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Austin is miles from Valley Ranch

4/6/2010

Miles Austin’s mantra has always been hard work. He vowed that wouldn’t change just because of a breakout season.

But Austin’s hard work is happening far away from Valley Ranch, a significant change from previous offseasons.

Austin, who hopes to cash in after his Pro Bowl season with a long-term contract, is avoiding the Cowboys’ voluntary workouts. He’s working out on his own in California, which means he isn’t catching passes from Tony Romo.

From a business standpoint, Austin’s decision makes sense. As a restricted free agent, this is one way for him to create a little leverage. It worked a couple of springs ago for Marion Barber, who avoided Valley Ranch as a restricted free agent until he cashed in on his lone Pro Bowl campaign with a seven-year, $45 million contract.

From a football standpoint, it’s a significant concern if Austin continues to stay away, especially during organized team activities and minicamps. He’s a receiver with less than a full season of starting experience who still has plenty of potential for development. And it’d be ideal for his offseason training to be supervised by the Cowboys’ strength and conditioning staff, especially given his history of nagging injuries.

Austin was a Valley Ranch regular as a restricted free agent last year, when he was coming off a 13-catch season. It’s an entirely different set of circumstances after he had 11 touchdown catches in 2009.

He’d improve his chances of repeating that success if he’d show up at Valley Ranch, but it's hard to blame a guy for trying to create a little leverage with millions of dollars on the line.