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Cowboys News & Notes: Lots Of OTA Updates, Dez Bryant Becoming The Leader

It was the second media day at Cowboys OTAs, and we are chock full of goodies.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys-OTA
Dez has become a leader.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Scout's Notebook: Intriguing Practice Battles, Wilson's Development; More - Bryan Broaddus, Dallas Cowboys
When the Cowboys open up practices, no one sees more than Bryan Broaddus. He has another report full of great information. One of his observations involved a connection we hope to see often this season.

One of Dak Prescott’s best throws of the day was the strike he delivered to Rico Gathers during Blitz Period. Prescott, standing in the middle of the pocket, managed to fit the ball between Byron Jones and a driving Robert Blanton. Gathers did a great job of working Jones up the field to the outside, then broke hard inside to buy the space. Prescott knew exactly where he was going with the ball and he let it fly right at chin level for Gathers to haul in. If the pass had been a tick late or off the mark, Blanton would’ve knocked it down.

Cowboys OTA Highlights: Stars Show Up, No Excuses For Nolan Carroll - Michael Sisemore, Blogging The Boys
If you missed it, make sure you catch Michael Sisemore's wrapup of social media reactions to the OTAs.

The stars showed up to check out some practices today and Jason Garrett sent a clear message to Nolan Carroll.

Entering His 8th Season, Dez Bryant Has Grown Into A Leader By Example - Jonathan Auping, Dallas Cowboys
Many have labeled Dez Bryant immature and a distraction in the past. But now, he is one of the veteran leaders of the team - and that's a good thing.

But much like Bryant learned from watching Witten every day, young players such as Prescott are likely learning from watching Bryant, who has played through numerous injuries over the years.

His on-field personality, which was once labeled a distraction, now sets a standard for expected intensity. It’s a wakeup call for the Cowboys’ rookie cornerbacks who have to face off against him in practice. Bryant says they’re answering that call.

“I like them,” Bryant said. “They have attitude, and that’s what I’m all about. Don’t get in front of me being all scared. I’ll expose it. They’re ready for battle. That’s what you need because this is the NFL. This is no longer college. If you’re food you’re going to [get eaten].”

Dez Bryant irked by Norman dis? 'Hell no,' says Dallas Cowboys wide receiver - news services

The reaction Bryant had to recent unflattering remarks by Josh Norman is one sign of his growth.

Asked if Norman's comments to Bleacher Report last week bothered him, Bryant said: "Hell no."

"No, no, no, no. Why would I respond to that? He'll see me when he sees me. When I line up against him, we're going to go at it. That's what it is," Bryant said.

"I don't have no words to say to him. ... There's no extra motivation. All I care about is me. All I care about is that first game, that second game, that third game, that fourth game, all the way up to the last game, all the way up to the playoffs."

Cowboys' Offense Settling Into Comfort Zone During Offseason Practices - David Helman, Dallas Cowboys
OTAs are when teams work on finding rhythm. But in Dallas, a lot of that has already been done, as Dak Prescott and his receivers have been putting in a lot of time on their own.

“I think most of that time was kind of done weeks before these OTAs,” Prescott said. “Right now it’s kind of just defining the routes down, you getting a feel for how they’re running their routes versus different coverages – man or zone.”

It’s a good point and a fortunate advantage for the Cowboys at this time of year. The vast majority of the offseason program is voluntary, but the majority of this team’s roster resides year-round in Dallas – and most of them have been working together as far back as February.

“I think the guys understand how important this time is – it’s particularly important now for everybody to be here and be a part of these each and every day so we can build our football team,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.

Garrett: “No Excuse” For Nolan Carroll’s Arrest; CB Has Taken Responsibility - Rob Phillips, Dallas Cowboys
Jason Garrett addressed Nolan Carroll's DUI incident in his signature fashion.

“It’s a disappointing situation,” head coach Jason Garrett said following Wednesday’s OTA session. “There is no explanation, no excuse for putting yourself in that situation.

“Nolan has taken responsibility for it, he’s been accountable to it not only with me and the coaching staff but with the team. He’s going to learn from the situation, we all can learn from the situation and move forward.”

Stephen Jones on Nolan Carroll DWI arrest: 'Nobody is perfect' - Patrik Walker, 247 Sports
While all the focus has been on the suspensions for the Cowboys, Patrik Walker points out that there is another indication of how things are going that is much more favorable.

To Jones' point, anything negative that involves the Star will be made into an instant headline -- feeding a narrative that suggests the Cowboys are one of most troubled teams in the NFL. The facts are quite contrary, however, as Dallas has had only 18 arrests since 2000.

That's good enough for fifth-fewest in the league, with 26 other teams surpassing them -- including the mind-warping arrest count on the Vikings (48), Broncos (46) and to a lesser extent, the Patriots (21).

DeMarcus Lawrence knows all about the 'rough patch' David Irving, Nolan Carroll are in - David Moore, SportsDay
It's not just the coaches that are involved in handling the suspended players.

This marks the fourth consecutive year the Cowboys will open the regular season with one or more key defensive players under suspension. Tight end Jason Witten said the players work to create an environment in the locker room that lets teammates know they're supported while defining standards and expecting accountability.

"I would never minimize the mistakes that were made," Witten said. "I don't think that would be fair in any of those situations. But mistakes happen and these guys are our teammates. Our job is to create an atmosphere where there is togetherness.

"The one thing about having been in a locker room is that you can never point that finger."

How are Chidobe Awuzie, the Cowboys rookie DB group looking one month in? - Jon Epstein, SportsDay
After a major rebuild of the secondary, the Cowboys are looking for a lot from their rookie corners and safety.

How does the group look a month after the draft?

"Really good," defensive backs coach Joe Baker said after Wednesday's OTA run-through. "They're all really smart, they love the game, just like we talked about through the draft process. They're coming out and competing."

Baker wasn't unrealistic about how far the rookies have come in under a month. Sure, they need to get tighter on coverage and have a "long way to go." But he's seeing improvement each day.

Cowboys' secondary will be as strong as their 2017 pass rush - Patrik Walker, 247 Sports
While the new faces will be important for the Dallas secondary, they are not operating in a vacuum.

What's certain is that if the Cowboys want turn the corner in 2017 and finally land their sixth franchise Super Bowl win, they'll need their pass rush to aid their secondary, and vice versa. Without the former, the latter will lack the takeaways the team so desperately needs.

Despite the narrative, all was not lost in the way of QB pressure from the Cowboys in 2016. They were 13th in the NFL with 36 sacks, only five away from launching into the top five.

Dallas Cowboys' Charles Tapper looking to make up for lost time - Todd Archer, Dallas Cowboys Blog- ESPN
After missing his entire rookie year to injury, Charles Tapper is fired up about just being able to practice.

"I've got an extra edge," Tapper said. "They say I got to slow it down, it's still OTAs, you got to calm it down a little it, don't just go 110 mph. I'm thinking, 'I'm back full throttle, full go. They're like, 'Tap, you might want to go 100. Don't be on the ground diving,' and things like that. I'm trying to tone it down a little bit."

Death of the Blind Side: Why Left Tackles Matter Less - Andy Benoit, The MMQB
The Cowboys continue to search for a true RDE to rush the blind side, long seen as the best way to get pressure on the QB. But Andy Benoit raises the question of whether that is still reality.

But with football’s constant evolution, conventional wisdom inevitably reaches the point of becoming flawed. The question is: When it comes to the blind side, have we reached that point?

In the current NFL landscape, the overwhelming majority of top pass rushers play left defensive end or linebacker, which means they line up across from the right tackle. That includes J.J. Watt, Von Miller, Khalil Mack, Justin Houston, Joey Bosa, Vic Beasley, Cameron Wake, Cliff Avril, Markus Golden, Ryan Kerrigan, Carlos Dunlap, Cameron Jordan, Jason Pierre-Paul and Danielle Hunter, a 22-year-old rising star who recorded 12.5 sacks for the Vikings last year.

NFLPA is warning players to start saving money now for a 2021 lockout - Adam Stiles,
Most observers felt the NFL won over the NFLPA in the last CBA. The players' organization is already making plans to change that when the current agreement ends, which may be bad news for the fans if things drag out.

The 2011 lockout ended after 132 days, and most have since declared the NFL the big winners in the negotiation. With another labor dispute on the horizon, the NFLPA is trying to proactively teach the values of money management so it has more leverage for a longer fight.

"We need players of every generation to really help the young guys understand what it takes to go through some 'labor strife,'" he said. “For the players who went through it in 2011, the union administration and player leadership did everything it could to prepare players across the league. I think it needs to happen again with the same sort of fervor."

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