The juice is good.
That’s a phrase you might hear rather often if you’re strolling through Oxnard, California when the Dallas Cowboys are battling each other in training camp. This may be a tight ball club with a never-ending supply of offseason hangouts, but when they’re on the field - it’s a different story. This is especially true for the respective units. There is a definitive line drawn in the sand between the offense and defense, and if you are not a friend, then you’re a foe and expect no love from the man standing across from you.
Every year, there seems to be at least one heated battle between two players that appear to eventually get under each other’s skin. Last year, it was between All-Pro center Travis Frederick and free agent acquisition Antwaun Woods. We didn’t know it at the time, but Woods was a feisty player that can be quite an irritant for interior blockers.
Woods went undrafted and spent the first two years of his career trying to find a home with the Tennessee Titans. After being waived and re-signed multiple times, the Titans finally cut him loose for good last May. He only managed to see the field for one game in that span. The Cowboys signed him a week later, and just like that Woods had a fresh start but he was fighting for a roster spot back then. Little did we know he would emerge as the team’s starting 1-tech because at first, he looked like just another guy who might fight his way on as a depth guy if he had a good camp. And indeed, a good camp is what he had as it didn’t take long before he started turning heads of the coaching staff. Of course, giving Frederick all he could handle certainly helped his cause.
Woods was constantly a handful for the Cowboys interior line last year. As you can see from the video, despite being taken to the ground, Woods makes sure that Frederick hits the deck with him. Both players stare each other down and the veteran center has some choice words for the youngster, only Woods was having none of it. The next thing you know, Woods throws a punch and - it’s on. You even have another All-Pro lineman in Zack Martin flying through the air as if he’s a pro wrestler.
The Cowboys are no strangers to turning up the intensity in these practices. The team is preparing for big moments in the game where they need to be their best. Adding a little extra juice to these types of moments is valuable as the coaching staff has worked hard to instill this team with a lot of fight. This is the type of environment they try to create, so ultimately these types of scuffles are bound to happen.
Just as we didn’t know what they had in Woods last year, the same is also true with Frederick. Shortly thereafter, Frederick started having shoulder and neck issues, causing him to be held out of practice. It wasn’t that alarming at first as the team thought he was just suffering from stingers, but later that month he was diagnosed with Guillian-Barré syndrome, a disease that affects the nervous system. The Cowboys were super cautious with him, as he never saw the field again last season, allowing him to work on his recovery. Since he was diagnosed early, the team is very optimistic about him being able to make a full recovery. All reports so far have indicated that Frederick looks really good in his return to on-field work.
That means that Frederick and Woods will have another shot to go after each other in camp this year. It could be a different version of Frederick if muscle weakness was hampering him last year. But at the same time, it’s going to be more refined version of Woods as well. With a year of experience and a little more swagger to his already confident personality, things are shaping up for more intense moments in the trenches at Oxnard.