Thursday Wade Phillips press conference

SAN ANTONIO - Dallas head coach Wade Phillips met the media again Thursday, and listed some players who had caught his eye in the team's "first" (actually second) practice, while acknowledging that "it's hard to single out players after one practice" (or two).

"We had one rookie come in overweight," Phillips said. "We were a little rusty, but that's normal. I thought the tight ends had a good practice, blocking and catching the ball. (RB) Marion Barber has lost a little weight since last year, he's a little leaner, and he said ‘don't tell them not to hit me, because I'm going to hit them.' He always has a good attitude, but it's clear he's excited. (NT) Jay Ratliff, on defense, looked exceptionally quick. He made one play where he got the quarterback almost before he (the quarterback) had a chance to hand the ball off. (OLB) DeMarcus Ware — we don't really count these things in practice, but I think he had four sacks this morning."

• Phillips said that much of the credit for the majority of players showing up in such good condition goes to strength and conditioning coach Joe Juraszek and his staff.

"Joe does such a great job with our offseason program," Phillips said. "It is voluntary, of course, but it really helps the guys to be there working out with their teammates. (Juraszek) does not only weights, but football stuff, also. I think it hurt (RB Marion Barber) to not be there last year, while the contract thing was going on — same with (FS) Ken Hamlin. I do know I haven't seen a guy have a great year without being in an offseason program.

• Phillips took a playful shot at the media when he was asked again about the changes he has made — either in his own coaching style or the way he runs certain aspects of the team — over the offseason.

"I'm not going to get into everything we're doing and not doing," he said. "Besides, you (media) guys all know how to coach, anyway."

• The progress second-year TE Martellus Bennett has shown has allowed Phillips and his coaching staff to dream up ways to get Bennett and TE Jason Witten on the field at the same time, thereby causing major headaches for opposing defensive coordinators.

"That's what we hope," Phillips said, "and we're working toward more of that. As Martellus has come along, we try to do more of that. You try to get your best players on the field and utilize their talents, and if it looks like he's one of our best — and it looks like he is — he'll be one of them."

• Much has been made about the Cowboys' three-headed RB monster, where Marion Barber, Felix Hones and Tashard Choice form perhaps the best three-pronged rushing attack in the entire NFL. But Phillips said the three aren't exactly on equal footing.

Barber and Jones, he said, "certainly are the featured backs. Tashard Choice does certain things well, and he ran well this morning. But the first two guys, I think, are Pro Bowl-caliber guys, so we'll use them first."

• One player who has caught Phillips' eye for his physical development since a year ago at this time is DE Marcus Dixon.

"Last year, he couldn't run a complete lap without having to stop," Phillips said, "but he has worked very hard and made himself one of the most fit players on our team. I didn't think then that he had a chance to be an NFL player, but he's had one of the biggest improvements of anyone on our team."

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