DAY TWO: Mini-camp Insider

IRVING, Tex. - Check out more insider news and notes as TheRanchReport.com brings you the latest from the Cowboys' rookie mini-camp.

Faces in the crowd: Whenever the Cowboys — even the rookies — get together, famous faces tend to pop up. At Saturday's morning session, Emmitt Smith showed up, looking as if he'd just stepped off the golf course. Also in attendance were Nate Newton, Chris Canty and Jay Ratliff — the last two having far more fun than they would have had they been taking part in the drills. In the afternoon, the media horde thinned to about a dozen (roughly a quarter of the number who were in attendance Friday), and was joined on the sideline by former Dallas coach Barry Switzer and his former star Oklahoma (and later Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders) running back, Greg Pruitt.

A line of one: If there really is a difference between sitting in a classroom and working with a private tutor, then Brandon Hale learned more this weekend than any other player in camp. The 6-foot-3, 311-pound rookie from Sam Houston State is the only offensive lineman in attendance, and has spent the vast majority of the last two days in one-on-one sessions with offensive line coach Hudson Houck. Punter Jay Ottovegio also is the lone player at his position, but has been left to his own self-tutoring for much of the weekend.

Lighter, faster, stronger: Second-year quarterback Richard Bartel is a shadow of his former self — although the shadow he cast last year was as big as that of any quarterback in the NFL outside of New York Giants backup Jared Lorenzen (6-4, 285) or Oakland's JaMarcus Russell (listed at 6-6 and 260 … although offseason reports had him over 300 pounds). Bartel said he carried as much as 259 pounds last year on his frame … which this year is being listed as an inch shorter — 6-foot-3 — than it was last year. "I had to get my feet quicker — the coaches suggested it, and I spent the whole offseason in here with (strength and conditioning coach) Joe Juraszek. He changed up what I was doing, in terms of conditioning. It's not like I suddenly went on some ‘fat guy diet' or anything. I just came in to see him, and we worked with lower weight and did a lot more reps, worked in the sand pit — that kind of thing. All of a sudden, it's 10 or 12 weeks later, and I looked at myself and said ‘Damn, I lost 30 pounds.' I was strong last year, but I was really too big, I think. I can already feel the difference, even in a mini-camp like this. I'm not getting winded nearly as quickly as I did before."

Catching on: Several receivers made stellar receptions Saturday. In the morning session, running back Alonzo Coleman reached up for a pass that was slightly behind him and pulled it in with one hand. A little later, wide receiver Mark Bradford got spun around on a route Jason Garrett had shown him, and still stretched his arms out as far as possible, snagged the pass and got both feet down in-bounds … and right in front of owner Jerry Jones. Running back Felix Jones beat linebacker Alain Karatepeyan downfield and angled toward the sideline, and when the pass was underthrown, outleaped his pursuer to make a sensational grab over his outside shoulder. Danny Amendola continued to display the best hands in camp — and it's not even close — collecting an array of leaning catches along the sidelines and snatching passes in front of defensive backs eyeing interceptions. Alas, not everyone has shown the consistency coaches look for. Wide receiver Mike Jefferson, one of the few players in camp with a year of experience under his belt, had more drops in both sessions Friday and Saturday than anyone. Some were errant passes that nobody would have caught, but there were several that hit him in the hands or on the "85" on his jersey and bounced harmlessly to the ground.

Getting the picture: Rookie tight end Martellus Bennett was better Saturday than he was Friday. After constantly being scolded by the coaches to pull the ball in tight and hold it high when running with it (he had been swinging the ball loosely on his first day), he did exactly that Saturday, locking the ball firmly under his shoulder. He still broke off routes in a casual job when the ball went elsewhere, prompting coaches to remind him to "spring to the end zone!" even when the ball ended up in another player's hands. He drew deafening silence when he didn't lay out for a pass that was just a couple of feet in front of him, but overall, he caught the ball better than he did Friday. He denied having tweaked his hamstring, although he clearly grabbed the back of his right leg and sat out the last few drills yesterday afternoon, and although he grabbed it a couple more times Saturday and was seen limping slightly a couple of times, he fought through any discomfort and completed both practices completely.

Georgia … on Jerry's mind? The Southeast produces a lot of talented players, and selecting players for NFL tryouts isn't as regional as college recruiting often is, but of the 27 players in camp this weekend, a disproportionate number of players — four — hail from Georgia. Running back Tashard Choice is from Riverdale, defensive end Marcus Dixon is from Rome, defensive end Darrell Robertson is from Jonesboro and linebacker Erick Walden is from Dublin. There's no reason not to have players from a particular state, of course, but that seems like a disproportionately high number for a state that is not viewed, like Florida, Texas, California or Pennsylvania, as one of the real hotbeds of football talent.

Something in the way he moves: Danny Amendola may not be the fastest receiver on the team — although he certainly isn't slow — but there are those who have made fine careers without being pure sprinters, thanks to reliable hands and exceptional moves that help create space. Amendola's hands are beyond debate, and he had the two best moves of the day Saturday, as well. On one drill, he applied a series of fakes and jukes that tied up safety Dowayne Davis' feet so badly the rookie free agent from Syracuse ended up falling to the ground as Amendola cruised by to make an easy catch. Shortly thereafter, he crossed up Orlando Scandrick enough that Scandrick came all the way out of his shoe trying to keep up.


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