The Dallas Cowboys have held exactly two days of practices in their 2017 training camp in Oxnard. And it feels like they have had a month’s worth of events and developments already.
The weird, strange story of Lucky Whitehead is now done for Dallas, but it has certainly left a mess in its wake. Head coach Jason Garrett’s daily press conference Tuesday was cut short after only about three minutes when all the questions were about Whitehead. And Jerry Jones let some of the anger show about the media coverage of the incident after practice.
"I've never talked to a player that I didn't have empathy. If you all (media) have done one thing in my time to criticize me, it is how I will back up a player to a fault. You've done it. You've done it for years. I will back them up to a fault.''
Jones' voice began to shake as he continued.
"So when we do make a decision around here that's in the best interest of the team to move on, there's one thing you can forget about and that is whether you're being fair or whether you've given it consideration of what it means to the individual,'' Jones said. "That doesn't happen around here.”
In a way, it was good that this happened right off the bat for the Cowboys. It was not handled well in several ways, but it will fade into memory over time. And it may have been better for Whitehead to hit the market now than when the 90 man roster gets down. He has a much better chance of catching on elsewhere and establishing a role for himself with a new team.
But that is now done with (although we are still almost certain to hear more about it). And Tuesday brought a couple of much-needed bits of good news.
First, La’el Collins was signed to a two-year contract extension. This is clear evidence of the much more prevalent way Jones and the Cowboys treat players. When Collins was caught up in a murder investigation just before the NFL draft where he was expected to be a highly sought after player, he lost millions. But the Jones family promised him that if he came to play for them as a UDFA signee, they would take care of him. And they did, extending him through 2019 with over $15 million in potential earnings, including a nice bonus he gets to pocket right away. As for the right tackle position, the competition is clearly over before it even began. Now the team is trying to also get an extension done with Zack Martin, which would lock down four of the five offensive line starters for the foreseeable future. That only leaves the left guard job to be determined, and signs are that it is now down to Chaz Green or Jonathan Cooper. Replacing Doug Free and Ron Leary was seen as one of the biggest tasks for the Cowboys this season, and they are much closer to having that done than anyone really expected at this point.
Away from Oxnard, rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis had his day in court over a misdemeanor domestic violence case. He was found not guilty of both counts he was charged with, and is expected to join the team in camp Wednesday. Lewis was seen as one of the best defensive backs available in this year’s draft, but Dallas managed to get him in the third round after he slid due to concerns over the case. Although the NFL has not weighed in on any action they would take, the current belief is that he should be able to play without suspension this year.
Oh, and there was stuff on the field, too.
The Jaylon Smith watch continued, and he impressed yet again. More importantly, he practiced two days in a row. That bodes well for the rest of the season. It remains to be seen if he will participate fully when the pads come on for the first time Wednesday, but he has already done more than most expected.
There were several Cowboys who were expected to be on a limited practice schedule, but surprisingly, only Benson Mayowa was reported to have been held out due to some knee soreness (as far as I could tell from social media reports). Players like DeMarcus Lawrence, Charles Tapper, James Hanna, Geoff Swaim, and Mark Nzeocha all put in back-to-back days of work. Health is the biggest concern throughout camp, and it is very encouraging to see all of them holding up so far.
Speaking of Lawrence and Tapper, both received good notices during practice. With the continuing concerns over the pass rush, it is a welcome sign when observers are praising their speed, strength, and effort. Again, this was before pads are donned, but it leads to an interesting thought. The Cowboys under Rod Marinelli rotate their defensive linemen throughout games. Perhaps they will find a “war daddy by committee” solution to things. In any case, it was very encouraging to see two candidates for rushing the passer doing so well.
Now the team will start working in full pads, and that will give us a better idea of the shape the 2017 roster will be in. And with a couple of major off field problems now behind them, the Cowboys will hopefully be able to focus on football things.
But it has been a hectic start to camp. Let’s hope we can all catch our breath for a bit.