Cowboys Report: Ro, Sam Scoop, Practice Video
THE LEAD STORY: The Dallas Cowboys are still dancing around the truth, which is that they trying to hand the starting middle linebacker job to Rolando McClain.
And McClain is still dancing around doing enough to actually take the job.
On Monday, as the Cowboys began preparations for Sunday's opener against visiting San Francisco, McClain was to be a centerpiece of the workout, starting at Mike while flanked by Bruce Carter (weakside) and Justin Durant (strongside).
And then this happened:
You see, at the 1:10 mark, McClain coming off the blocking sled and into the next obstacle, yelling out an expletive, and limping off.
A few minutes later, he's wearing a white sleeve on his right knee (which was not present in the previous video) as his mills about the outskirts of linebackers drills:
What happened was clear: McClain tweaked his right knee. Or thought he did. Or something. And then took some time off due to the tweak.
And then we got to the post-practice locker room to visit with the controversial talent.
Rolando, did you tweak your right knee early in practice?
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” McClain said.
You know. The sleeve. The knee. The tweak. (The one we all saw during the media-open portion of Monday's practice).
“I’m ready,'' Rolando said. "I’m great.”
In truth, he is neither. He is, at the very least, still struggling with conditioning -- physically or mentally or whatever.
“I’m from Alabama, so the heat’s not the problem,” McClain said. “The problem is running around without a helmet for 20 months, training and working out, and then you put the helmet on and it’s a different element. That’s the biggest difference, just getting used to breathing and everything with the helmet on.”
So the guy Dallas wants to start at middle linebacker in a pro football game is having trouble breathing while his head is inside a pro football helmet?!
"I still love the game like I’m an 8-, 9-year old kid,'' McClain insisted. "It’s just about getting back into it, building chemistry with some of these guys, some trust and just playing and having fun, really.”
Here's hoping Rolando McClain is having as much fun at football as he's having at being intentionally enigmatic.
SO WHO PLAYS LB? Coach Jason Garrett is trying to be coy about who his starting linebackers are. A buoyant Bruce Carter is happy to note his inclusion.
“I think Sam,” Carter said of his spot. “JD (Justin Durant) is at Will and Rolando is at Mike. And then I play Will in nickel.”
That means, for one thing, that McClain returned to practice and stayed ahead of rookie Anthony Hitchens in the middle. It also means the group is as interchangeable as Garrett says it is, becuse Carter and Durant have played other spots ... though "black-and-white'' seems wiser to me.
“As far as our game plan, I feel like it’s black and white,” Carter said. “We’re just going to have to line up and it’s kind of old-school where we just line up and just beat the man in front of you.
ROMO IN ACTION: The conservative approach with Tony Romo's back must, as some point, give way to full-throttle towards gameday. That point might be now.
“We anticipate a full week of practice,’’ Garrett said of Romo, who worked in the helmets-and-shorts practice on Monday. “But again, we’ll monitor how he does with the work we give him.’’
Like everything with Garrett, this has been a "process.''
“The thing I kept reminding Tony about as we went through this process starting all the way back in the spring is the goal is to be ready for the 49ers on September 7,’’ Garrett said. “We are going to find a way, somehow some way. We are going to get you to that point where you are ready to go and hopefully beyond that. Play this game and that’s the start of a heck of a year for you.''
Here's Romo doing his thing Monday with Dez and Witten:
MELTON FIRED UP: Defensive end George Selvie (shoulder) did not practice but told that he will "absolutely" be ready for Sunday. Cornerback Mo Claiborne and defensive tackles Terrell McClain and Henry Melton did work. Mo will need to start. McClain probably will not. Melton is fired up to be on the field for the first time in a year.
“I am excited,” the new Cowboy and former Bears Pro Bowler said. “It’s going to be my first game week in almost a year.”
Melton tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last September. He's been slowed by a groin this summer but he's been held back largely as a precautionary measure.
“I am excited and ready to go,” Melton said.
THE THIRD QB: The Cowboys often talk about keeping a third quarterback. Dustin Vaughan, an undrafted free agent out of West Texas A&M, has gotten beyond the talk.
“I’m honored and blessed to have this opportunity to play for the Dallas Cowboys and hopefully it continues,” Vaughan said of being on the 53. "Hopefully I have a long future with these guys.”
Vaughan is undoubtedly aware that nothing is set in stone here. But he does believe in himself.
"I thought I could handle it and I thought I could make it," he said. "That’s the attitude you need to have and you need to have that kind of confidence.”
Added Garrett: “We feel Dustin has a lot of potential. We feel like he has a lot of really good traits. He’s a smart guy. He’s instinctive. He’s big, he can throw it. He just needs to play."
Well, he's not going to "play." But he's the third QB. So he is going to practice.
P-SQUAD WINNER: Ryan Williams has rebuilt his career. And while it hasn't landed him in a Sunday backfield yet, the oft-injured runner loves the idea of continuing the build in Dallas.
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PATMON FEVER: A Video Visit with Tyler Patmon, who came from nowhere to earn a cornerback job:
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ONSIDE KICKS: Churning continues: The Cowboys waived DB Jemea Thomas to make room for LB Korey Toomer - a 2012 5th-round Seahawks pick. Meanwhile, safety Ahmad Dixon is not only on the roster, but didn't exactly get a glowing report from the head coach when asked about his P-Squad candidacy. Dixon was waived so Dallas could sign C.J. Spillman, a 49ers special-teams ace. Dallas also added fullback Nikita Whitlock to the practice squad. ... The Cowboys reached injury settlements with Justin Green, Zach Minter and Johnny Thomas. ... Seventh-round pick Terrance Mitchell, the corner cut by Dallas, has joined the Bears practice squad ... Dallas thinks newcomer Donald Hawkins can play tackle, and that's where he worked Monday. A released tackle, John Wetzel, could boomerang back to the practice squad on Tuesday. ... Lance Dunbar lining up in the slot continues to be a practice-time experiment.
QUOTABLE: "For me it's about the teams you play every year, the division rivals. So it is Washington and the Giants and right now especially Philadelphia, maybe because that loss that ended our season is the one fresh on my mind." - Tyron Smith, to CowboysHQ, on Dallas' top rival.
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THE FINAL WORD: So, why no Michael Sam?
First, to the issue of why the name of the undrafted, unemployed undersized rookie -- obviously a playmaker in college but clearly not regarded as one by the pro talent evaluators -- gets attached to Dallas on a Monday: It's the same reason Ryan Mallett gets attached to Dallas on a Sunday. It's now a masturbatory exercise ... masturbatory and by-rote, really.
Fact: The Cowboys personnel department never gave Sam a high grade. Not before the draft. Not after the draft. Not even earlier in his fine college career before the news of his sexuality was released.
Dallas isn't downgrading him because of the potential "circus.'' That's not the personnel department's job. That would be Jerry Jones' job to decide, yes or no, and this decision has never risen to Jones' level in the building because the personnel department's grade on a below-seventh-round talent intercepts the concept before it ever gets to the owner.
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