Narrowing down: Only two players — WR Miles Austin and RB Felix Jones — worked as return men in the team's kickoff drills. Head coach Wade Phillips said after practice that others still will be considered, but "those two are the main guys we're working with now."
Still out: The same four injured players — DT Tim Anderson, WR Isaiah Stanback, DB Michael Hawkins and RB Alonzo Coleman — missed practice again, working on the side with trainers. Phillips said he had not yet talked to trainers, and had no updated information about their timetables to return.
Willing and able: Despite his size, TE Martellus Bennett often appeared less than interested in blocking as a rookie last year, but he seems to have bought into the need thus far in training camp. Through the first week, he has been a violent blocker against a sled, drawing raves from TEs coach Jon Garrett, and has been dominant in one-on-one blocking drills.
Teacher's teacher: Riding in Phillips' golf cart during Tuesday's practice was his father, former NFL head coach Bum Phillips. Wade Phillips said one of the things his father noticed was the focus and concentration of those players who weren't involved in each drill. "That's always a good sign," Wade Phillips said.
Just as advertised: When the Cowboys made him their top pick in April's draft, the first descriptions of LB Jason Williams centered around his ability to run. Through one week of camp, he has shown that to be true. Not only is he exceptionally fast, he also seems to have a very high motor, often starting on the left side of the field and making plays near the right sideline. Williams and rookie LB Stephen Hodge both evoke images of former Dallas LB Dexter Coakley, who also made up for his limited stature with exceptional running ability.
Moving on up?: LB Justin Rogers, who has worked with the third-team linebackers through the first week, got some reps Tuesday with the second-team unit, although after practice, he said that's not necessarily an indication of much, because the team was split into 7-on-7 drills at one end of the field and 11-on-11 drills on the other. "I don't know how much you can read into that," he said. "A rep's a rep, so it's good to be in there, and you have to be able to work with different groups of guys."
Mano a mano: One of the more entertaining drills is always when the offensive linemen and defensive linemen go head-to-head in one-on-one drills. Some of the highlights:
• When C Cory Proctor and NT Junior Siavii matched up, Siavii knocked Proctor back on his heels and blew right past him. Proctor recovered in time to slow Siavii … by grabbing him around the neck from behind. There's not an official on the planet who wouldn't have flagged Proctor for that one.
• Backup LG Montrae Holland struggled with speed rushes, as DEs Stephen Bowen and Jason Hatcher raced past him virtually untouched on consecutive plays.
• One of the keys for young players, as they're introduced to the nuances of the NFL game, is learning from unsuccessful plays. On one play, LT Doug Free swallowed up OLB Victor Butler, allowing the rookie to get nowhere near the backfield. On the next play, the two went head-to-head again, and Butler shook Free with a quick spin move that left Free with no choice but to grab Butler in a Proctor-esque stranglehold.
And in this corner …: Much has been made about how little contact there has been in practice, and Tuesday's practice was a break from that trend, as hits and tackles were far more violent than at any other time since camp opened. One play even boiled over into the first fight of camp. RT Marc Colombo and NT Jay Ratliff both got knocked down on a play, and got up swinging. They grabbed each other and each got in a couple of swings, but teammates quickly broke it up and they returned to drills shortly thereafter with no further incidents. In his post-practice press conference, Phillips was asked if he was surprised that Colombo and Ratliff were the combatants in the first skirmish of camp.
"I thought it might be (ILB Keith) Brooking, really," Phillips said, laughing. "I've known him, and he's usually in one of the first ones."
Secret weapon: The Cowboys, like every team, don't want specific formations and perceived "trick plays" discussed in too much detail, but it's presumably safe to discuss this one without fearing repercussions: when a receiver and defensive back collided while going for a pass over the middle, the ball shot up into the air … and was snagged by backup OT Pat McQuistan, who took off upfield. For a big guy, he has surprising speed and agility, but it's safe to say he's not going to become part of the WR corp.
Tuesday training camp insider
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