The action resumed with the Dallas Cowboys back in pads in training camp. Jeremy Mincey was in pads, there were lots of good plays and no apparent significant injuries (although Will Smith did leave the field and there was no word on his return). But rabblerousr will catch you up on what happened in practice. Meanwhile, there was plenty of other news to cover.
It was the big news off the field for the Cowboys. In a move that probably should have come a few years ago, Darren Woodson, perhaps the best safety that every wore the Star, is now going to get an honor he certainly deserves. And perhaps like it was for Charles Haley, this will be a boost to his chances to get into the Hall of Fame.
And since we are honoring Woody, here is his take on someone who will join him in the Ring one day.
"You cannot tell me there's a better tight end to ever play the game," Woodson said. "I look at Tony Gonzalez. He wouldn't block a soul. A soul. Great, dynamic in the passing game, runs great routes, but won't block a soul. Antonio Gates, turn the film on of him. He won't touch a soul. You already know Jimmy Graham won't block anybody.
"This guy (Jason Witten), not only is he a great pass catcher, but he'll do everything. He lines up on the edge. He'll reach block you. He'll cut you off. He'll motion in the backfield. He'll lead draw you as a fullback. He does everything. He's a complete tight end."
The announcement about Woodson was probably influenced a little by the fact that Charles Haley, who is going into Canton this year, has been all over the place at Oxnard, especially working with rookie Randy Gregory. This is, as the title indicates, an admiring look at just how big Haley's contribution was on the field.
Haley went from a skinny situational pass rusher as a rookie with the 49ers to a guy who was strong enough to play inside occasionally on passing downs six years later with the Cowboys. The development made it even harder for teams to gameplan for him. So many times, no matter where he lined up, Haley would masterfully set up his teammates on a pass rush. He would end up taking out at least two blockers while allowing the other guy to come scot-free and get the sack and all the glory that came with it.
Here was a dude who already had won two rings and who had already been voted DPOY in the NFL and yet he was still willing to be unselfish and run those pass rush games the way they were supposed to be run even when it wasn't his turn to come free. Those are the plays that you are just never going to "get" from looking at a stat sheet. And those are also the kind of plays you will have a hard time finding on film of current players these days.
Not a bad guy to have influencing the current crop of rushmen.
This is a highlight video of Haley. And once it gets to his time wearing the Star, it brings back some really good memories (well, for us old types, anyway).
Yeah, he still is a bad man.
After watching the rookie get stone-walled by Tyron Smith repeatedly, Haley (who is lending his unique brand of Hall of Fame expertise to the team) grabbed Gregory and started jerking his body around to illustrate technique, much like a youth coach would to a much smaller human. He grabbed, he yelled, he made a scene but most importantly, he taught.
Haley had just the move for Gregory to use in order to crack the Tyron code. He instructed the rookie to grab Tyron high, pull him inwards to offset his balance, and then use the grip to slingshot around him. The next play, Gregory did EXACTLY that, surprisingly beating the previously perfect Smith quite handedly which brought an eruption from onlookers.
Then Haley added a cherry on top.
"You just got your ass whipped, boy!" Haley belted loudly and proudly, while staring right at Smith
Dez Bryant is enjoying his new-found financial security and ongoing celebrity, it appears. He will probably buy five copies for his mother, so she can see his smiling face on the cover of the Rolling Stone.
Just a fun video of how the players relax during camp. For reasons that a few will understand, I just wish he had gone with a hook shot.
Well, first off, who is going to tell them they can't? But there is a purpose, as Jason Garrett outlines.
"They're the heartbeat of our football team. They're the guys in the weight room earliest in the offseason. They spend lot of time together watching tape, doing extra stuff after practice and I think the bonds that they have are really strong and probably no more important position than offensive line to have strong bonds because the communication those guys need to have both verbally and instinctively is really, really important. I think the closer they are the better they're going to be at that."
You can't have a much harder experience to overcome than the record setting year of futility Rod Marinelli had as head coach of the Detroit Lions. But his life is very different now.
They (the Lions) were historically awful mostly because of eight years of disastrous personnel decisions by Matt Millen, the organization's de facto general manager. They had almost no good players operating within a culture of extreme dysfunction. That Marinelli couldn't manage a miracle wasn't a full reflection of the coach.
Still, 0-16 is 0-16 and it isn't easy for anyone's career, let alone their confidence, to recover from such a calamity.
Marinelli, however, isn't anyone. In fact, his uniqueness - and his comfort in that uniqueness - may be how he got from there (coach of a laughing stock) to here (in charge of a potentially dominant unit of a high-profile championship-caliber team).
Interesting how the Cowboys are characterized in that last bit, huh?
The Marine (not former Marine - once a Marine, always a Marine) and Vietnam veteran brought home some lessons from a visit to the sight of the D-Day landings. If you wonder how some of these lessons, like the trips to visit the SEAL training facility, affect these football players, well, it looks like they are pretty effective.
Defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford sat mesmerized by Marinelli's speech.
"It just told us that as a defense, we better be ready," he said. "We better communicate. Pretty much communication is the key."
But it's communication under duress that matters most. The D-Day invasion had its share of miscommunication but the soldiers continued to forge their way under intense fire.
Don't forget that keeping Tony Romo healthy is job one for the Cowboys this season. The depth chart at running back is going to be heavily influenced by how well the candidates do in pass protection, something Romo and Joseph Randle seem very aware of.
"It's about the fight," Randle said. "If you fight, you go in there with the right mindset to block, you can do it."
There are smarts involved too. Early in camp Romo is having the runners point to the linebackers at different times in addition to pointing out the potential pass-rushers himself.
Speaking of fight . . .
"Patience in the press technique, not moving out too quick, staying square and using my God-given talent," (Byron Jones) said. "The receivers are just bigger and stronger and they're faster. You got to be more physical. I can't just skate around. I got to punch. I got to hit somebody."
Yes, there is a theme here. That little scuffle with Bryant was not exactly a negative for Tyler Patmon, who is impressing early in camp - in more ways than one.
"Well, Patmon is a great story for our team," coach Jason Garrett said. "He came to the rookie mimicamp as an undrafted, unsigned tryout guy. For him to do what he did over the course of those three days his first year to show us that, ‘hey, he's one of the better guys. I don't care who we drafted or who we signed we need to make sure that he's one of the guys that has a chance to make our football team.'
As was pointed out on Twitter, the Cowboys won twelve games last year. The Giants won six.
"[In Dallas] it's a lot of just ... arguing. There is always arguing. People always arguing and here we have a good time, we have fun, go out and have practice as professionals.
"In Dallas it's more intense. There is a lot more buildup. We do 1-on-1s or defense vs. offense. I think there is more intensity there. This is more professional. Everyone is trying to keep each other safe."
This may stir things up a bit.
Cowboys (8-8): First month could be telling minus suspended DE Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain as D faces four potentially elite offenses (Giants, Eagles, Falcons, Saints) without DeMarco Murray eating the clock on its behalf.
Dave Halprin pointed out the fact that this writer has to be closer to the final win total for Dallas than he was last year. He had them pegged to go 3-13. Just sayin'.
America's Team? We may be thinking too small.
The Dallas Cowboys have a huge following in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the rest of Europe. I cannot put a number to it, because we truly don't know. I believed the number was in the hundreds up until the London game, but there were around 40,000 people sporting Cowboys gear in Wembley last November, with more lining the pubs, and bars, and living rooms of our country. Just know that the number is big, and it's rising daily. The Cowboys have a global audience.