Keep On Keeping On

It often is said that training camp doesn't really start until a team suffers its first real injury.

If that's the case, the Dallas Cowboys' training camp is officially underway, after rookie wide receiver Dez Bryant suffered a high ankle sprain that is expected to keep him off the practice field for the next four to six weeks.

According to veteran tight end Jason Witten, the injury is a setback for both Bryant and the offense, but Witten said the Cowboys have enough other talent to go forward with the work being done to get the offense up to speed for the upcoming season.

"We have some help there, but any time you have a young player that is talented like he is, you hate to see him out (for) that period — four weeks right in the middle of camp," Witten said. "But we have a good group, and we will adjust and move on."

Witten said there are various steps that teams and individual players can take to try to reduce the chance of injuries, but acknowledged that nothing will prevent them altogether.

"I don't know — it's hard," he said. "Obviously, you want to stay away from injury, but you're playing football and it's competitive. You have to get better. It's unfortunate, but things come up. It's not anyone's fault — it just happens."

So with Bryant shelved for about the next month, and other players beginning to collect the bumps and bruises that go along with training camp (even a camp like the Cowboys', which involves minimal hitting), Witten said the players now have to focus on getting through the monotony of training camp. Now a full week into camp, the initial excitement of restarting the season has started to subside and many of the regular drills can become deliberate and routine. Coaches' instructions can sound repetitive, and the players find them forcing themselves to get through each practice session somehow.

"You have to — this is the grind of camp," Witten said. "For us to be where we want to be down the road, we have to play well. Right now, this is something where you build as a team.

"As an individual, you want to get better and as a group, you want to get better, too … so you have to push it."

One thing that alleviates the monotony — at least a little — for offensive players is getting into the end zone. True, it's only practice, and getting into the end zone in a seven-on-seven skeleton drill against teammates hardly simulates the excitement of scoring a touchdown against the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles or Washington Redskins.

But it beats walking through plays and pushing blocking sleds around. To that end, the Cowboy offense spent part of Sunday sharpening up its attack in the red zone (within 20 yards of the opponent's end zone). It's not at midseason form, Witten said, but there is evidence of improvement.

"It was OK," Witten said of the red zone offense. "We still have a lot of work to do. Our defense is doing a good job down there, but it's still an area we have to focus on. We have to do better than we did today. It's a work in progress — (we) just have to keep working at it, work the play. Even if we're running the ball down there, we have to be able to do it."

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