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Cowboys news: OTA highlights, Zack Martin sits out, and a Rico sighting

And there was a new policy announced that is not likely to quiet things much.

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys-OTA Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Five takeaways from the Dallas Cowboys' first week of OTAs - Drew Davison, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Davison summarizes the action from Wednesday, May 23, 2018, when OTAs opened to media, including reporters and photographers. Here are a few of his observations:

With Martin out, Chaz Green worked at right guard with the first team during Wednesday’s practice. Green had a forgettable season a year ago, particularly the debacle in Atlanta when he couldn’t contain Adrian Clayborn.

Starting at tight end, with Witten retired, was Geoff Swaim, the most-tenured tight end on the roster. Swaim is entering his fourth season with the team.

Blake Jarwin, who joined the team as an undrafted free agent last year, also got reps at tight end with the first team.

Donovan Olumba, an undrafted corner out of Portland State, came away with an interception off a deflection on a pass thrown by Dalton Sturm. Sturm threw an interception later in practice with former Texas A&M quarterback-turned-DB Jameill Showers coming down with it.

Scout’s Eye: Impressive Newcomers; More - Bryan Broaddus, Dallas Cowboys
Broaddus shares his impressions from Wednesday in a highly readable piece. Here are some highlights:

I didn’t realize how easily Jihad Ward moved in person. His tape while at Oakland didn’t show that, but it’s a different story when you’re watching live. His initial quickness and lateral ability were impressive. I was surprised by how he was able to redirect without any wasted movement. He was difficult to handle for these guards due to his quickness and power.

Cedrick Wilson sure is smooth running routes. I liked what I saw from him driving Anthony Brown off the ball, then turning outside as Brown continued up the field. Cooper Rush put the ball in a perfect spot for Wilson to secure the first down. He also had a nice block on Duke Thomas to Trey Williams on a long run. Sanjay Lal came over and slapped him on the back after he was able to finish that one.

Nice poise by Mike White during blitz period handling a high snap, gathering the ball in and firing a strike to Michael Gallup on the slant. It would have been easy for White to panic in that situation, but he remained calm and executed a perfect throw in a difficult situation.

Sean Lee’s Workload: Proceeding Careful-Lee - Staff, Dallas Cowboys
The punmasters at the mothership had fun with this headline.

Sean Lee doesn’t like sitting out a voluntary OTA workout, much less regular-season game snaps. But the Cowboys, as they’ve done in the past, are taking a deliberate approach with the veteran linebacker’s offseason work to help ensure he’s ready for his ninth season.

Lee dealt with a hamstring injury intermittently last season but still led the Cowboys in tackles (118) despite missing the better part of six games.

“It’s the same process we kind of use this time of year,” he said. “It’s tough not being out there because you want to be out there trying to lead from the front. But there’s perspective this time of year that we’ve got to build towards training camp and build towards the year.”

Cowboys OTA’s: Full Recap of the second day of Cowboys OTA’s - Michael Sisemore, Blogging The Boys
Sisemore gathers all the sights and sounds from day two of the organized team activities.

Zack Martin does not participate on first day of Dallas Cowboys OTAs - Todd Archer, ESPN
Martin, who had been working out with teammates, has yet to participate in the Cowboys' OTAs as negotiations continue.

The OTAs are voluntary, but Martin had been working out with teammates since the captains' workouts more than a month before the official start of the offseason program in April.

Garrett said Martin worked out with the team's strength and conditioning coaches Tuesday instead of participating in the first day of OTAs.

"We'll see. Hopefully it gets done," Martin told reporters last week about the possibility of a new contract. "We'll see where it goes."

Zack Martin not participating in Cowboys OTAs while he awaits a new contract - Jared Dubin,
The Cowboys and Martin are still negotiating a long-term deal to keep him in Dallas.

Martin, arguably the best offensive lineman in all of football, is expected to become the highest-paid guard in the league at some point. The Cowboys and Martin have been maintaining since the guard became extension-eligible last offseason that they want to work out a long-term deal that keeps him in Dallas, but they have yet to come to such an agreement.

He is going to get paid at some point, likely on a deal that exceeds the five-year, $66.5 million contract ($30 million guaranteed) signed by Andrew Norwell this offseason. It's just a matter of when, and what the structure looks like.

All-Pro guard Zack Martin - in midst of contract dealings - skips Dallas Cowboys OTAs - Mike Fisher, 247 Sports
One of the biggest things to come out of OTAs so far has been Zack Martin sitting things out

There is little doubt this is all about the contract not being done yet.

The OTAs are voluntary - but that doesn’t mean Martin’s gesture is without meaning.

Last week, Martin for the first time sounded one notch less than optimistic when I asked him about his contract status.

“I think (the distraction issue) has been better after we’ve gotten into the facility with all the guys; I really don’t think about it now, because I’m with those guys working out and kind of back to normal,'' he told me, adding, "We'll see what happens.''

What's happening now? Martin isn't in the facility with all the guys.

Chaz Green fills in as RG1 for absent Zack Martin at OTAs | Garrett Robertson, Cowboys Wire
With Zack Martin out of OTAs, it looks like Chaz Green is getting a shot at redemption.

What’s interesting is the club signed Marcus Martin and Joe Looney in the offseason. Both can play both center and guard. After drafting Connor Williams from the University of Texas in the second round to play left guard, the team choosing Green over the other veterans to be the first guard off the bench is noteworthy.

Stephen Jones says Dak Prescott doesn’t need a ‘true No. 1’ receiver. Here’s why he’s right – Saad Yousuf, The Athletic (paywall)
An interesting look at the difference between Dak Prescott and Tony Romo, and why that has led to a different approach to the offensive roster.

Speaking of Romo, the former Cowboys quarterback pointed out the disappearance of the back-shoulder pass as to why Bryant’s production has decreased when he called the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. While it’s a fair criticism and Romo perfected the route with Bryant, it just isn’t Prescott’s strength, at least at this stage in his career. Romo, while not quite as accurate, played a style similar to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. It’s why guys like Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham, big bodies with a large catch radius, flourished with Brees but Graham couldn’t reciprocate that level of production with Russell Wilson in Seattle.

Prescott – albeit nowhere near as skilled at this point – plays a style derivative of Tom Brady’s rather than Brees. To be clear, nobody is foolish enough to compare Prescott’s abilities or resume to those of perhaps the greatest of all time, but the style of play between the two does have similarities, as does the offense around them. Here is what Brady had to say in 2017 prior to the Super Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons.

“I think the fortunate thing for me is the system has been shaped to adapt to the things I do well,” Brady said. “Every player has strengths and weaknesses. Over the years the system, they have tried to support me with a strong offensive line, which we have, a solid running game, which we have, receivers who are very versatile, smart and disciplined and we have those, tight ends that can do both things in the running and passing game, which we have.”

Does that supporting cast surrounding Brady in New England ring a bell? It should, because it’s how the Cowboys are built right now; pretty much the definition of a “Dak-friendly” offense. A No. 1 receiver is not part of the description. It’s why Brady was able to make a Pro Bowl receiver out of Wes Welker but couldn’t click with Chad Johnson. In the same way, it’s why after three years with Romo (2012-2014), Beasley set career-highs in receptions and yards and tied his career-high touchdowns with a rookie quarterback in Prescott in 2016. It’s all about the fit.

Dallas Cowboys set to unveil Dak Prescott-friendly offense in OTAs - Todd Archer, ESPN
Whether "Dak-friendly" is a real thing or not, there are more and more hints about why the wide receiver corps has undergone such a major change.

As a rookie, Prescott excelled when throwing outside the pocket, but defenses were able to contain that better in 2017. The Cowboys want to do more with Prescott on the move, but they want to improve their play-action and run-action games to give him easier, quicker throws.

“One of Dak’s strongest points has been his progressions,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “He likes to read through a progression -- one, two, three, four. He likes to do that and get it to the right player rather than maybe have pressure to get to a player.”

Rico Gathers confirms he was cleared from concussion after Week 7, says Cowboys left him on IR - R.J. Ochoa, Blogging The Boys
Gathers said that he was cleared after Week 7, but the Cowboys apparently stashed him on IR.

It’s a bad look for the Cowboys that their own player is publicly saying that he was cleared to come back but that they left him on injured reserve for over half the season. It’s outright saying that the Cowboys manipulated the status of injured reserve.

A Delightful Cowboys Sight: Rico Gathers Engaging In The Grind - Mike Fisher, 105.3 The Fan
Big step or baby step? What matters is that it was a step at all.

It was a delightful sight: Rico Gathers wasn't doing anything spectacular on the field, he wasn't performing a rap song, he wasn't issuing a pithy quote -- all of which he's fully capable of.

He was simply lined up in a special-teams coverage drill, taking his turn in a mundane practice, involving himself in the grind of being a potential NFL roster member with the task of rolling a boulder up a hill.

"I could just tell by the drift of the season and the drift of the coaching staff that I probably wasn’t going to play this last year, anyway," he said of his 2017 season, when a concussion sidelined him for, seemingly, forever.

Gathers said he was cleared medically to come back at midseason (something maybe the Cowboys brass would prefer he keep a lid on) and Gathers said he could've really helped the offense last season.

Ezekiel Elliott being more vocal at Dallas Cowboys OTAs - Drew Davison, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Elliott has become more vocal on the practice field during OTAs than in his previous seasons.

“I have been a little more vocal,” Elliott said. “That's definitely something I'm focusing in on this offseason. Not only leading by example but coming out and encouraging guys.

“I feel like we all need to do that. I think going into my third year, it's about time. Me and Coach Brown, we talked about that this offseason. We both thought that was something I should focus on.”

The new league policy on protests during the national anthem was announced on Wednesday. Please keep any discussions about them civil.

NFL Discussing Possible Steps To Deal With Anthem Protests | 105.3 The Fan staff
However you may feel about the protests that took place during the national anthem last season, it is certainly going to be part of the story again this year. It is interesting that when the topic came up during the NFL meetings this week, the press immediately turned to Jerry Jones for comment.

Anthem protests are a much thornier issue.

"We certainly want to make and will make a thought-out, deliberate decision," said Jones, who has made it clear he opposes kneeling during the anthem and was one of the few people to speak with reporters in the hotel lobby after the meeting broke up. "Whatever we do, let's put the focus on what the NFL's about and that's playing football."

The owners began discussing the issue — which has reached all the way to the White House — and will talk more before wrapping up their meetings Wednesday.

Here are the rules announced by the league.

If the league intended to put this to rest, it doesn’t look like they succeeded.

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