Tuesday A.M. Mini-camp Insider

IRVING, Tex. - Read insider news and notes from Tuesday's morning mini-camp session held at Valley Ranch.

WEATHER OR NOT: Tuesday's morning session was cut short by a storm that blew in — fast — from the north. Dark clouds rolled in extremely quickly, offering a brief break (at least for the always-resilient members of the media) from the oppressive sun before blowing across the field with gale force. Hats and water cups and notebooks flew, and a tent the team set up for its guests (which amazingly did not include the media) started flying. Tables tipped over, tablecloths flew, and even a few of the posts that held up the tent came uprooted. The team immediately rushed from the field, although a few of the players seemed to enjoy the cool breeze and strolled in. Defensive end Marcus Spears was grateful for the weather that cut short the morning session, shouting "One for Mother Nature!"

Tight end Jason Witten was among those who appreciated the rapid drop in temperature, but acknowledged the speed with which the storm arrived was impressive. "I've never seen a storm like that come up that quick," Witten said. "It was nice when it was cloudy, because it cooled us off, but I've never seen one come up that quick."

TAKING NO CHANCES: As the storm rolled into Valley Ranch, players and media scurried for cover. Some stood outside to brave the elements until their umbrellas either crushed or got turned inside out. Several players sought refuge in the weight room, which is in a secondary building just outside the main facility at Valley Ranch. The area in between the two buildings is covered, but those players had their plans changed for them — one Cowboys staffer was dispatched to retrieve everyone from the weight room, saying "Jerry (Jones) wants everyone inside."

MISSING THEIR TARGETS: Before the practice session was cut short, the team did actually practice, but the passing game was notable in part because of who wasn't there.

Veteran Terry Glenn was a no-show again, apparently still deciding whether to sign the injury settlement waiver the team wants him to sign. His absence was expected, but Terrell Owens' absence was not. The mercurial wideout, fresh off signing his new contract extension, was absent while "tending to personal business." Before taking a day off, it appears he shared some fashion advice with running back Marion Barber, who was sporting Owens-esque blue tights under his shorts.

PLAYERS COACHING EACH OTHER? Several receivers and defensive backs got together without coaches, working on moves against press coverage. They weren't going full-speed, but clearly discussing hand placement to shed defenders, and moves to gain separation. One of the most active participants was veteran wide receiver Patrick Crayton, who demonstrated his moves to the horde of young receivers at practice. He quickly lost Roy Williams a few times, but found Terence Newman to be a much closer shadow.

IS HE SPECIAL? One free agent trying to crack one of the team's most crowded positions is cornerback Justin Phinisee, who is hoping to earn a spot on a team that already has Terence Newman, Anthony Henry, Mike Jenkins and (presumably) Adam "Pacman" Jones. But Phinisee is competing with Alan Ball (who has looked very good Tuesday morning and in the veteran mini-camp last month), Evan Oglesby, Orlando Scandrick, Quincy Butler and Tyler Everett for the remaining one or two cornerback spots. Phinisee struggled at times in coverage, but he was one of three players — along with rookie running back Felix Jones and rookie wide receiver Danny Polk — returning kickoffs, and Phinisee looked very good. All returner specialists at the NFL level are fast, but Phinisee has a burst of acceleration that allows him to hit his full speed in a couple of steps, which is an asset coaches search for in returners. Whether it helps him make the team remains to be seen, and it's safe to say the odds are long, but he looked very good returning kicks.

GOING BOTH WAYS: Normally, when a team works on a specific drill like kick returns, the opposing side does little more than token coverage — sometimes a kicker will stand by himself firing kickoffs to the waiting return specialists. But in Tuesday morning's drills, the drill served two purposes: coaches were able to evaluate returners and choreograph the blocking schemes in front of the ball carriers, and kicker Nick Folk worked on his directional kicking. On several occasions, his kicks were perfect — right on the goal line, and close enough to the sideline that the ball carrier had little running room, but also had to make the catch because the ball would not have gone out of bounds.

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