We have one last event to go before the Dallas Cowboys enter the summer doldrums before training camp begins (And, by the way, is it a sign that you are a true football geek when you complain about how long it is until training camp?). The Mandatory Minicamp, or, as I like to call it, MandyMini (although I probably shouldn't), runs from Tuesday through Thursday this week.
Because of the CBA rules, the minicamp is going to strongly resemble the OTAs: Helmets, no pads, no contact allowed. It is essentially just more coaching, teaching and conditioning to get the systems and schemes installed and to do what evaluation can be done with players going through the motions in shorts and T-shirts.
But it is still the Dallas Cowboys out there running around, and if you are here reading this, you will probably be trying to get every single scrap of news, no matter how insignificant. So here is a look at some of the things going on this week you might want to keep an eye out for.
First, the whole noncontact thing has become an issue after the Seattle Seahawks got docked some OTA days for too much intensity. Over at ESPN DFW, Dan Graziano had a discussion of how this could be something the Cowboys need to be careful with. He links over to the ESPN NFC West blog, where writer Mike Sando provides some footage of what may have gotten the Seahawks in trouble (you can see the linemen pushing each other around at about the :50 mark). Sando also took a look around the NFL team websites for some OTA video, and found one example of a team that was going at it hard in practice. Of course, that example was the Cowboys. He didn't see anything really wrong with what the team is doing, just a similarity to the issues that got Seattle in trouble.
The footage showed nothing out of the ordinary by traditional offseason standards, but players were sprinting to the ball. A couple went to the ground despite efforts to avoid contact.
How much contact is too much? How quick of a practice tempo is too quick?
More on this and other topics after the jump. And how much jump is too much?
Graziano goes on in his article to talk about the no contact rules and the way Dallas is approaching practice.
Here's the thing on the non-contact rules: They're not new, and the Seahawks aren't the first team to get busted for breaking them. If my memory serves me correctly, the Jets and Lions each lost OTAs for such violations in 2010, and I don't think they were the first ones either. And regardless of what Pete Carroll thinks, a team's only going to get punished for these violations if one or more of its players reports the violation. The NFLPA has encouraged its players to do so, since they do have rights and should feel empowered to defend them, but obviously it's impossible to imagine that most players wouldn't fear repercussions and ridiculous to think that the unreported violations far outnumber the reported ones.
I looked at the video, and there's obviously contact going on in that Cowboys practice. More than is permitted under league rules? No idea. I imagine that's for the league to decide. But in order for it to be brought to the league's attention, someone on the Cowboys would have to decide to report it.
Bottom line here: Nothing is likely to come from this unless someone in a Cowboys uniform complains, and then it would have to be reviewed. Like Graziano said, there is contact, but not exactly hitting there. I am certainly no smarter than he is about what is and is not allowed under the CBA, but if someone sees fit to criticize what the Cowboys had going on in practice, then we need to start wrapping the players in bubble wrap, or just hire stand-ins and have the real players watch from the sidelines. It's football. You hit people.
OK, enough on that little rant. I understand the rules are designed to reduce injuries as much as possible. Still . . .
The big news of course is that Mike Jenkins has announced that taking the three days of minicamp off is not worth the $60,000 the team could fine him, so he is planning on being there. He will likely be joining the other Cowboy players standing on the sidelines due to injury rehab.
While Jenkins' presence will probably do little but give us all something to argue about, another return has the potential of being much more beneficial for the team. Rookie Matt Johnson has finally been cleared to come to practice since his alma mater has finished the latest quarter, and he will see his first action since the rookie minicamp. This is one player that I, and others, have very high hopes for. He will likely be competing with Brodney Pool for the free safety job, but he is viewed by many as having the ability to play both safety positions - and there is that gaudy 17 career college interceptions that he brings to the table. Welcome back, Matt.
Another player is also returning, but he took a much longer journey than the others did. Pat McQuistan has been signed as a backup tackle. While this is not the kind of move that is likely to inspire celebratory dances, Nick Eatman makes a good case at DallasCowboys.com that this is not a bad idea.
Here's a guy who knows the system - at least in terms of Jason Garrett's offense. He will be new to Bill Callahan, but then again, maybe that's a good thing.
And offensive tackle is a position that appears to be in good shape, especially with the starters. Tyron Smith has the makeup of a guy who will be on the left side for many years to come and Doug Free might not have had a great season as the left tackle, but he should be just fine on the right side.
Without McQuistan, the team would have Jermey Parnell and the UDFAs in camp for backup. This shows that the team may not have much faith in those UDFAs. I also liked Eatman's argument that this may be as important for the other players in preseason.
Plus, McQuistan should help this team in the preseason, an area the Cowboys wanted to improve. We've seen too many preseason games in the past where the offensive line couldn't even function long enough to give anyone around them a chance to succeed. With McQuistan and Parnell likely manning the second- and possibly third-team tackle spots, that should be good enough to evaluate everyone.
That is an interesting take. This may be as much for some of the other players, like the UDFA running backs and the passel of wide receivers, as anything.
I was a bit taken aback when I saw the second part of this headline, but you have to read the whole thing: Dez Bryant on punt returns: 'Sometimes just go down'. The back and forth on what role, if any, Dez Bryant is going to play in returning punts will continue. With no stong contender to take the job over having emerged yet, he is likely to be a part of the mix.
In other words, when the Cowboys have a chance for an impact return, it's in everybody's best interests for Bryant to be back there. Especially if Bryant can display the ability to make business decisions on the field.
That means not always fighting for every inch. It means occasionally stepping out of bounds when there is no room to run instead of letting three players take full-speed shots at him.
One thing that is always a source of fascination, if not out and out obsession, is how the team is going to allocate those precious 53 roster spots. Josh Ellis at the mothership speculates on whether the team may want to keep a backup for fullback Lawrence Vickers. It is something that might be considered given the drop in yards per carry when Tony Fiammetta was out of the games last year. Ellis mentions keeping Shaun Chapas and using Isaiah Greenhouse, who has been working strictly on defense, but he does not bring up Caleb McSurdy, the seventh round pick who plays ILB but has also been considered as a fullback. A little multiplicity could be another plus for the rookie. However, I again remind the Football Gods that I am not picking any more pet cats this year. I'm done with that. So no more freaky Danny Coale injuries, please.
Finally, I saw a question at the mothership that a lot of us are asking. I thought it would be worth sharing how Josh Ellis and Nick Eatman answered it.
FRANK BAIR - ROCHETSER, NY: I was just wondering how you guys think Nate Livings is doing so far this offseason, and what are your expectations for him?
Nick:That's hard to tell right now, with absolutely no contact in the OTAs and even the minicamp. Obviously, you can see where the guy lines up, how quick he is, and if he's aware of blitzes - which all seem to be fine. But with those interior players, it comes down to strength, and the ability to move your man off the ball. That's something we won't really be able to see until the preseason games, and maybe a few middle drills in camp. Expectations? I expect Livings to be the starting left guard for this team and to be a very solid player, if not pretty good. If they get another Kyle Kosier out of Livings, it'd be a great move.
Josh: The thing that stands out most is just how big he is, especially as compared to Kyle Kosier, Bill Nagy and those guys that were starting last year. He just looked more athletic and powerful than Montrae Holland or Derrick Dockery. Obviously the Cowboys had a budget for the position, but there were a lot of guards on the market, and he's the one Bill Callahan wanted most. I think he will be better, and more durable, than Kosier would've been going forward, and that's what the move was about.
That's it until something actually happens this week.