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Will Cowboys Show Up In Shape For 2014 Training Camp?

The Cowboys will likely run their players through a conditioning test next Wednesday before clearing them to participate in the first practice of training camp on Thursday.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

The first day of training camp usually starts with physicals and conditioning tests. Players get weighed and measured, and teams get a good first look at what shape their players are in since they last saw them at minicamp in mid June. This is what that conditioning test looked like in the past:

  • The team requires skill players like receivers and defensive backs to run ten consecutive 60-yard sprints (with a 30-second break between each sprint), each of which they have to finish in less than eight seconds. After a longer period of rest, they have to run an additional set of ten consecutive 60-yard sprints, and again finish each sprint in under eight seconds.
  • Linemen also have to run two sets of 10 sprints, but they only run for 40 yards and have to complete each sprint in under six seconds.
  • "Middle-sized guys," which includes running backs and linebackers, have to run 50 yards in seven seconds, also in two sets of 10 sprints.

Some football teams still insist on running their players through 300-yard shuttles (remember the fiasco with Albert Haynesworth's conditioning test in Washington in 2010?), one-mile runs or other tests that evaluate a player's lactic ability, an odd choice given that football is an alactic sport: 2-10 second periods of intense physical activity alternate with 40-second (or longer) breaks after every play. The Cowboys' conditioning test is specifically designed to measure a player's alactic capacity with its 2×10 sprints of 40-60 yards.

These tests are routine, but players also routinely flunk them. Two years ago, we saw Felix Jones Jones running laps and sprints for the first few days of camp to get in shape after he failed the conditioning test. He was joined on the sidelines by safety Brodney Pool and wide receiver Andre Holmes. At the time, Garrett said the players had been ‘doing a lot of distance running during the offseason,’ effectively building up their lactic capacity at the expense of their alactic capacity.

"It doesn’t get you ready to play football," Garrett said. "You can be a marathoner. You can be in the greatest shape to run 26.2 miles with anybody in the world, and you probably wouldn’t do really well on that conditioning test. It’s designed to get you ready to play football."

Last year center/guard Ryan Cook, tackle Demetress Bell, and receiver Lavasier Tuinei (who had just joined the team a few days previously) didn’t pass. Guard Mackenzy Bernadeau injured his hamstring during the test and did not pass, while Jay Ratliff, who also injured his hamstring during the test, passed it.

Inevitably, some players are bound to fail the conditioning test again this year. Recent arrivals like TE Dallas Walker, LB Rolando McClain, OG Uche Nwaneri or DT Dartwan Bush may still need some time to get in shape after missing most or all of the Cowboys offseason activities.

But the new arrivals aren't the only players the trainers will keep a close eye on as camp opens with the first official practice next Thursday. The Cowboys have quite a number of players who have spent the offseason rehabbing from various injuries or have had offseason surgeries. Additionally, a number of players will report to camp who were limited at some point during OTAs and minicamp. The table below lists all the players recovering from various injuries and ailments.

Rehabbing Players
Missed OTA Time
Player Injury / Surgery Player Reason
Tony Romo Offseason back surgery Ben Gardner Sore hamstring
George Selvie Offseason shoulder surgery Terrance Williams Academic commitments
Dwayne Harris Offseason shoulder sugery Matt Johnson Sore hamstring
Anthony Spencer Offseason microfracture surgery Gavin Escobar Tweaked back
Chris Whaley Knee DeVonte Holloman Hamstring strain
Amobi Okoye Personal medical issue L'Damian Washington Shoulder injury
Henry Melton Torn ACL Jeremy Mincey Tight hamstring
Morris Claiborne Offseason shoulder surgery Devin Street Quadriceps bruise
Tyrone Crawford Torn Achilles Anthony Hitchens Groin
Caesar Rayford Offseason shoulder sugery Ahmad Dixon Hip strain

NFL teams don't publish injury reports during the offseason, so I may have easily missed a player or two in the table above. But going by the numbers above, at least ten Cowboys players are coming off serious injury or surgery in some form, while at least ten more players were unable to fully participate in the OTA program for various reasons.

Ultimately then, the question is not just about which players show up in shape for camp, but which players show up healthy and in shape for camp.

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