Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: Can Cowboys Make Progress On Injury Prevention?

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Latest Cowboys headlines: Cowboys hoping to avoid hamstring injuries by adding workout equipment, changing pre-practice stretching; Dez Bryant wasn’t happy about spending $55K on dinner for veteran players; Cowboys Reach Deal With Anthony Hitchens.

Dallas Cowboys hoping to avoid hamstring injuries by adding workout equipment, changing pre-practice stretching | Jon Machota, DMN
In April last year, Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones observed that if the team can stay healthy, it can show "significant improvements" on the previous year's 8-8 record.

"I’ve said from the beginning, the best way we can improve upon our football team from last year is keep guys healthy. That had to be one of our toughest years in terms of the number of injuries, especially to really good football players. If we can really do a better job there then I like our chances of making some significant improvements on 8-8."

Judging by the rash of injuries suffered in 2013, the Cowboys either didn't do much to address the injury issue, or were not particularly effective at doing it.

The Cowboys have been tight-lipped, even secretive, about what specifically they were going to do to address the high incidence of soft-tissue injuries over the last two years, to the point that it's completely unclear what exactly they have done to address the situation.

In any case, a realization seems to have set in at Valley Ranch that sitting around a campfire and singing Kum Ba Yah won't fix anything. Because Jon Machota now reports that additional workout equipment, adjustments to stretching routines, and ballet bars were visible at Valley Ranch during OTAs last week.

Jason Garrett explained some of the changes and implicitly acknowledged that the Cowboys may have had some catching up to do from their previous "old team" approach:

"We’ve put a big emphasis on addressing, as an organization, some of the injuries that we’ve had," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said last week. "Just an emphasis on stretching, giving our players the opportunity, whether it’s with ballet bars or V-sits or back systems, whatever things we use, we try to help them get into routines that can help them be flexible and avoid some of the injuries we’ve had. It’s always been an emphasis for us. We have to look at ourselves and what we’re doing to help our players stay as healthy as possible."

"Typically, we’ve done kind of the old team stretch, and we’re experimenting with dynamic warm-up stuff that I’ve done in my past, other coaches have done in the past," Garrett said. "You try to be innovative, you try to evolve, you get feedback from the players, you get feedback from the coaches.

"We just try to help our players get themselves more ready to practice and hopefully stay healthier over time."

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The second round of OTAs kicks off today. The players then take a break from on-field activities on Tuesday before going back out on Wednesday and Thursday this week. Here's an overview of key Cowboys offseason dates:

OTAs:June 2, 4-5, June 9-12
Mandatory Minicamp: June 17-19
Oxnard Training Camp: July 23-Aug 14
Season Opener: Sept 7

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Dez Bryant: I wasn’t happy about spending $55K on dinner, but now, ‘they’re allowing me to call the shots’ | Jon Machota, DMN
In 2010, some Cowboys veterans saw fit to have then-rookie Dez Bryant pick up a $55,000 tab at a high-end steakhouse. Bryant calls the event an an eye-opening experience that struck him the wrong way.

"The way I look at that is some guys do it just to be [expletive]," Bryant said during a recent taping of FOX Sports 1’s Back Of The Shop. "I paid $55,000 for a dinner, and it struck me the wrong way. I could’ve easily went off on every last one of them, but I didn’t. I kept myself together, and I wanted to change that. So you know what I did, went out there and did my thing. Now they’re allowing me to call the shots."

Source: Cowboys Reach Deal With Anthony Hitchens - Blogging The Boys
Sources report that the Cowboys got a deal done with rookie draft pick Anthony Hitchens, who has suddenly become a very important piece of the 2014 draft class, and the 2014 season.

Rookie WR L'Damian Washington out with shoulder injury - Charean Williams, Star-Telegram
Rookie receiver L'Damian Washington injured his shoulder during Thursday's practice, and the Cowboys are worried it could be a separated AC joint. The injury will likely keep Washington out of the remaining OTAs, but he should be ready for training camp.

Help still available on NFL free-agent market | FOX Sports on MSN
Alex Marvez points out that any free agent signed after June 1 - like George Selvie, signed by the Cowboys in July last year - doesn't count as a compensatory free agent, and as such does not impact a team's quota of compensatory picks.

The NFL formula used to determine the extra selections annually granted for free-agent losses also takes into account the number of free agents a team signs before a June 1 deadline. To secure compensatory choices and potentially improve the round in which they are granted, some franchises are intentionally waiting until after June 1 to bolster their squads with veteran acquisitions.

Report: Vilma was interested in Dolphins, who weren’t interested in Vilma | ProFootballTalk
Jonathan Vilma has been linked to the Cowboys as a potential replacement for Sean Lee, and PFT writes that Vilma’s representatives at some point in the offseason reached out to the Dolphins. The Dolphins, however, passed on Vilma. No word yet on whether those representatives have also reached out to the Cowboys.

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