In a matter of days the Dallas Cowboys will open their 2015 training camp in Oxnard, California. This season begins with the team looking much stronger than the squad that won the NFC East last year, but if they cannot manage to get the improved personnel on the field it will not make a difference. Everything will come down to the health of the players. There is an old adage in the game, "You can't make the club in the tub". It is time to look at the medical concerns that face the Cowboys as they prepare to follow the sage advice of Horace Greeley. "Go west, young man, go west."
Last season the team entered training camp with the knowledge that linebacker and defensive leader Sean Lee would not be available to them due to an injury he suffered at the beginning of off season activities. One year later the veteran linebacker is reported to be well on his way to returning to the gridiron. Lee has gradually increased his workload as the team progressed through OTA's and the recent mini-camp. He is expected to be a full participant once practice begins in California.
The man whom the Cowboys brought in to fill his shoes last season is a different story. Rolando McClain was limited in his return to football last season. The former Alabama linebacker suffered from issues both in his knee and with his hamstring. During the off season he underwent a procedure on his right knee and was limited in the amount of work that he was able to get in. To compound matters further, his rehabilitation was done back home in Alabama rather than under the watchful eye of the Dallas medical staff. There are some concerns about how far along in the process McClain might be, and now ESPN Dallas' Todd Archer is stating that Rolando may miss time during camp.
Rookie offensive lineman Chaz Green, the likely swing tackle and understudy to Doug Free, underwent offseason surgery as well. Green had some repairs done to him, and he is anticipated to open his first NFL camp on the physically unable to perform list. This may cause a delay on his development as a professional, but his absence from the workouts will not have nearly the impact on the squad that McClain's absence (and his four game suspension) will.
One player who is reported as being in better shape than he has been since becoming a pro is cornerback Morris Claiborne. Like Lee, he is making his return from a knee injury. For Claiborne the timing could not be better. For a variety of reasons the team elected not to exercise its fifth-year option on the former first-round draft selection. The Cowboys cornerback finds himself in need of an impressive season in 2015, and his health will go a long way toward determining his success, not just for 2015, but for the next phase of his professional career. So far the signs are good that health will not be a factor for Morris as it has been in the past.
"He's really done an amazing job, had a very good offseason, if not a great offseason, I think he feels better than he's ever felt, and he's done everything the right way, he's done everything that's been asked of him, and I think he really has a chance to have a big year for us." - Stephen Jones
If Mo wants to remain a Cowboy, he better be able to stand and deliver.
The best health news has been saved for last. Remember Tony Romo and his recurring health issues? Those are a thing of the past. In a case of no news being good news, we have heard nothing at all about the quarterback's dorsal region. Those days seem to be a thing of the past. With no off season issues to impact his efforts, Tony should be ready to go for a full slate of training camp activities.
All told, the Dallas Cowboys will be reporting to Oxnard in solid shape. There are a few questions to be answered. Players like Doug Free and J. J. Wilcox had minor foot procedures but both are well on the way toward being mended. Only McClain and Green look to face additional challenges. As Stephen Jones said, the onus is on the medical staff and coaches now to keep the players that way.
"It's an art to get through the preseason without significant injuries. Those things happen, but we're going to do everything we can to manage it and be better at it."