Mini-camp Insider: Day One

• 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.

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