- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Dallas Cowboys are one of several NFL teams beginning organized team activities this week. The OTAs are non-contact, three-days-a-week practices over the next three weeks. These practices are not in pads, nor are they mandatory. Some players will attend some of the OTAs, if not all of them.
Here's a primer:
Who will be there? There's an expectation that the entire team will attend at least the first day of OTAs. However, some players are recovering from injuries and might not participate. Quarterback Tony Romo is out three weeks after undergoing minor surgery on his back to remove a cyst and won't participate. Defensive end DeMarcus Ware (shoulder and elbow) might be limited in some fashion for the OTAs, while Sean Lee (toe), Jay Ratliff (sports hernia) and Orlando Scandrick (hand) will be full participants. Rookies who are still finishing up with school are not allowed to participate. Safety Matt Johnson was in this situation last year.
What are the rules? Players can wear helmets and other equipment, but no shoulder pads. Teams can have 11-on-11 drills, special teams and 7-on-7 drills. Players can practice for up to two hours. If a player gets hurt and is released, the team will reach an injury settlement. In some cases, depending on the player, the team will guarantee his base salary.
What we're watching? We know the defensive starters except at safety. The main candidates are Barry Church, Will Allen, Danny McCray, J.J. Wilcox and Johnson. Who plays with the first team? Church, last year's starter, and maybe Allen could get reps with the first-team defense. Johnson, who missed his entire rookie season with hamstring injuries, also could get some first-team looks.
On offense, first-round draft pick Travis Frederick is projected as the starting center, but expect Phil Costa to have something to say about that. It'll be interesting to see if Frederick gets snaps at guard and center with the first team. Ronald Leary should also gets some snaps with the first team.
Dwayne Harris is the No. 3 receiver, but rookie Terrance Williams wasn't drafted in the third round to sit the bench. Tight end Gavin Escobar, a second-round pick, should get some snaps with the first-team offense, but don't forget about James Hanna.
Media access: The OTAs last three days, but the media is allowed to watch practice and talk with the players and coach Jason Garrett on Tuesday only.