OTA Insider (part I)

IRVING, Tex. - The Cowboys returned to the practice field — albeit not their own practice field — Tuesday for the first day of the Cowboys' first Optional Team Activity (OTA).

Almost the entire team showed up at Tommy Standridge Stadium in Carrollton, just east of Valley Ranch. It is believed that the only two players who were not in attendance were a pair of rookies — LB Victor Butler and CB Mike Mickens — who were ineligible to take part while they addressed outstanding academic obligations at their schools: Oregon State (Butler) and Cincinnati (Mickens).

• Welcome sight: Without question, the best thing to happen Tuesday morning was on the first drill of the day, when the team went from its warm-up stretches to special teams drills … under the watchful eye and bullhorn-enhanced directions of special teams coach Joe DeCamillis. The first-year assistant underwent neck surgery after being injured in the collapse of the team's practice facility, but didn't miss a single practice session. He took the field with rookies and veterans, barking orders through a bullhorn, yelling encouragement to those who did well and criticism to those who made mistakes. Several players said the mere presence of DeCamillis should reduce the number of players who find themselves in the trainer's room with minor bumps and bruises.

• Special performances: When the team went through its first round of kickoff coverage drills, the ball was fired downfield by a machine. Rookie David Buehler then took over for about 10 kicks, reaching the end zone twice. DeCamillis constantly corrected players through his bullhorn, specifically calling out S Pat Watkins for his coverage. Several players rotated as the kickoff return specialist; the most effective was RB Alonzo Coleman, who broke through the entire coverage three times in the10-minute drill.

• What's in a number? A couple of players were on the field in new numbers. CB Mike Jenkins showed up wearing the No. 21 jersey former Dallas CB Pacman Jones wore, and with his dreadlocks and ultra-baggy practice shorts, Jenkins bore a striking resemblance to Jones. Meanwhile, WR Roy Williams donned a No. 4 jersey. There is no danger of Williams trading in the No. 11 jersey he has worn since entering the NFL, though, because receivers are prohibited from wearing single-digit numbers on their jerseys. Instead, his new look was merely a nod to the number he wore at the University of Texas.

• 3-4 prototype: It's no secret that 3-4 defenses utilize bigger, stronger DEs than most teams employing the 4-3 alignment, which is why the Cowboys have collected bulky DEs like Marcus Spears, Jason Hatcher and the now-departed Chris Canty in recent years. But perhaps the most impressive of all of them — at least physically — is new free-agent signee Igor Olshansky. At 6-foot-6 and 309 pounds, his listed weight is just five pounds more than Hatcher's 304 and six pounds less than Spears' 315, but Olshansky's pounds seem better distributed. His waist is thinner than either Spears' or Hatcher's, and his shoulders and arms look like they belong to a man 50 or 100 pounds heavier. Maybe it was the morning sun, maybe it was the tattoos, but Olshansky looked unbelievably strong. For a man his size, he also looked surprisingly quick, moving easily through pass-rushing drills with his new teammates.

• Bombs away: All four QBs the Cowboys have under contract were in attendance. At first, just three were on the field: newly-acquired backup Jon Kitna, fourth-round draft choice Stephen "Mox" (thank you, "BlueStarTat") McGee and rookie free agent Rudy Carpenter. But after a few snaps, starter Tony Romo joined the fray, and worked with the first team in skeleton passing drills.

• On guard: All of the OLs were in attendance, although the starting unit was missing a piece. LG Kyle Kosier, who missed part of the 2008-09 season with a foot injury, was held out of the session, instead working on the side of the field with associate trainer Britt Brown. In his place, Montrae Holland worked with the first team. How long Kosier will be out is not immediately clear, but it is believed he'll be ready for training camp, if not the full-team mini-camp in mid-June.

• Injured observers: Kosier was not the only regular who sat out the morning session. DE Jason Hatcher and P Mat McBriar also missed the morning session.

• Bombs away, part 2: The nature of Hatcher's injury was no immediately known. McBriar, who had his foot broken on the last play of last season's loss to Arizona, was on the field in sneakers, and did little other than jog — somewhat gingerly — downfield after David Buehler's kickoffs, as if he was a late addition to the coverage unit.

More encouraging was the scene after the workout. While the team tried to slip past 70-80 reporters who stalked them near the gate leading from the field to the buses headed back to Valley Ranch, McBriar quietly slipped on his kicking shows and started launching long, high, tight-spiraling punts downfield; several appeared to be in the 50-yard range (without the extra distance for the snap). Judging by the way he got around, he didn't appear like he could play today, but the way he was punting was surprisingly impressive after such a gruesome injury.


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