It's about to get serious!
Everyone is counting down to the first day of training camp for the Dallas Cowboys on July 30th (if you don't believe me, just look at the countdown clock on the front page). But the real first day, at least in my opinion, is on July 25th, when quarterbacks, rookies, and injured players who were not able to fully participate in the OTAs and minicamp get to report.
I am absolutely pumped for this. The Cowboys, thanks to the pre-season schedule, are one of the last two teams to start camp. They and their opponent in the first pre-season game, the Oakland Raiders, are forced to wait because they were "favored" with being shown on Monday night in their pre-season opener. But I am not going to complain about that (any more than I already have). Instead, I am just going to look eagerly forward to seeing some players on the field we have been waiting a long time for.
I am taking another look at the post mentioned above that I did a few weeks ago, dealing with the same subject, but going into a little more depth, and adding a couple of updates. First off, here is the chart from that article detailing the players we had to miss out on seeing for some or all of the offseason practices.
|Wrist surgery||Tyrone Crawford||Strained calf|
|Broken finger||Broken foot|
|Shoulder surgery||Tight hamstring|
|Hamstring strain||Plantar fasciitis|
|"Minor knee issue"||Shoulder injury|
|Walking boot, foot injury||Hip surgery|
|Shoulder surgery/sulking||Was still in school|
We now know (to my deep regret) that Danny Coale is going to be sidelined a little longer. The last word was that Mike Jenkins is also not expected to be ready to go at the start of camp, although quite frankly the team is not as well informed on his status as they would like to be.
The most anticipated debut of the whole group is undoubtedly Morris Claiborne. Cowboys fans are chomping at the bit to see if they got the future superstar they are hoping for with him. He has been cleared to practice, and I thought you might like to see this little indication of how he is getting ready.
Also, since I tend to try and sneak a Cheerleader picture or two in, think of that as some equal time for our readers who appreciate the male form.
Except for Jenkins and Coale, as mentioned above, I feel very good about most of the players on the list. However, two of the names have me very concerned, and I am going to be poring over every word out of camp, trying to get a read on how they are doing.
Mackenzy Bernadeau's hip surgery blindsided most of us, and everyone knows how "blindsided" and "offensive lineman" are not things you like to see associated with one another. He is seen as one of the major parts in the second serious reworking of the offensive line in as many years. The team needs him to show up healthy and to prove he is capable of keeping Tony Romo upright while clearing holes for the running game. I have not heard any word indicating he is not ready. But I haven't seen anything lately confirming that he is, either, and I am really hoping he is out on the field the first day of practice (which I assume to be the 26th, with the first day for reporting, physicals, and the like). If he is not ready to go for camp, or, even worse, the start of the season, then the offensive line situation will be far too chaotic. The team will be looking at Kowalski, Bill Nagy, David Arkin, UDFA Ronald Leary, and maybe even UDFA Harland Gunn to find someone to fill in.
I really hope and pray Bernadeau is ready to go. Otherwise, you might like to get some Prilosec or Nexium stock, because I alone will significantly increase their sales.
The other player I will watch with my heart in my mouth is Jay Ratliff. Plantar fasciitis is known as an injury that is very, very hard to overcome. Rat has been such a force for the Cowboys in recent years, and his contributions are often overlooked by the casual observer because he is not in one of the glamour positions. If he is not able to give the team as much as he has, then it is going to need Josh Brent and others to step up. I could see Ratliff having a slow recovery actually causing Rob Ryan to make some major alterations in his defensive scheme, going with more of a 4-3 look than he already does because of the loss of such a force at nose tackle.
It would also be sad for Ratliff as a player, because the upgrades in the secondary and at inside linebacker would most likely have indirectly helped him. His production in 2011 was down from the previous year, and I think it was as attributable to the ineptitude in the secondary and the two very slow inside linebackers, Bradie James and Keith Brooking, as it was his injury. There were just too many receivers coming open too quickly behind Rat, and I would love to see what he, along with the rest of the D line, will look like now that players like Claiborne, Brandon Carr, and Bruce Carter are the ones covering receivers behind him.
To me, those are the two most burning questions I want answered at the start of training camp. There are many others, but I feel a lot more confident about them. Bernadeau and Ratliff, though, have me concerned at the moment.
But it is down to just a few days. Soon, I will able to say, along with all of you, those words we have all been longing for, month after month.