schedule. Romo sat out of the second day of camp to be ready for the first two full-padded workouts before Monday's off day.
The plan is for Romo to take all of the snaps in practices for Wednesday and Thursday with another off day scheduled for Friday. With today's practice set to have competitive two-minute drill situations, the Cowboys want to limit Romo's work.
He took part in the team part of the morning walkthrough.
"He hasn't had any setback, but the biggest thing that we talk to Tony about and really all of our players about is honest feedback," coach Jason Garrett said. "We recognize that you're a tough player. I saw what you did against the Redskins last year. You've just got to tell us how you're doing, how it's going and make sure we handle it the right way each and every day. There's an old adage in football: A day off can be really valuable and two days off can be lifechanging."
Garrett said the team has yet to formulate plans for the preseason games.
"You really put yourself toward that first game against San Francisco," Garrett said of the Sept. 7 season opener. "So you want to have that in mind the whole time, and Tony's competitive. He wanted to be involved in every OTA practice. He wanted to take every rep, but we have to step in there and say, 'No, we're not going to do that because we've got to remember that it's a 16-game season that begins in September. It's the same approach we take here. Let's keep going forward. Let's keep taking incremental steps, gradual steps to get you ready for that."
“He’s in it,” coach Jason Garrett said of the tight end mix. “He’s battling for a role just like he did last year. For a lot of last year he kind of held Escobar off and played a lot of snaps for us. He’s a good football player. He can run, and I think both he and Escobar are getting better at ‘My hand is on the ground, physical, Y-type blocking.’ Coach Pope will really help guys in that regard. He’s in the mix. He’s someone we have a lot of confidence in.”
Hanna is on his third position coach in his three years in the league, going from John Garrett to Wes Phillips to now Pope. The teachings of the three are more different than Hanna imagined, from footwork to hand placement in blocking.
“Every coach is a lot different,” Hanna said. “They want us to do things differently, so I’ve got to adjust to that, but it’s still the same game.”
When he was drafted in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, the Cowboys raved about his speed. Except for one game against the Pittsburgh Steelers (two catches, 45 yards) the Cowboys have not put him in position to use his speed. He has improved as a blocker, however, and has taken some first-team snaps in the running game when the Cowboys use two tight ends.
He has also developed into a valuable special-teams member.
“My view of it is I want it to be so that they have to play me, and hopefully Rich [Bisaccia] feels like he needs me because I can play on special teams,” Hanna said. “Hopefully I get my shots on offense, too.”
The Cowboys are being mindful of Romo’s recovery from back surgery and are allowing him to set his schedule for work. Romo sat out the second day of camp to gear up for the first full-padded session. The Cowboys will be in pads today.
Defensive end Ben Gardner (shoulder) could also return after missing one practice, as is DeVonte Holloman (dehydration). Safety Matt Johnson suffered a hamstring injury on Sunday and will “miss some time,” Jones said.
Johnson was bothered by hamstring injuries for much of 2012 and missed most of the offseason program in the spring because of a hamstring injury.
Jones said defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, who is on the non-football illness list, will visit doctors in the next week or two as he continues to come back from a personal medical situation. The Cowboys are willing to be patient with Okoye because the risk is so low.
“Our eyes were wide open on this,” Jones said. “Going on NFI it’s not a cap issue for us because if you’re on NFI, our understanding is when he can start playing, then we’ll pay him. Until then, we’re trying to get him ready to play. It’s no different than Rolando [McClain]. You ask did you know all this? We did. That why you take a chance on a guy like this. If it doesn’t work out for him, we don’t give up any picks and we move on. So when you’re trying to improve yourself, which we are on the defensive side of the ball, you’re looking at a lot of different ways to do it without taking a lot of risk.”
Ronald Leary’s strained hamstring has improved, but not to the point where the Cowboys will remove him from the active/physically unable to perform list. Coach Jason Garrett said at the start of camp the hope was Leary would be able to return to practice on Tuesday. He was in shoulder pads in Saturday’s workout, and he continued his rehab on Sunday, which was the players’ day off.
Leary’s absence helps Bernadeau.
With first-round pick Zack Martin the starter at right guard, where Bernadeau started 26 games in 2012 and ’13, Bernadeau is competing with Leary for the left guard spot.
“You’re here to take advantage of every opportunity, but obviously you want Ron to get back healthy and have some fair competition,” Bernadeau said. “He’s a great player, and we’re just going to compete no matter what. The mindset is to be the best player I can be.”
Bernadeau played mostly left guard in his four-year run with the Carolina Panthers before joining the Cowboys as a free agent. In the spring. he was able to re-acclimate himself to the position, while also taking some turns at center.
“There’s a lot of different techniques,” Bernadeau said. “Just being away from the left side for two years. it’s a little bit of an adjustment. I’m right-hand dominant, so you punch with the inside hand, kicking out with your left leg. I’m confident on both sides now. I’m excited about the opportunity.”
And we’re not talking about the glory years set forth by Tom Landry, Roger Staubach and so many others and added to by Jimmy Johnson and the Triplets. We’re talking these aren’t your 2010 Cowboys, who preceded this three-year run of nothing but 8-8.
Of the 90 players on the current roster, only eight remain from when Jason Garrett took over from Wade Phillips: Tony Romo, Jason Witten, L.P. LaDouceur, Anthony Spencer, Doug Free, Orlando Scandrick, Dez Bryant and Barry Church.
More than once in camp Garrett has said the Cowboys have gone from one of the oldest teams in the league to one of the youngest over the past few years.
There can be good from coaching youth: they don’t have poor habits, they don’t suffer as many injuries. There can be bad from coaching youth: they don’t have the experience, and most of the time the knowhow, required to win at a high level.
“You have to be mindful of their experience and what they can handle, and you do that all the time with individual players, and the more individual players who are younger that you have, you might have to do that from a system basis as well,” Garrett said. “We’re mindful of that. It’s not the same playbook every year -- ‘Hey, here we go. This is what we’ve been doing forever. I’m handing down the 10 Commandments, the tablets from Mt. Sinai -- that’s not how it works. We have to understand our philosophy, our system of football and offense, defense and the kicking game. We also have to understand the 90 guys we have on our roster and what works best for them and how we can put them in the best light to be the best unit we can be.”
Though the Cowboys will not be offering remedial lessons on their playbook, the defensive scheme will be cut back in order for them to play fast. Jeremy Mincey could be the oldest defensive starter at 31. The next oldest starter would be cornerback Brandon Carr, 28.
“We had a lot of guys on our football team the last couple of years who didn’t practice during the week getting ready for a game, because they were dealing with injuries and they happened to be older guys,” Garrett said. “So it’s always been a younger man’s league. We’ve made that transition and we’re going to give some younger guys a chance to compete.”
In previous camps Garrett would be mindful of the legs of older players like DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Miles Austin, giving them “vet” days. Now the “vet” days will be fewer and might be far between.
DeMarcus Lawrence was 11 when Tony Romo and Jason Witten were rookies.
For Witten, the influx of youth could help in 2014 because most of the younger faces have not experienced the disappointment of not only the past three seasons, but the past six or seven.
“The urgency that you talk about and you want to play with, you’ve got to show that,” Witten said. “That’s what excites me every day is the leadership of this team. Our best players work the hardest and kind of set the tempo and the stage of what we want to be about. A lot of young players and obviously talented, and they’re going to help our football team (but) we’ve got to show them the way. And I think they’ll be huge assets for us.”