NFC East: Mike Woicik

IRVING, Texas -- One of the Dallas Cowboys’ homework assignments in the offseason has been to figure out a way to avoid hamstring injuries.

Twelve players suffered strains of varying levels and missed either game or practice time in 2013: Miles Austin, Morris Claiborne, Sean Lee, Justin Durant, Dwayne Harris, Bruce Carter, Danny McCray, Barry Church, Dez Bryant, Lance Dunbar, Gavin Escobar and Terrance Williams.

The shortened offseason conditioning program could play a factor in the increase in injuries, but it has not affected every team. The Cowboys have studied other teams’ approaches and injury numbers to come up with a solution.

Coach Jason Garrett said one possibility is cutting back on the time spent on the field, especially early in the offseason.

“It is valuable to do the football stuff. We don’t feel like there’s a lot of football stuff right now,” Garrett said. “We want to be careful about how much we take away from that. But there’s a couple weeks prior to all that stuff starting. We’ve talked about tweaking the daily schedule and what we’re doing those first couple weeks as we start to lay the foundation for the offseason.”

While many players train on their own before the official offseason program starts in April, there is only a two-week period of training before players get on the field for teaching sessions.

“[Strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik] I know is certainly not happy with it,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “[Athletic trainers] Jim Maurer and Britt Brown0 are not happy. I know Jason’s not happy with it and I damn sure know Jerry [Jones] and I are not happy with it. So we’re looking at ways to try to work on that.”

One way might be doing less instead of more.
When things are slow, I can count on Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com to help fill the void. So I wasn't surprised to find his piece this morning on Dallas Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins. Todd believes Jenkins is doing himself a disservice by working out on his own this offseason instead of joining in the Cowboys' voluntary offseason workout program:
Is Jenkins, who was the Cowboys' best cornerback last season -- and that is not meant as faint praise -- upset that he does not have a new contract? Is he upset the team signed Brandon Carr to a $50 million deal and Orlando Scandrick to a $27 million deal before he could cash in? Is he upset the Cowboys traded up to get Morris Claiborne in the first round in the draft?

Maybe it's yes to all three, but staying home is not the right answer.
Todd goes on to cite the past cases of Ken Hamlin and Marion Barber as examples of players who made similar decisions that didn't work out too well. But I think the more central and present point here is that the Cowboys are investing a lot of their 2012 hope in this offseason conditioning program they've had strength coach Mike Woicik install. We've heard several Cowboys players rave about it already, and the team believes that if it had been in place last year they could have avoided some of their more serious injury problems. Miles Austin's hamstrings, for example.

Now, it may be that what Jenkins ultimately wants is not something he can get. With Carr signed, Claiborne drafted No. 6 overall and Scandrick signed long-term, there doesn't seem to be much hope of Jenkins getting a long-term deal with the Cowboys. But if he plans to test the free-agent waters next year, the best way for him to succeed is to have as healthy and productive a 2012 season as possible. And if he's not going to go along with the Cowboys' program while others are, he might not end up getting the chance to play as much or be as productive as he can be.

Jenkins showed a lot last year -- toughness while playing hurt and high-level ability when healthy. He could help someone in 2013, even if it's not the Cowboys. But I tend to agree with Todd here that the best way for him to cash in next year is to play the good soldier this year. You never know. Claiborne's a rookie and coming off wrist surgery. Jenkins might get to play a lot more -- especially early in the season -- than people are assuming he will. Best bet is to be as prepared for that chance as possible.
Jerry Jones indicated during Super Bowl week that he was braced for a lockout that would last through the summer.

For the first time, there is hope that won’t happen, with the league and players association making progress toward a deal and extending the current collective bargaining agreement to continue negotiations. That’s even better news for the Cowboys than most NFL teams.

A team coming off a 6-10 season and trying to change the culture under a new coaching regime simply can’t afford to skip an offseason.

The three biggest reasons a lockout would be a really bad deal in Dallas:
  • Dez Bryant's development: Bryant made an impact during his injury-shortened rookie season due to his immense talent and desire. But he’s barely even scratched the surface of his potential. His understanding of Jason Garrett’s offensive scheme is elementary at best. He’s had precious few reps with Tony Romo. He’s just getting to know a new position coach in taskmaster Jimmy Robinson. And he’s rehabbing from the surgically repaired broken ankle that ended his season a month early. Bryant, more than any player on the roster, needs a full offseason under the supervision of the Cowboys’ coaches and medical staff.
  • Rob Ryan’s defense: Keeping up with family tradition, Ryan boldly predicted that the unit he inherited, which allowed the most points in the NFC last season, would be great from the get-go. That will be pretty close to impossible if he has to cram all the installation into an abbreviated training camp. The Cowboys’ new defensive coordinator needs time to teach the terminology and technique of his scheme, especially with the Cowboys probably adding at least a few new starters during the offseason.
  • Mike Woicik’s work: The six-time Super Bowl champion strength coach’s return to Valley Ranch might have been the most underpublicized major move in the NFL so far this offseason. This is a man who helped build the teams of the last two decades, winning three titles with the Cowboys in the ‘90s and three more with the Patriots since 2000. He was recently voted the NFL’s top strength coach by his peers. But his credentials are irrelevant if he can’t work with the players this offseason.

Beastlines: Protecting Michael Vick

February, 11, 2011
2/11/11
8:50
AM ET
Dallas Cowboys

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton addressed the rumors following news of the decision to move his family to Dallas.

The Cowboys brought in Mike Woicik to discuss a position as the team's strength and conditioning coach.

New York Giants

Giants.com takes a closer look at Tom Coughlin's 133-107 record as a head coach.

Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Daily News columnist Paul Domowitch is convinced that new Eagles offensive line coach Howard Mudd will keep quarterback Michael Vick protected.

Don't expect to see defensive end Trent Cole dropping into pass coverage next season.

Washington Redskins

The Redskins are exploring the idea of moving their training camp away from team headquarters. George Mason University's campus is reportedly one option the team is investigating.

Examiner.com's Mike Frandsen says media and fans should stop piling on Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.

Beastlines: Kevin Kolb inspired by Rodgers

February, 10, 2011
2/10/11
9:43
AM ET
Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have 13 free agents to deal with whenever a new CBA is finalized, but according to ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins, the Cowboys have just one they need to worry about: left tackle Doug Free.

After 11 seasons with the New England Patriots, strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik could be headed back to the Cowboys, sources told ESPNDallas.com and ESPNBoston.com.

Quarterback Tony Romo is too worried about whether teammates like him to be the Cowboys' true leader, argues Jean-Jacques Taylor of The Dallas Morning News. (subscription required)

New York Giants

Vic Carucci of NFL.com has five tough questions the Giants need to address this offseason.

Michael Eisen of Giants.com goes inside the numbers in reviewing the 2010 season.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles' new defensive staff under Juan Castillo will emphasize a simpler scheme than the one employed by former coordinator Sean McDermott.

Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb is inspired by the path to stardom taken by the Packers' Aaron Rodgers.

New defensive line coach Jim Washburn had to leave his comfort zone when he decided to leave Tennessee behind for Philly.

Washington Redskins

Diminutive kick returner Brandon Banks said he'd like to add 11 pounds to his playing weight last season of 154.

Barry Barnes of DC Sports Examiner looks ahead at the Skins' 2011 schedule and concludes home will not be so sweet.

In an article examining owner Dan Synder's lawsuit against Washington City Paper, Thomas Alter writes that "With every stupid lawsuit, every self-serving act, [Snyder] puts another blemish on the great history of the Washington Redskins."

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