The first day for Dallas Cowboys veterans to report to training camp did not go as smoothly as it could have.

Wide receiver Dez Bryant showed up late on Friday and defensive lineman David Irving didn't show up at all, sources told ESPN, confirming multiple reports. 

Players who miss the reporting date are subject to a $40,000 fine, according to the NFL's collective bargaining agreement.

Bryant's tardiness was somewhat unusual because he had been present at The Star -- the Cowboys' practice complex in Frisco, Texas -- throughout the offseason and for minicamp, and even spent time at The Star at the conclusion of minicamp in June.

Bryant returned to his East Texas hometown of Lufkin on Thursday to thank supporters with free barbecue. The outdoor event drew an estimated crowd of 3,000.

Irving has been suspended for the first four games of season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

The Cowboys will fly to California on Saturday and have their first practices on Monday.


(Read full post)


video

WAYNE, N.J. -- The New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys rivalry is heating up before training camps even open.

Giants safety Landon Collins responded confidently Friday at his Citi ProCamp about his team's chances after Dak Prescott said last week that the Cowboys would win the division.

"I commented right underneath his picture. I said, 'I highly doubt that.' They do not control the [NFC] East. It's over with. We're going to have a run for it. I mean, they're not going to win, I can tell you that much. We're definitely going to take over."

At the ESPYS, Prescott had said: "We're the Cowboys. We're gonna win the NFC East."

The Cowboys (13-3) won the division last season but lost both matchups with the Giants. Prescott threw one touchdown pass in the two games.

The NFC East has not had a repeat winner since the Philadelphia Eagles did it in 2004. The Cowboys have not won back-to-back division titles since 1995-96.

But they're confident entering this year with an offense that is loaded with talent. Many consider Dallas' offensive line the best in football.

It didn't stop Collins from making his bold declaration. He's never shy to express his opinion and confidence.

"Not at all. Coming from the program I can from, the team that I came from, the kind of player that I am, I'm not afraid to say any of those words," he said. "My team, my guys and our organization backs it up every time."


(Read full post)


FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys leave for Oxnard, California, and the start of training camp on Saturday. Football season is finally here.

For the Cowboys, there are high expectations, although that story has been drowned out recently by the off-field incidents of a few players, including Ezekiel Elliott and Damien Wilson. Both players, as well as cornerback Nolan Carroll II, could face sanctions by the NFL that could ultimately affect the expectations, especially in Elliott's case. For now, let's stick with the football side of things in this week's Twitter mailbag.

Without question, linebacker Jaylon Smith will be the most watched. His story is fascinating. The comeback from the gruesome knee injury suffered at Notre Dame has been tremendous, and if he can come close to the player he was in college, then the Cowboys will have another blue-chip defender to join Sean Lee. Lee's intensity in practice is unequaled. He will not relax in practice, demanding his teammates to be better.

Every time Smith makes or misses a play in Oxnard, those watching (hand raised) will make a judgment on either him being just fine or just a guy. Every step he takes with or without the brace on his left foot will be analyzed. It already has been that way this offseason; folks who'd never seen Smith walk before he was hurt judged his gait this spring.

But this question has me thinking of all the possibilities among the 90 players heading to camp. I can't pick just one I anticipate the most because training camp is not about one player, to me. This is the only time we get to see this team practice and make judgments on players. In season, we get to see the players stretch and jog around for a little bit. In camp, we see everything.

It's why I chart every 7-on-7 and team drill for the quarterbacks in attendance. It's why I make the effort to look at the one-on-one pass-rush drills. When you put it all together, you can make some informed decisions or at least ask informed questions.

Quarterback Dak Prescott has to top the list of whom to watch. How he performs in his second season will go a long way in determining the Cowboys' success. Early in camp a year ago, he was unimpressive. Then Kellen Moore got hurt, and Prescott took first-team turns on rest days for Tony Romo, and he got better. But he was not a great practice player. He had good practices but there were hiccups. It was that way in the spring, too. Yet when it mattered most in the organized team activities and minicamp in the competitive periods, he was at his best.

Jason Witten is entering his 15th season in the NFL. That is just an amazing number. And he's still playing at a high level. Watching the tight end work the most basic of fundamentals, like his three-point stance, shows you why he has lasted this long.

Dez Bryant is healthy going into camp. He had a good spring. He needs to have a great summer. Can he get back to the form of 2014? Seeing Bryant work in one-on-one situations can give you an idea of where he is. A year ago, the receiver didn't create much separation in camp from the corners as he worked back from two foot surgeries. Will he have that separation this summer?

Most offensive lines can toil in anonymity but not the Cowboys' line. How will La'el Collins handle the space in playing right tackle? Will Jonathan Cooper find the form that made him a top-10 pick a few years ago by the Arizona Cardinals?

At every level on defense there are questions, so there will be plenty to watch.

Football season is finally here. Hopefully you'll come along for the ride at this spot throughout the season.

video

video

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant says he isn't worried about teammate Ezekiel Elliott and believes the running back will learn to avoid off-field drama as he matures.

Elliott, who turns 22 on Saturday, has spoken with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones this week after an incident at a Dallas bar left a man with a nose injury. A source said Elliott was involved, but Dallas Police suspended the investigation, citing a lack of witnesses and an inability to contact the victim.

In the past 12 months, Elliott has also dealt with a domestic violence accusation and a citation for driving 100 mph in a 70 mph zone.

"It's just a steppingstone that he's gonna get over. Zeke's a young guy. I'm not blaming it on that. [But] freshman college to playing for America's team, it's kinda hard to deal with," Bryant told reporters on Thursday.

"You gotta give Zeke credit because he do deserve it, he do deserve to have fun. Because he put that work in to have fun. But, as the years pass, as he gets older, he's gonna mature and things are gonna get a lot smoother."

The 28-year-old Bryant, now a veteran of seven seasons with the Cowboys, speaks from experience. His maturity has come into question during his NFL career; he has been arrested


(Read full post)


video

Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith says his competitive nature wouldn't let him sit out the Fiesta Bowl, despite suffering a draft-stock diminishing injury.

Alfred MorrisAndrew Dieb/Icon SportswireAlfred Morris has three 1,000-yard seasons but isn't a lock to make the Cowboys' roster.

The Dallas Cowboys open training camp on July 24 at River Ridge Residence Inn complex in Oxnard, California. Here’s a 53-man roster projection:

QUARTERBACK (2): Dak Prescott, Kellen Moore.

There is a chance the Cowboys keep three quarterbacks, but with Ezekiel Elliott’s uncertain status it’s better to go with an extra running back. Prescott entered camp a year ago as the No. 3 quarterback, but there is no doubting his status now. Moore has the blessing of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, but the Cowboys signed Zac Dysert late in the offseason program. Keeping a third quarterback makes sense, given Moore missed all of last season with an ankle injury.

RUNNING BACK (5): Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, Keith Smith, Rod Smith.

Morris might be saved by Elliott’s off-field issues. Even if it's for a short amount of time, the Cowboys would like to have Morris, a three-time 1,000-yard rusher, behind McFadden. If Elliott does not receive punishment, then Morris goes back on the bubble. With Rod Smith’s ability to play special teams, tailback and fullback, he has more versatility than Morris. With McFadden on a one-year deal, it’s possible the Cowboys will look for a young tailback to groom for the future.

WIDE RECEIVER (5): Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, Ryan Switzer.

The Cowboys’ top three receivers are set, but Butler could work his way into the picture more if he can carry a strong offseason over into training camp. Switzer impressed early, but his primary role will be as a punt returner. It’s possible the Cowboys keep a sixth receiver, which could open a spot for Andy Jones or Noah Brown.

TIGHT END (4): Jason Witten, James Hanna, Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers.

Hanna and Swaim are expected to be ready for training camp after recovery from surgeries limited their work in the spring. Gathers' physical skills have Cowboys owner Jerry Jones excited about his future, but Gathers needs to show in the preseason games that he can handle the complete role of a tight end.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8): Tyron Smith, Jonathan Cooper, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, La'el Collins, Chaz Green, Emmett Cleary, Joe Looney.

The Cowboys open camp with competitions at left guard and right tackle, with Collins, Cooper, Green and Looney trying to fill two spots. Collins and Cooper enter as the favorites at tackle and guard as the unit looks to continue its standing as one of the best lines in football.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9): DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Maliek Collins, Taco Charlton, Cedric Thornton, Benson Mayowa, Damontre Moore, Stephen Paea, Charles Tapper.

David Irving is missing from this group because of a four-game suspension to start the season. He was the best defensive lineman at the end of last season, so missing a quarter of the season is a blow. The Cowboys believe they will be best served with a rotation of pass-rushers, rather than a few high-quality rushers. They need Lawrence and Crawford to reach their full potential and first-round pick Charlton to make plays early.

LINEBACKER (7): Sean Lee, Anthony Hitchens, Damien Wilson, Jaylon Smith, Kyle Wilber, Justin Durant, John Lotulelei.

Wilson’s status on the Week 1 roster is up in the air after he was arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. That would open up another spot in training camp for a defensive player. Going with seven linebackers in a 4-3 scheme is a little heavy. But with Wilson’s situation, Smith’s uncertainty as he recovers from a major knee injury and special teams needs, seven makes sense with the final spot going to Lotulelei over Mark Nzeocha, who enters camp coming off knee surgery.

CORNERBACK (5): Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll, Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis.

Carroll’s status on the roster is uncertain, as well, because of an offseason arrest on a DWI charge. If Carroll is suspended, then rookie Marquez White gets the call. Who starts will be an interesting question. Scandrick is moving much better this summer than he did a year ago, after missing the 2015 season with a knee injury. Brown had a productive rookie season, and the Cowboys believe he can be a difference-maker.

SAFETY (5): Byron Jones, Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, Robert Blanton, Kavon Frazier.

Heath moves into the starting lineup after Barry Church's departure in free agency. Heath has made plays in small doses, but he will be counted on for more. Jones, who is developing into a leader in the secondary, has the ability to make more plays. Blanton might be No. 53 on the roster at the moment, but he received some first-team work in the spring.

SPECIALISTS (3): Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur.

This group is entering its fifth full season together. Bailey is one of the best in the league. Jones has become a field-position weapon. Ladouceur has not had a bad snap in his career.

Bill Streicher/USA TODAY SportsLeGarrette Blount's 299 carries last season puts him at risk for a drop in productivity this season.

Unless you're Beast Mode, the 300-carry hangover is mighty hard to avoid.

Perhaps that's one reason 300-carry backs are becoming more scarce. According to ESPN Stats & Information, an average of 8.5 players per season reached that marker between 2001-10. That number has dropped to an average of two a season in the six years since, as many teams have moved to more of a running-back-by-committee approach.

In 2016, only one running back -- the Dallas Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott (322) -- carried that kind of load, while new Philadelphia Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount finished one attempt shy with 299 last season for the New England Patriots. He can be considered an honorary member of the club, with the Tennessee Titans' DeMarco Murray (293) and the Arizona Cardinals' David Johnson (293) not far behind.

The odds are strongly on the side of a statistical drop-off in the year after a 300-plus carry campaign. In many cases, it is drastic. Consider: In the past five years, only one player -- Marshawn Lynch -- did not experience a decline in production. The other nine over that span saw their output sink by an average of 739 rushing yards the next season. Four missed significant time with injury, but even those who stayed healthy had a sharp downturn.

Elliott has youth and a top-shelf offensive line on his side to combat the trend. At 21 years old, the odometer reading is still relatively low even if he did carry the ball a total of 559 times over his last two seasons at Ohio State. A bigger question might be whether he'll be available for all 16 games as the league continues to look into his off-field behavior.

Blount, on the flip side, is 30 years old and entering his eighth NFL season. Establishing himself as the workhorse back during Tom Brady's four-game suspension to start last season, he finished with a career high in carries, yards (1,161) and rushing touchdowns (18).

"Just the number of opportunities," Blount said, explaining why he experienced such a spike in production. "Obviously, Tom missing four games played a part in the opportunities that I had. Just taking advantage of all of them."

The Eagles signed him to a one-year, $1.25 million contract in free agency with the hopes that he can be a workhorse back for them.

It's possible that Blount, like Elliott, delivers. But the evidence is hard to ignore: Of the 19 times a player has hit the 300-carry mark since 2010, a statistical dip was avoided twice the next season.

video

FRISCO, Texas -- Even though Tony Romo played in just one series last season for the Dallas Cowboys because of a back injury suffered in a preseason game, he developed a strong relationship with Ezekiel Elliott. Based on that, he thinks the young running back should be given some room to figure things out.

"With Zeke, he's a friend and I know he's a good kid and he's just trying to find his way," Romo said on the "Ben and Skin Show," on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Thursday. "He's going to be in a position that's always going to be in the spotlight. People are going to take photos. They're going to talk about it."

The quarterback-turned-broadcaster did say Elliott has made some mistakes over the past 12 months -- including a domestic violence accusation, an alleged assault and a speeding charge.  

"But, I mean, a lot of people there are times in your career where you can go in two different directions and he's figuring it out," he said. "Obviously he's made some choices he reflects back and wished he'd done it a little different, but at the same time there's just not a lot of people who are thrust into this spotlight this soon at that age. Really in the National Football League, there's only a few of them.

"So I always want to give people a little grace period, a little time and the fact that I know him, the fact that I know his personality and how much good he does off the field and how good he is with people, I think he's going to figure it out and be fine. But like we say, you always take responsibility and try and improve in all facets of life."


(Read full post)


Justin DurantAP Photo/Brandon WadeJustin Durant, who had 54 tackles and a sack last season, has re-signed with the Dallas Cowboys.

FRISCO, Texas -- With the potential of seeing Damien Wilson disciplined for a July 4 arrest, Jaylon Smith working back from a serious knee injury and Mark Nzeocha rehabbing from knee surgery, the Dallas Cowboys have agreed to a deal with veteran linebacker Justin Durant.

Durant played in 13 games last season for the Cowboys after he was signed just before the start of training camp. The coaches credited him with 54 tackles to go along with 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, 6 quarterback pressures and 4 pass deflections, playing mostly in the defense's sub packages. He missed one game with a hamstring injury and the final two games of the regular season with an elbow strain.

To make room for Durant on the roster, cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon, who spent part of last year on the practice squad, was released.

Wilson, who played in every game last year, starting six, was arrested on two counts of assault with a deadly weapon on July 4. The Cowboys have not commented on Wilson's status because they are continuing their own look into the incident.

The Cowboys are optimistic about Smith's recovery from a serious knee injury that included nerve damage and kept him out last season, but they will bring him along slowly in camp, considering he has not played in a game since January 2016.


(Read full post)


video

FRISCO, Texas -- A recent electromyogram showed the nerve in the left leg of Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith is continuing to regenerate, with the hope of a full recovery months down the road, according to a source.

In the spring, Smith was first able to lift his foot and flex his toes, which generated optimism in his bid to return from a serious knee injury. While the recent test showed more improvement, the Cowboys will continue to be deliberate with his on-field return when they begin training camp practices next week in Oxnard, California.

Smith will continue to wear a brace on his left foot, but it is not the ankle-foot orthosis that he wore after the surgery. The Cowboys have come up with a custom-made brace that they have used with other players over the years to help keep Smith's foot flexed. Smith said earlier in the offseason that the hope was he would eventually not need to use the brace.

Smith is among the Dallas Cowboys' rookies at this week's mini-camp of sorts that leads up to training camp but the workload is mostly walk-throughs and film study. Smith is expected to follow a similar plan to the one he had during the organized team activities and minicamp in which he practiced every other day. During the sessions open to the media in which Smith practiced, he took only a handful of snaps in full drills.

"We anticipate him starting with us, but we're going to watch him," coach Jason Garrett said. "During the spring he didn't work every day, he worked every other day, and he just handled the work the right way, so we've just got to be careful about getting ahead of ourselves with him and some of the other guys. We'll see how they handle the work early on and we'll come up with a plan as we go."


(Read full post)


Anthony HitchensBrynn Anderson/AP PhotoAnthony Hitchens has started 36 games in his first three seasons, including all 16 last year.

FRISCO, Texas -- When the subject of Dallas Cowboys linebackers comes up, Sean Lee is always mentioned first -- as he should be with back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances and an All-Pro selection in 2016. Then comes Jaylon Smith, who has yet to play a down in the NFL because of injury but has many excited about his future.

Rarely is Anthony Hitchens mentioned. If he is, it is almost in passing, as if he is a placeholder until Smith shows he's fully recovered from the serious knee injury he suffered at Notre Dame.

But Hitchens should not be overlooked. He has started 36 games in his first three seasons, including all 16 last season. Twice the Dallas coaches have credited him with 100-tackle seasons, including 104 last season to go along with 1.5 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 5 quarterback pressures and 2 pass deflections.

Maybe it’s because Hitchens was a fourth-round pick in 2014. Maybe it’s because he is a little undersized at 6 feet, 235 pounds. Maybe it’s because Smith was so good at Notre Dame, viewed as a potential top-five pick before the injury.

“I really don’t care about [being overlooked],” Hitchens said. “As long as my coaches see it as they do and as long as my teammates respect me. Anyone outside, that I don’t really care about. People can say I’m not good enough or I shouldn’t be playing or all this. I really just block it out. That’s how I got here and that’s how I’m going to continue to do it.”

Smith was limited in his work during the offseason program, practicing every other day. At least early on in training camp, he is expected to follow the same plan. Lee was also limited in his work during the organized team activities and minicamp as the coaches and medical team looked to keep the veteran fresh for the start of training camp.

Hitchens’ versatility is a bonus; he can play all three linebacker spots. If Smith shows he is all the way back from the injury, Hitchens could move to the strongside spot. Damien Wilson, who started there last season, could face NFL discipline for a July 4 arrest.

Hitchens is entering the final year of his contract, but he cares about that as much as he does being overlooked.

“As long as I continue to play the way I’ve been playing and continue working and doing what I’ve been doing, it ought to take care of itself,” Hitchens said. “When you focus on long-term goals, things like that, you get in the way of what you’re trying to do now.”

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Dallas Cowboys rookie defensive back Jourdan Lewis will stand trial for one charge of domestic violence next week.

Lewis attended a pretrial hearing Thursday morning. He and his attorney made it clear they intended to fight the charge.

Lewis was charged with the misdemeanor in March after a late-night altercation with a woman who was his girlfriend at the time. The woman told police that Lewis grabbed her by the neck and held her to the floor for roughly three seconds before leaving the apartment they shared.

Lewis said any contact he had with the woman was made in an attempt to leave the apartment.

Police said they saw no visible injuries when they arrived at the scene.

"Some cases have to be tried," said John Shea, Lewis' attorney. "This is one of them."

The trial will begin Monday in Ann Arbor's 15th district court. Jury selection and opening statements are scheduled for Monday, and Shea said he hopes the trial will be finished by the end of the day Tuesday.

Lewis was at the Cowboys' team headquarters earlier this week and was expected to return to Texas on Friday. When asked if he would be joining the team in California for the start of training camp this weekend, Lewis said, "I have no idea yet."

Dallas selected Lewis in the third round of the NFL draft after a standout college career at Michigan. The domestic violence allegations stem from an incident that occurred a couple of miles from Michigan's campus one month before the draft.


(Read full post)


The Dallas Cowboys open training camp on July 24 at the River Ridge Residence Inn in Oxnard, California. Here's a closer look at the Cowboys' camp:

Top storyline: Can the Cowboys do it again? They surprised many with their 13-3 season in 2016 despite Tony Romo being relegated to spectator because of a compression fracture in his back. They enter this season with high expectations, thanks to a young core mixed with talented veterans. The Cowboys believe second-year stars Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott will not let success go to their heads, and veterans such as Jason Witten and Sean Lee can keep the team grounded in reality.

The Cowboys' theme is "recommit" as they look to post back-to-back seasons with double-digit victories for the first time since 1995-96. In 2015, the Cowboys followed up a 12-4 season with a disastrous 4-12 campaign, the second-worst of the Jerry Jones era. With the owner and general manager going into the Hall of Fame this summer, the Cowboys want to show they have staying power.

Dak Prescott, Ezekiel ElliottMatthew Pearce/Icon SportswireAfter the Cowboys rode rookie stars Dak Prescott, left, and Ezekiel Elliott to a 13-3 record in 2016, the theme this season is to "recommit" for a strong follow-up.

QB depth chart: A year ago, Prescott entered camp battling Jameill Showers for the No. 3 job behind Romo and Kellen Moore. Now Prescott has an Offensive Rookie of the Year award and Pro Bowl appearance to his credit. Moore, who missed last season with an ankle injury suffered the first week of camp, returns as the backup and has the blessing of coordinator Scott Linehan. Zac Dysert and Cooper Rush are in contention for the No. 3 spot, but the Cowboys might carry only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster.

Bubble watch: Wide receiver Brice Butler had a great offseason, but he must carry it into training camp to secure a roster spot. If Butler performs this summer as he did during the spring, the Cowboys' receiving corps would take a jump. Center/guard Joe Looney was active for every game last season, but with Jonathan Cooper taking center snaps in the spring, Looney's spot would be in jeopardy.

That rookie could start: The Cowboys took Taco Charlton in the first round so he could impact their pass rush. With David Irving due to miss the first four games because of suspension, Charlton will push for a starting spot at either defensive end spot. Don't be surprised if second-round pick Chidobe Awuzie works his way into the mix at cornerback.

Secondary as primary: The Cowboys lost more than 2,500 snaps with the free-agent defections of Brandon Carr, Barry Church, Morris Claiborne and J.J. Wilcox. The only major free-agent addition was cornerback Nolan Carroll. They are counting on improvement from within, from the likes of Jeff Heath, Byron Jones and Anthony Brown. Dallas also selected four secondary players in the draft. How quickly this group comes together in the summer will go a long way in determining the potential success this winter.

Still dominant: The Cowboys have boasted one of the best offensive lines in football the past three seasons, but they lost Ronald Leary to free agency and Doug Free to retirement. There are questions about Cooper at left guard and La'el Collins at right tackle, but the Cowboys believe the standard set by Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin will lift the level of play of whomever fills out the line.

For daily updates at camp, check out the Dallas Cowboys clubhouse page.

video

Dallas police have suspended their investigation into an alleged assault that a source said involved Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, citing a lack of witnesses and an inability to contact the victim.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Dallas Police Department said it has "made several attempts to contact the victim through various ways but at this time have not been able to make contact."

The incident occurred at a Dallas bar late Sunday night and left a 30-year-old man hospitalized with a nose injury, according to an initial police report. No arrests were made, and police did not name any suspects.

The police statement Wednesday also announced that "no witnesses have come forward to provide any additional information about this incident."

An NFL official said earlier this week that the league is aware of the situation involving Elliott and "looking into it to understand the facts."

Elliott is already under NFL investigation stemming from a 2016 domestic violence accusation against him. The reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year had been preparing a response to the league to be submitted in the next week, sources told ESPN.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said earlier Wednesday that he plans to speak with Elliott about the most recent incident on Friday. Garrett said he did not want to get into specifics but stressed that Elliott is "someone we believe very strongly in as a person and as a football player."

"We're going to continue to believe in him and try to put a structure around him -- and all of our players -- to help them make great decisions and grow on and off the field," Garrett said.

ESPN's Todd Archer contributed to this report.


(Read full post)


SPONSORED HEADLINES