Rookie Mini-camp Insider

We've got the inside story on 7 players who were invited for a "weekend tryout," as well as additional information on Brandon Middleton, Drew Henson, and two new punters who impressed in more ways than one this weekend!

Roughly 30 players showed up for the mini-camp. Eight players were chosen in last weekend's NFL Draft. Seven players (quarterback Brett Mitchell of Evengel College, linebacker Kitwana Jones of Hampton, safety Torri Stuckey of Northwestern, tight end Greg Garka of Evangel College, defensive tackle Bryan Williams of Alcorn State and guard Thomas Herrion of Utah) were invited for a "weekend tryout." The other players were free agents who signed with the Cowboys after the Draft.

Wide receiver James Newson, a free agent from Oregon State, pulled up in the Saturday afternoon workout with what appeared to be a slightly pulled hamstring. He wasn't limping, but spent Sunday's workout on a stationary bike and working with a trainer. ("He had a little hamstring, I think," head coach Bill Parcells said. "He'll be OK. And I told the guys: that's the kind of injury that will cost guys their job in training camp. They'll play through that.")

When he was drafted, running back Julius Jones was touted for his speed and his receiving ability, and with good reason: Jones made numerous catches, including a few one-handed grabs of laser-like passes from new quarterback Drew Henson. He also showed an extra gear, repeatedly bursting through the linebackers and defensive backs.

Former Dallas defensive tackle Russell Maryland made a guest appearance at practice Sunday.

Some players appear more eager to make a first impression than others. With the players split into offense and defense, two players won each of the sprints conducted before practice under the watchful eyes of Bill Parcells and his staff: wide receiver Brandon Middleton (University of Houston) finished each sprint first among offensive players, while linebacker Kitwana Jones led the defensive pack in the sprints.

Josh Boies is a rookie free agent from Temple University, and one of three at the mini-camp hoping to earn a spot as the new Dallas punter. While he and fellow punter Mat McBriar were launching 50- and 60-yard moonshots downfield during Sunday's practice, Boies uncorked one really impressive shot .... that hit special teams coach Steve Hoffman in his back. He might need to take up golf to learn about yelling "Fore!" when his aim goes awry.

If playing quarterback consisted of nothing more than the pure ability to throw a football, Drew Henson would have the job locked up for years to come. Henson is big and strong. He has the strongest arm of any Dallas quarterback since Troy Aikman, and maybe the strongest ever. He throws Aikman's signature deep out route effortlessly, sizzling the ball to the sideline with a quick flick of his powerful arm. He can throw deep post patterns with ease. However, with that said, don't look for him to play much -- if any -- this season. The Cowboys have been known to get impatient and throw rookie quarterbacks (Steve Walsh, Aikman, Quincy Carter, Chad Hutchinson) into action. But with the exception of Drew Bledsoe, Parcells is not fond of playing a rookie signal caller. One-way ticket to Dallas, Mr. Testaverde?

As is tradition, the rookies practiced in helmets that were conspicuously missing the team's signature star.

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