Friday training camp insider

SAN ANTONIO - More exclusive news and notes from the Alamodome as the Cowboys continue training camp!

Lurking zebras: For the second day in a row, the Cowboys had an NFL officiating crew at practice.

Centers of attention: Starter Andre Gurode is a Pro Bowl-caliber player at center, but the depth chart behind him is starting to take shape. Cory Proctor has been running with the second-team offensive line throughout camp, and almost certainly will be Gurode's primary backup. If needed, however, backup G Ryan Gibbons is the team's third-team center, followed only in the most dire of emergencies by backup G Montrae Holland.

Proud dad: For the second time in a week, former NFL head coach Bum Phillips watched practice … from the comfort of his son Wade's golf cart.

Change of direction: The sprinting speed of RB Felix Jones is no secret — his wheels are the primary reason the Cowboys chose him toward the end of the first round in the 2008 NFL Draft. But what often gets overlooked is his lateral speed. There are a lot of fast players in the NFL, but there are few who can change direction and even move sideways like Jones. On one play during Friday's 11-on-11 drills, Jones took a handoff and started up the middle. When the hole in front of him sealed up, he slid to his left — hurtling over two fallen linemen and accelerating until he turned the corner on SS Patrick Watkins, who has very good speed, himself.

Hit of the day: The Cowboys' three-headed monster at running back of Jones, Marion Barber and Tashard Choice has been nicknamed (by Choice) "Flash, Smash and Tash." When "Smash" (Barber) took a handoff in the goal-line/short-yardage offense, he headed toward his left, and upon seeing a gap between LT Flozell Adams and LG Kyle Kosier, headed upfield … only to be blasted to the turf by ILB Bradie James. Barber got up a little wobbly, but was OK shortly thereafter.

Tough Choice: Speaking of Choice, the second-year RB from Georgia Tech sat out Friday's practice, working with the team's training staff. Choice dinged up a shoulder in practice Wednesday, and practiced Thursday, but was given the day off Friday. The injury is not thought to be serious.

Better and better: One player who has had one of the team's better training camps is ILB Bobby Carpenter, who has quieted some of his critics by having easily the best camp of his young career. Ever since the team arrived in San Antonio, Carpenter has been around the ball, making tackles all over the place, knocking down passes and even turning in a highlight-reel diving interception. He showed another talent Friday, bursting through a double-team block on a blitz to get to QB Tony Romo. Of course, Carpenter didn't hit the franchise passer, but it would have been an easy sack on a play on which Carpenter showed an impressive combination of speed and strength.

His reputation precedes him: Credit rookie QB Stephen McGee for knowing his teammates. When he lined up against the first-team defense, McGee got help from his teammates … as four of them hurried to gang-block OLB DeMarcus Ware coming off the edge. Even with that army of blockers in front of him, McGee raced to his right … and fired a hurried pass several feet over the heads of his teammates standing on the sideline.

Back in line: There was a slight shuffling of the linebacker rotation Friday. Carpenter took some snaps with the first team, along with Ware, James and Anthony Spencer. Normal starter Keith Brooking worked with (and called the defensive signals for) the second unit, on which he was joined by rookies Jason Williams, Victor Butler and Brandon Williams. Veteran Justin Rogers, who had gotten some reps during the week with the second team, anchored the third-team unit that also featured rookie Stephen Hodge and veterans Steve Octavien and Matt Stewart.

Strong defense in reserve: The second-team and third-team defensive line had a clear edge over their backup counterparts on the offensive line, regularly shooting gaps and collapsing the pocket in 11-on-11 drills.

Hold on: WR Roy Williams has made several nice catches in training camp, but he also has had an alarming number of dropped passes. On one of the first plays of the day in 11-on-11 drills, QB Tony Romo fired a perfect 35-yard pass over the inside shoulder of Williams, who had beaten CB Orlando Scandrick on the play. The ball hit Williams' hands without making him break stride … but Williams dropped it.

Defensive play of the day: If James' blow on Barber was the hit of the day, the overall defensive play of the day was turned in by rookie LB Jason Williams. The play called for a quick screen pass to Barber (who seemed to have an unusually high number of passes thrown his way), but Williams recognized the play and shot through to the backfield that he arrived at the same time as the ball, which he calmly knocked away.

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