- Linebacker Rolando McClain is expected to be at Saturday’s walkthrough after being found guilty of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct from an incident in April 2013. He appealed the decision and was on a plane for California after the trial.
“We’ve got to learn a little more about it, but I don’t think it’s anything that’s going to keep him from playing,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said.
The Cowboys were aware of McClain’s trial when they made the trade with the Baltimore Ravens. In addition to Jason Garrett speaking with Alabama coach Nick Saban, Jones spoke with Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome.
“I had a great visit with Ozzie, very comfortable with what he’s been through,” Jones said. “That’s why we decided to make the decision we did.”
Jones said the Cowboys will ease McClain into practice once he arrives.
- The Cowboys completed their two-day ease into training camp with their second straight practice in which the offense and defense did not work against each other in drills. Jason Garrett, Jones and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said they liked how the players handled the work and the emphasis on fundamentals before the pads come on for Saturday’s workout. “You get guys hurt the first couple days like we did last year and you look for ways to do things a little different,” Jones said.
- Wide receiver Dwayne Harris was one of the better kick returners in the NFL last season and will be the Cowboys’ top returner this season, but the Cowboys had a cast of characters working it on Friday. Harris, who averaged 30.6 yards a return in 2013, was joined by Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Ben Malena, J.J. Wilcox, Devin Street, B.W. Webb, Lance Dunbar, Ryan Williams, Joseph Randle and Tim Benford in kick return drills.
- The best part of training camp is getting up close to see the instruction the coaches give to the players. Secondary coach Jerome Henderson had the cornerbacks working on a walk-off release by wide receivers, telling his players to be mindful of hand placement. With receivers getting lower off the line, cornerbacks need to aim their hands at the receiver’s chest to make sure they don’t draw flags for illegal contact or contact to the face.
- During the special teams’ portion of practice, tight ends coach Mike Pope put Jason Witten through an interesting drill in which Witten tossed a ball in the air, had to catch a pass from Pope and then corral the ball he initially tossed in the air. Once he mastered that, Pope had him do the same with his back to the coach, toss the ball, turn around and have to catch both passes. Later on Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray joined in the drill.
With the Cowboys going through their second workout of training camp, Romo spent the bulk of the workout off the field. He was not in uniform and left the field after the pre-practice warmup was finished. Brandon Weeden took the first-team snaps.
Coach Jason Garrett said the Cowboys want to be mindful of Romo's back injury in back-to-back workouts and standing around can cause issues. The Cowboys will have their first padded practice Saturday, and Romo and club officials said he will take the team snaps during the afternoon session.
"It's just purely precautionary," Jones said. "I think Tony knows that we're getting ready to get into the competitive part of practices [Saturday] and he just decided he wanted to make sure he was rolling and ready and wanted to not push it here. He's been going pretty good between all the conditioning and running and getting himself back into shape. Having a big two or three days here he just wanted to take [Friday] to rest up a little bit and get ready. He doesn't want to miss anything that's competitive and everybody agreed that was a good idea."
OXNARD, Calif. -- He’s a Pro Bowl receiver just entering his prime with a ton of untapped potential.
That excites Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant.
At 25, Bryant has established himself as one of the NFL’s elite receivers, tying for the league lead in touchdown catches (25) and ranking sixth in receiving yards (2,615) over the past two seasons. He firmly believes he can get much better.
"Truthfully, to be honest, I feel like, man, I'm still rising," Bryant said. "I learn new things and things just become easier by the day. To me, it's almost kind of scary."
Bryant, who considers himself capable of being the first 2,000-yard receiver in NFL history, believes he’s ready to blossom in his fifth NFL season. He’s excited about the possibilities of playing for new Cowboys playcaller Scott Linehan, who coached record-setting Calvin Johnson in Detroit.
"I can’t wait," Bryant said. "I’m ready to put all that stuff together and help my teammates and see where it goes from there."
Bryant said he feels the same physically as he did during his rookie season. He’s made major strides in the mental aspect of the game, such as not just knowing the playbook but understanding the nuances of it and focusing on intricate details such as keeping his arms pumping at the top of his routes.
"I can’t begin to tell you in so many different ways how’s he’s gotten better," head coach Jason Garrett said. "He’s gotten much more mature as a person. He handles the game in a much more professional manner than he did when he got here. It shows up in his play.
"There’s never been a question about his passion or love for the game -- the kind of kid he is. He’s just an unbelievable teammate. You love to have him on your football team. He’s grown a lot. It’s shown up in his play. He's a more mature route runner. He has a better understanding what he wants to do -- how he wants to attack defenders, how he sees coverages. He’s just continuing to grow."
Garrett sees "so much room for improvement" in Bryant. Garrett sees a relentless desire to be better in Bryant, who is receptive to receivers coach Derek Dooley’s demanding style.
"He understands the environment that he’s in and he embraces it every day," Garrett said. "He’s always trying to get better. That’s one of the reasons we love him."
“Our approach with him throughout training camp is to be very mindful of being out there twice a day, and particularly twice a day on consecutive days,” Garrett said.
After Thursday's workout Romo said he does not have back pain but he has to go through a prolonged daily program to keep his back strong and loose. Romo said he could have done more Thursday but he backed off when the offense did not have competitive drills against the defense. He said the amount of work will pick up once the players practice in pads starting Saturday.
After Friday's walk-through Romo had a long discussion with executive vice president Stephen Jones and head athletic trainer Jim Maurer.
With Saturday morning's walk-through focusing on special teams, Garrett said he anticipates Romo taking first-team snaps. The Cowboys hold an hour walk-through in the mornings and a two-hour practice in the afternoon on most days. Their first scheduled off-day is Monday.
“The two-a-days can be an issue, and then the back-to-back two-a-days,” Garrett said. "I know we're only out here for a walk-through format, but when you're coming off a back issue like Tony has sometimes just being out on your feet like that can be taxing. So we just want to be mindful as we start training camp, continue to communicate with him and others to make sure we're all on the same page. He's making progress.”
After Thursday’s practice, Stephen Jones said the Cowboys feel good about Romo's health.
"We're not trying to win the East tomorrow,” Jones said on Thursday. “It’s a long training camp and the last thing we want to do is act like we're playing Sunday with him. We want to be conservative but at the same time give him the work he needs.”
- We kind of assumed Orlando Scandrick is competing with Morris Claiborne for a starting cornerback spot. Jason Garrett said he's playing the two best cornerbacks, which should mean Claiborne is competing against Brandon Carr for a starting spot.The Cowboys spent $50 million on Carr and traded up to get the sixth pick in the draft, which they used on Claiborne. Neither has met expectations.
Carr has been average and Claiborne will be considered a bust if he duplicates his performance from the first two seasons this year. If each played well this season, it would go a long way toward helping the Cowboys improve their defense.
- Jason Garrett says the Cowboys will run the ball more. So does vice president Stephen Jones.Has anyone told Tony Romo? He's the key.
The quarterback in today's NFL has so many options at the line of scrimmage that he's essentially calling the game himself. We know Romo trusts himself more than anyone else on the offense, which is among the reasons he loves to throw the ball. He check out of a lot of running plays. Sometimes, Garrett or Scott Linehan will have to tell him to run the play called even if the defense has 10 defenders at the line of scrimmage.
- This is Bruce Carter's last chance to show the Cowboys he's a player. He'll either perform or they'll go in another direction at the end of this season, as they should.He has every attribute you want in a weakside linebacker, but he consistently failed to perform last season.
It was disappointing considering he was terrific for several weeks in 2012 after Sean Lee was injured, but that was in the 3-4 defense. An elbow injury ended that season, but it looked like he was finally ready to become the star the Cowboys envisioned when they drafted him.
Instead, he was a dud last season.
Just so you know, none of the 32 defensive ends drafted in the second round the past 10 seasons has registered 10 sacks. Cincinnati's Carlos Dunlap had 9.5 in 2010.
Most had a negligible impact as they adjusted to playing against NFL tackles and the speed of the game. The Cowboys need Lawrence to be a difference-maker. He doesn't have to get 10 sacks, but if he's a guy offensive coordinators pay attention to this season, then his rookie year will be a success.
Player to Watch: George Selvie
Selvie had 3.5 sacks in his first three seasons, which were spent playing with St. Louis, Jacksonville, Carolina and Jacksonville again.
He had seven sacks with the Cowboys last season and was one of their most consistent players. Now, he must prove it wasn't a fluke.
The Cowboys' defensive line is the land of opportunity. It has a lot of unproven players and it needs Selvie to be a factor just because there are so few others on the defensive line with successful resumes.
Over the past few years, that unit has gone from a glaring weakness to a great strength. The Cowboys have invested three recent first-round picks (left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and right guard Zack Martin) in rebuilding the offensive line. Dallas now has one of the league’s elite lines.
“We will be running the ball more,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said.
The Cowboys were one of the most pass-happy teams in the league the past two seasons, ranking second to last in rushing attempts in each year. That was somewhat understandable in 2012, when the Cowboys couldn’t run effectively on a consistent basis, averaging only 3.6 yards per carry. But the Cowboys averaged 4.5 yards per carry last season -- tied for seventh in the league -- and were still quick to abandon the run.
New offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was often pass-happy during his previous stop in Detroit, but the consensus vow is that the Cowboys will be a physical offense that features Pro Bowl running back DeMarco Murray.
“I think we’ve been pretty successful when DeMarco has gotten over 20 carries. Our winning percentage is pretty good,” Jones said, an understatement considering the Cowboys' 11-0 record when Murray gets at least 20 carries. “So yes, I’d like to see us in the top 10 in terms of our rushing attack. I think that’s a good recipe in terms of us winning.”
Abandoning the run is a recipe for disaster for Dallas. It puts too much on the surgically repaired back of 34-year-old quarterback Tony Romo and exposes a defense that ranked dead last in the league last season.
There is no good reason for the Cowboys not to rely on a good running game. There are several good reasons for the Cowboys to pound away on the ground, starting with those three first-rounders up front.
“When you hear me talk about some marquee players, some cornerstone players on our team, we feel like we have them up front on the offensive line,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “Your demeanor on offense can change. You can run the ball better, you can dominate the game, you can be more physical throughout the game to wear a team down at the end of the game, to be able to win in some of those situations where when you’re not strong up front, maybe you have to do some things that you don’t necessarily want to do.”
There have been legitimate questions about whether Garrett, the former quarterback, really wants to commit to the run. It would be a fireable offense if the Cowboys don't this season.
Well, it's pretty clear the coaches need Lawrence to be an immediate impact pass rusher.
The Cowboys moved up 13 spots in the second round -- packing the 47th and 78th overall picks to draft Lawrence at No. 34 overall -- because they desperately needed a pass rusher to replace released future Hall of Famer DeMarcus Ware. They considered Lawrence the last player on the board capable of stepping in right away and wreaking havoc at right defensive end.
That's exactly what Lawrence expects to do.
"My expectation is to go out and get 10 sacks, 10-plus sacks," Lawrence said.
To put that into perspective, Ware had eight sacks his rookie season. Since sacks became an official stat in 1982, only 31 rookies have racked up double-digit sack totals.
All but seven of those 10-plus-sack rookies were first-round picks. Chicago's Mark Anderson, a fifth-round pick in 2006, was the last non-first-round rookie with 10 or more sacks. Before him, it hadn't happened since New Orleans second-rounder Darren Howard in 2000.
In other words, it's awfully rare for a player who falls out of the first round to reach the goal Lawrence has set for himself.
Then again, Lawrence felt slighted by not getting drafted in the first round.
"It's probably going to stick with me the rest of my life," Lawrence said. "Every team that passed me, it's on them. Ain't nothing we can do now but play football."
DECATUR, Ala. -- A judge Friday convicted Dallas Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct in his Alabama hometown and imposed an 18-day jail term that could interrupt the player's bid to restart his career.
Municipal Judge Billy Cook convicted McClain on the misdemeanor counts after a non-jury trial that lasted about three hours. McClain was accused of yelling an obscenity at police trying to arrest him during a disturbance in a crowded city park in 2013.
McClain won't have to report for his jail sentence until after an appeal is complete in state court. Cook also ordered McClain to pay $1,572 in fines and court costs. It's unclear how long an appeal might take.
The judge signed a document stating McClain, 25, was free to leave the state while challenging the conviction.
"My attitude is I think I ran into the only person in the entire state of Alabama that would convict Rolando McClain based on this evidence," defense attorney Harvey Steinberg said. "Unfortunately, it happened to be the judge."
The former Alabama Crimson Tide star maintained his innocence and said police arrested the wrong person. He's been arrested three times in Decatur since 2011.
English played outside linebacker in the Chargers' 3-4 scheme and had just 11 sacks in five years. The Cowboys view him as a defensive end in their 4-3 scheme. English suffered a torn biceps last season on a sack of Peyton Manning.
The Cowboys have 14 defensive linemen eligible to practice, but are always on the lookout for help.
The visit with English also continues their pursuit of former first-round picks from other teams. They signed Brandon Weeden (Cleveland Browns), Amobi Okoye (Houston Texans) and Rolando McClain (Oakland Raiders) in the offseason.
"We feel like we have a good environment," Garrett said on Wednesday about why the Cowboys believe they are a good landing spot for former high picks who did not pan out elsewhere.
"We have a good coaching environment, guys learn, guys improve when they come here. There's no guarantee. These are low risk decisions that we've made. They have talent. We evaluated them coming out of school. We liked them. We evaluated them in the NFL. We liked them. We wanted to give them a chance. As long as the price is right, these are good decisions to make as an organization to give guys a chance. Are they talented guys? Yes. Are they the right kind of people? We think they are from the reports that we have. So you give them a chance. You try to put them in a structure where they can thrive and see how they can do. If it doesn't work out for them for whatever reason you really haven't lost that much."
For now with English, however, the Cowboys will wait.
OXNARD, Calif. -- The Dallas Cowboys players and coaches have had an offseason of not seeing DeMarcus Ware, Miles Austin and Jason Hatcher, but the beginning of training camp, when football becomes real, finalizes the separation.
The Cowboys cut Ware and he quickly signed with the Denver Broncos. The Cowboys cut Austin, and he eventually signed with the Cleveland Browns. The Cowboys did not make an attempt to keep Hatcher, who signed with the Washington Redskins after a career-high 11 sacks in 2013.
Coach Jason Garrett thanked them for their service when he was asked if it was strange to not see three players with a combined 25 years of service to the club, as well as a combined 10 Pro Bowl appearances.
“But that’s the nature of our league, and they’re in other places right now,” Garrett said. “We’re focused on the 90 guys who are here, and we’re excited about the group that we have.”
Garrett did not mean to sound cold. It is just how the NFL operates. For players such as Tony Romo and Jason Witten, the longest-tenured Cowboys, it is a little different. They become used to the changing faces in the locker room, but there is a certain sentiment when you lose long-time teammates.
Romo recalled Bill Parcells pulling him to the side and telling him there will come a time in his career where he will look around and effectively say, ‘Who are these guys?’
DeMarcus Lawrence was 11 years old when Romo and Witten broke in with the Cowboys in 2003.
“It’s funny you never really look back at what you did or any of the stuff you’ve done semi-successfully or this over here and what you did good,” Romo said. “As an athlete you always look to the next play, next season, the next game, but along the way you develop some friendships and camaraderie and special times with different individuals. So that’s probably one of the tougher things about playing is just how all of a sudden every few years there’s that changeover that takes place and after 10 or 12 years they’re all gone except Jason Witten.
“I think you miss some of those guys … I’m excited about a lot of the new guys. At the same time you eat with different people now. You might go talk after practice and it’s new people. You just remember all the times you had with a lot of great people.”
OXNARD, Calif. -- Dez Bryant views himself as one of the game's top five receivers -- a player worth at least $12 million a season.
Can you really blame him after catching 93 passes for 1,223 yards and 13 touchdowns last season?
The Cowboys view him differently.
Oh, and whatever signing bonus the sides ultimately agree on, the Cowboys want a portion of it deferred or tied to roster bonuses to protect the team in case Bryant has any off-field issues. The Cowboys would also be OK with a deal that provides higher base salaries and a lower signing bonus.
Bottom line: The Cowboys don't want their salary cap obliterated if Bryant has an off-field issue that keeps him from playing.
Bryant, disappointed with the slow progress in negotiations, briefly contemplated staying in Dallas for the start of training camp, several sources said.
Then he reconsidered.
"Truthfully, to be honest, I put my teammates first," Bryant said after practice Thursday. "That's the God-honest truth. Coach [Scott] Linehan here is new. It's a new offense. I need to be there, and a lot of these guys look up to me.
"I couldn't be selfish. I can't be selfish. I won't be selfish. Like I said, that stuff, eventually, I promise it will take care of itself, regardless of what the situation is."
The Cowboys are fooling themselves if they don't think Bryant is among the game's best receivers. They should pay the man. A five-year deal worth about $63 million sounds about right.
He has a Pro Bowl to his credit. He has 15.5 career sacks. He has started 32 games. He has played in two playoff games.
But like most of the Cowboys' defensive linemen currently eligible to practice for the Cowboys, Melton comes with a question mark.
He played in only three games last year because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He was kept out of competitive drills in the spring as he continued his rehab. Because of the injury, Melton signed what was essentially a one-year deal that worth $3.5 million with his hometown team.
Melton has to have it if the Cowboys are going to improve defensively in 2014. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has said the key to the 4-3 scheme is how the three technique plays. When Melton played well in his two years under Marinelli, the Bears played well.
The Cowboys defense will be without Sean Lee, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in May. They cut DeMarcus Ware. They never made an attempt to re-sign the defensive tackle Melton will replace, Jason Hatcher.
Hatcher had a career-high 11 sacks in 2013 and made the Pro Bowl.
"He had a great year," Melton said. "I'm not taking anything away from Hatcher. Everyone is expecting me to come in here and replace him, but I'm just going to come in and do what I've been doing, which is work hard and fit in."
With Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers, Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, Melton could fit in with the Bears. With the Cowboys he has to play a leading role on and off the field. The responsibility on the field, considering Marinelli's feeling about the three-technique's importance, is not new. The responsibility off of it is a little different.
"I want to be the veteran who steps up and takes over and dominates," Melton said. "That's what I was in Chicago. We had a big mix of veterans who stepped up and balled out. Hopefully, I can be one of those guys here."
To be one of those dominant players Melton has to be healthy. He said he will likely be eased into team drills, working two out of every four snaps early on in camp. The surgically-repaired knee is fine and has not bothered him at all.
With questions at other defensive line spots, as well as at linebacker and in the secondary, a healthy and productive Melton can make life easier for his teammates.
"It's critical that you have anchor-type players, marquee-type players, who can take the burden off the other guys," coach Jason Garrett said. "The more you can spread the burden out, the better it is for everybody. When you have players who get the attention of the opposing unit that helps the guy playing next to him. Henry Melton is a guy who really was an explosive player for Chicago. Once he established himself as a starter, he was a Pro Bowl player until his injury. He's still a young player. He's very athletic. We feel like he worked very hard to come back from his injury.
"If he comes back to the form he played at, that's only going to benefit our team."
And it will be beneficial to him as well. The Cowboys hold a three-year option on Melton's contract. If the Cowboys pick up the option, his $9 million base salary is guaranteed. He has $7.5 million base salaries in 2016 and '17.
"Being out on the field, you know, when we first took the field I had a big smile on my face," Melton said. "Hopefully, it's the start of something special. I couldn't stop smiling. I was having a good time out there."