Thursday afternoon camp insider

SAN ANTONIO - In the special teams drills that began the afternoon practice, four players...

Many happy returns: In the special teams drills that began the afternoon practice, four players — CB Terence Newman, RB Felix Jones, CB Mike Jenkins and WR Willie Reid — returned punts. Each fielded the ball cleanly, which was the extent of what they were asked to do. Punt coverage teams raced downfield, but there was no hitting.

Jumbo package: One of the stranger sights in the Alamodome this week came when the players were in transition between drills, and the defensive linemen came over to where the offense was still running passing drills (against no defense). Without saying a word, DE Marcus Spears lined up wide and took off on a deep post route, and calmly hauled in a 30-yard strike. At 6-4, 315, Spears is no threat to join the passing offense (he occasionally has played as a blocking fullback in short-yardage situations), but his route was impressive, nonetheless. It really shouldn't have been, though — when he was recruited to LSU, he was considered an elite prospect at both defensive end and tight end.

Famous fans: Among those in attendance at Thursday afternoon's practice were former Cowboys Russell Maryland and Michael Irvin, and former San Antonio Spurs forward Sean Elliott.

Timing is everything: Backup QB Jon Kitna has drawn early raves for his quick understanding of the offense and the accuracy of his passes. He was precise again with his throws Thursday, but on several passes — especially on deep routes — he was on target but a little late, making receivers wait under the passes. Against live defenses, such passes get knocked down or turn into interceptions. Once he gets more comfortable and instinctive in the offense, however, Kitna should be able to get the ball to its target more quickly.

Light on his feet: … but not in a good way. For the second time Thursday, defensive end Marcus Spears was knocked to the ground by a running back, which shouldn't happen to a guy on the plus side of 300 pounds. In the morning session, FB Deon Anderson drilled Spears from the side, knocking him off balance. In the afternoon, RB Alonzo Coleman — who, at 5-9, 210 pounds gives away seven inches and 105 pounds to Spears — got up under the defensive end while blocking in pass protection, drove with his legs and lifted Spears off the ground before dumping him on the ground. Granted, Spears wasn't rushing the passer as hard as he does in games, but the laws of physics got seriously messed up on this one.

Double duty: The Cowboys clearly are giving top draft pick Jason Williams every chance to learn his role as a linebacker in the team's 3-4 defense. The starting linebackers almost certainly will be DeMarcus Ware, Keith Brooking, Bradie James and Anthony Spencer, but Williams worked with both the second- and third-team units. The second group also included Bobby Carpenter, Brandon Williams and Steve Octavien, while the third group included Justin Rogers, Matt Stewart and Victor Butler.

The Butler did it: Speaking of Butler, the rookie OLB from Oregon State had perhaps the best day of all of the Dallas rookies. In the morning session, he stripped the ball cleanly from RB Felix Jones and took off for a would-be touchdown. In the afternoon, he dominated the tight ends who tried to block him in one-on-one drills, and later dropped into coverage to shadow WR Roy Williams on a crossing route, and got a paw up in the air to break up a pass on a slant route.

Pass of the day: QB Tony Romo looked much sharper Thursday afternoon. One of his highlights came late in the afternoon session, when he faked a handoff, then pumped on a fake pass before looping a toss over leaping OLB DeMarcus Ware and over the outside shoulder of WR Sam Hurd, who leaned over the sideline to haul in the pass.

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