A lot has changed in a year. While that is the narrative for most teams as they try to get themselves hyped for the new season, it becomes especially easy for Cowboys fans to buy into that type of assertion. After all, there are some new factors in 2016 that weren’t a part of the equation last season so there are a lot of different reasons to be excited about the upcoming season. For example…
- The return of Tony Romo and Dez Bryant
- The addition of Ezekiel Elliott
- The improvement of second-year players La’el Collins and Byron Jones
- The acquisition of the run-stopping interior lineman Cedric Thornton
But there is one more that often gets overlooked – the return of Orlando Scandrick.
Last offseason, the Cowboys standout cornerback wasn’t on the field during the first part of OTAs as he was unhappy with his contract. He was scheduled to make only $1.5 million for the 2015 season, which is quite a discount considering his level of play over the last several seasons. And if you look at what the Cowboys were paying Brandon Carr, it’s not hard to understand why Scandrick would expect more money. The team and Scandrick would eventually see eye-to-eye and he would get an extension. But the enjoyment would be short-lived as he would suffer a season-ending injury on the last day of training camp. As David Helman reported, it was a distressing time for Scandrick.
"I had a very sketchy, spotty offseason – just from a business standpoint. What was crazy is I was just starting to get back to myself in training camp," he said. "It was the best day I had in training camp, and I was feeling good. I made plays on the ball that day – and then that just kind of hit me."
Tearing both your ACL and MCL is a scary thing and Scandrick isn’t taking anything for granted. He’s taking his time and doing everything he’s supposed to be doing to be ready for 2016. He’s been rehabbing over the last 10 months. It’s been a long, drawn-out process for him, but he’s progressing nicely.
"Patience has been the biggest challenge," he said. "Your body has to get readjusted to doing the things you used to do before. I had a very, very intense surgery. It went well -- I have great doctors and great rehab people."
All eyes will be on Orlando when he’s returns to the field as there will be plenty of questions about what type of player he will be this season. Will he face any limitations? Or can he return to being one of the better corners in the league? If Scandrick returns to his old self, this is going to be a huge addition to the defense. He’s a very reliable coverage guy and that’s going to come in handy when you have to face Odell Beckham Jr., DeSean Jackson, and whoever Philadelphia has as their best receiver.
But it’s not just his physical skills that makes him the player he is. Scandrick has swagger and plays with a vast sense of confidence. He works incredibly hard and this type of behavior is contagious. He’s no longer just a fifth-round guy who came along for the ride. Scandrick is one of the defensive leaders on this team and if you’re worried about his physical condition this season, that’s understandable, but rest assured – he’s not.
"When the season opens I’ll be 13 months post-surgery. I’m fine. I’ll be totally fine," he said. "I see myself working my way into training camp and being full-go very, very soon."
A full-go Scandrick is going to mean good things for the Cowboys secondary. Not only will the defense get one of the best skill players on the field, but with it comes the passion, the authority, and the fight. While we all will sit back and enjoy the touchdowns that Romo, Dez, and Zeke bring back to Dallas, Scandrick will just go about his business and do what he’s always done – play great football, with swagger and leadership.