• TE Dan Campbell missed much of last season on injured reserve, and head coach Bill Parcells frequently commented about how the absence of Campbell -- a dominant blocker -- affected the Dallas running game. If first-day performances can be relied on, the Dallas offense should get a boost from Campbell's return. The Texas A&M product was back on the field with his teammates Friday. He showed no lingering effects of the foot injury that cut short his season last year, running crisp pass routes, accelerating quickly out of breaks and displayed good hands catching passes from QBs Drew Bledsoe, Drew Henson and Tony Romo. And in blocking drills, he manhandled several LBs and DBs repeatedly.
• Many players like to joke about how kickers and punters aren't "real"
football players -- maybe they're not the only ones who think that's
the case. Parcells often preaches the value of special teams -- he said
Friday that one of his goals for improving his team is to get more from
the kicking game. But how focused is he on the little guys who practice
by themselves, away from the other players? While walking to check on
the defensive ends, who were doing a drill off the side of the field
with a blocking sled, Parcells walked right between K Brett Visintainer
and P Clinton Greathouse. Greathouse was punting toward the Cowboys'
indoor practice facility on the side of the practice field, and
Visintainer was shagging balls and throwing them back to him. One
Visintainer toss -- let's be fair, he's not going to evoke images of
Brett Favre with his arm, but he throws pretty well for a guy trying to
make his living with his feet -- barely sailed over the head of
Parcells, who not only didn't duck, but seemingly didn't even notice
Visintainer and Greathouse were there.
• Rookie DE Chris Canty, who spent the team's rookie mini-camp working
only on his conditioning, took part in limited drills Friday. Taking
his place on the sideline Friday were rookie LB Kevin Burnett, OL Tyson
Walter and G Marco Rivera, all of whom worked with the team's training
and conditioning staff while their teammates went through drills.
• Do rookies get a fair shake? In one-on-one drills among the linemen,
C Andre Gurode drew howls of praise from his teammates for pancaking
rookie DT Chris Van Hoy, even though he beat the undrafted free agent
by grabbing two fistfuls of Van Hoy's jersey and yanking him to the
ground in a textbook example of NFL holding. On the next play, rookie C
Matt Tarullo stopped fourth-year DE Kenyon Coleman in his tracks, stood
him up and drove him backward -- legally. Tarullo's teammates virtually
ignored the effort.
• When the Cowboys' rookies convened in Valley Ranch a few weeks ago
for the team's rookie mini-camp, Parcells said first-rounder Marcus
Spears needed to get in better shape. In the month since, Spears
dropped 13 pounds, according to his coach, and it seems to be paying
off. Spears looked much quicker Friday than he did in April. On one
play, he sprinted untouched past OT Torrin Tucker en route to the QB.
After practice, Tucker was called out by a visibly annoyed Parcells for
showing up "considerably overweight."
• The reports out of Buffalo that Bledsoe had lost some of his arm
strength seem to be comical, at best. Bledsoe showed up in exceptional
physical condition, and repeatedly fired passes that the Dallas
receivers either didn't see or simply couldn't handle. The Cowboys have
long had a fondness for passers with strong arms -- see Drew Henson,
Vinny Testaverde, Troy Aikman, even Chad Hutchinson -- but Bledsoe's
might be the strongest of them all.
• Henson barely resembles the rookie QB who spent most of his debut
season as Testaverde's caddy. For all the attention paid to Henson last
year as the QB-in-waiting, he had flaws in his mechanics that hampered
his accuracy. He has a strong arm, but sometimes last year dropped his
passing hand to the point that it almost looked like he was still
playing baseball, trying to throw out a runner at first base. Henson
spent the offseason working extensively on his mechanics, and it
showed. He displayed a high release point in drills Friday, and his arm
strength and accuracy seemed much improved.
• The early impressions of Bledsoe -- from teammates and media alike --
were positive, but that didn't mean all of his new teammates were
awe-struck. In one passing drill, Bledsoe pump-faked an out pass,
inducing several defensive players to race toward WR Tom Crowder, who
then raced down the sideline after a Bledsoe bomb. With a seemingly
clear path to the end zone, Crowder went up for the pass … only to see
it knocked away at the last second by new DB candidate Bobby Sippio
(6-3, 215), a Dallas Desperados star who was signed Thursday. Sippio,
who suffered a sprained knee in training camp last year with the Miami
Dolphins, came all the way across the middle of the field to make the
play -- no small accomplishment considering the pace of Bledsoe's pass.
• Five players fielded punts after practice: RB Marion Barber, WR
Zuriel Smith, WR Jamaica Rector, CB Lance Frazier and CB Terence
Newman. A dangerous return man at Kansas State, Newman was deemed to
valuable at CB to risk injury as a return man in his first two seasons
in Dallas. But Parcells clearly has great confidence in CBs Anthony
Henry and Aaron Glenn -- who he compared to Darrell Green in terms of
his physique and the professional manner in which he prepares for games
and cares for his body, and suggested that Glenn could have a career of
similar duration as the 20 years Green played in Washington. Parcells
didn't say anything to indicate that Newman's importance on defense has
diminished, but he was adamant about how much more confident he is with
the talent at CB.
Mini-camp Insider: Day One
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