NFL Team Report - Dallas Cowboys - INSIDE SLANT
The Cowboys opened minicamp Tuesday and quarterback Tony Romo was again sidelined as he was during OTAs because of offseason back surgery.
Romo has begun throwing passes as part of his rehab program, but he won't work with the team on the field until the start of training camp in July.
That being said, what's also true is that Romo has been more involved with the Cowboys this offseason than any time in his career.
Despite what he hasn't been able to do on the field, Romo has more than made up for it with his new increased involvement in personnel, offensive installation and game planning.
Remember that Peyton Manning-type time that owner Jerry Jones talked about Romo spending at the team's Valley Ranch headquarters after signing him to a six-year, $108 million contract extension?
Well, Jones is getting his money's worth so far as Romo has been involved in the offensive installation with the coaches in the offseason. He was in the draft room going over prospective draft picks.
And during minicamps, as he was in OTAs, he is on the field with the coaches as they call the offense.
"We're just putting together some ideas that we love," Romo said of his involvement in game planning. "I feel strongly about certain things that are going to help us. It's just a bunch of guys going to work every day and figuring out ways to be better as a football team," he said. "Lot of different capacities for players and coaches all the way up, so it's exciting."
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Romo's increased involvement was a collective and deliberate decision by the entire organization and a natural evolution for Romo who he called a gym rat.
"Tony is very involved in what we are doing and has been for many years," Garrett said. "But we made the decision early in the offseason prior to signing Tony to really say, 'Hey Tony, we want you to get more involved.' We want to be very deliberate from an organizational standpoint to do that. He has certainly embraced that. Tony is a gym rat, always has been. He is always around this place. We have tried to step that up more.
"It has been challenging for him. He hasn't been able to do stuff physically, but he is getting the most out it. He has always had that mentality like most quarterbacks. We wanted to make a decision as an organization to get the most out of him to say, 'Hey, we want more. You have done a great job up this point. We want more. We know you want more.' And that has been a positive change. He has spent a ton of time up in here in the offseason engaged in what we are doing, helping us put the whole installation plan together. He will continue to do that through training camp and into the regular season and certainly on game day."
Romo has been throwing as he has amped up his rehab program. He had hoped to participate in minicamp. But he understands why the trainers want to err on the side of caution and not risk anything.
"I feel ready to go. I was running. We were pushing it on the treadmill good," he said. "I was pretty amped up, ready to go. And I think as a player, you're always trying to push through it. It's just this time of year, it's intelligent to really be patient with it any time you go through something like that and be smart and make sure you don't do anything dumb."
But Romo is taking advantage of the opportunity to be a coach on the field for his teammates in his new expanded and more involved role.
But he said sitting out has provided an unexpected benefit: being able to help teammates see and correct mistakes on the field instead of having to wait and watch tape.
He said, "You can kind of get with them quickly, right after the play, and let them assess why their leverage was here and what they needed to do to get themselves in the right position, or why they needed to widen or take a step - whatever it might be. I think that's part of me growing as a player and understanding what needs to be done to help the team win.
"Yeah, that can be a small positive that helps, and we've been doing that."
NFL Team Report - Dallas Cowboys - NOTES, QUOTES
--Coach Jason Garrett finally has acknowledged that he has given up play-calling duties to offensive line coach Bill Callahan.
The decision was made in January. Owner Jerry Jones and Callahan announced the news when a miffed Garrett declined to confirm.
Now Garrett has decided to come clean and clear the air on the whole situation.
"We've been working really since the end of January with that in mind, and what that in mind is Bill Callahan has been the acting offensive coordinator, and he's going to take on the full responsibilities of calling the plays," Garrett said. "We made that decision months ago. Where we did have a little bit of a miscommunication was when we were going to present that publicly. It's something you've asked me about a number of different times, and I told you, 'Well, we're still working on that,' and we were. We were working through the mechanics. A lot of the situational work we did today in practice is to help Bill, help Wade (Wilson), help all of our guys communicate things, just like we're trying to help Monte (Kiffin) on the defensive side and Rich Bisaccia on the special teams. So you're working on all the different communications, the mechanics of the game as we say.
"We've been going that over the last four or five months. The area where we didn't do a very good job -- and I take full responsibility -- is just being on the same page with the communication of that publicly. It came out and just to clarify it, those are the roles we are going to have."
Garrett wanted it clear that there was no dissent between he and Jones on the decision, just in how it was delivered.
"Mr. Jones, Stephen (Jones) and I, we're all on the same page and have been on the same page for months and been acting that way around this building," Garrett said. "We just hadn't said it out loud."
Callahan is expected to sit in the coaches' booth this season. He will call plays for the first time in the NFL since 2003 and the first time since he was head coach at Nebraska in 2007.
Dallas finished sixth in total offense last season. It has never finished lower than 13th since Garrett took over as offensive coordinator, and the Cowboys have ranked as high as second (in 2009) with Garrett as the play-caller.
"We're not interested in making change for change sake," Garrett said. "That's not what we're trying to do. We're trying to make positive change. I talked about how our roster has turned over. We've rebuilt this roster in two years. Those are all changes we think are positive changes for our team, not change for change sake. We think it's a positive change and have all embraced it."
It is still Garrett's offense and he will have veto power.
--The Cowboys are in no hurry to make a move with defensive tackle Josh Brent, who is facing intoxication manslaughter charges for his role in the death of practice-squad linebacker Jerry Brown.
His trial is set for September and he faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. There is no chance Brent plays with the Cowboys in 2013, yet he remains on the team's active roster.
"Josh's situation is obviously one that will take care of itself," vice-president Stephen Jones said. "He's working through his legal issues and I'm sure the NFL and the Cowboys at that point will know where we stand."
Asked if the Cowboys would make a roster move before camp so they can use Brent's spot for another player, Jones said the team will continue to monitor the situation.
The big question as to why Brent is still on the roster at all, considering his legal situation and the recent problem of failing a drug test, went unanswered by Jones.
"I don't have any comment other than what I said," Jones said. "We'll monitor what happens legally and go from there."
--Running back Joseph Randle wishes he had been able to practice in the team's OTAs and minicamp. But he was sidelined because of two surgeries to repair ligament damage in his thumb. The fifth-round draft pick will have his cast removed June 21. He said he will be ready to go for camp.
"I wish it was tomorrow," Randle said. "I'm just going to have a little brace on there, but I'm going to be good to go (after getting the cast removed)."
The Cowboys drafted Randle to back up DeMarco Murray. Murray has missed nine games with injuries in his two seasons. Dallas knew when it selected Randle that he would not be ready until training camp, but Randle has spent the offseason staying in shape and getting "mental reps." He weighs 207 now, up from 198 last season, and expects to play at that weight.
"It is what it is," Randle said of his injury. "All you can do is be your best. All I can do right now is work out and mentally be ready and know the plays and stuff like that. So I've just got to do what I can right now and continue to learn each day."
--Quarterback Kyle Orton has taken every first-team snap in OTAs and minicamp in place of the injured Tony Romo, who is recovering from back surgery.
"I'm trying to make the most of it," Orton said. "They won't be there in a month come camp, so I have to fall back on these."
Orton signed on with the Cowboys last offseason to serve as Romo's backup. He played only 11 plays last season, mop-up duty against the Bears.
It was the first time since 2006 that Orton didn't start a game in a season. He knows the Cowboys don't want him to start in 2013, but he will be ready if called upon.
"I know my role on this team," Orton said, "and I work hard to serve that role."
Orton has started 69 games in his career, going 35-34. The Cowboys signed him as insurance behind Romo.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We put a team together we think can compete for a championship. We need to stay healthy. We think we got good football players. We think we have improved our team this year. We feel like we have systems in place that better fit our personnel on both sides of the ball. We got a new special teams coach and we expect to get better there. I feel like we have the players that can win a championship. I feel like the teams that won championships last year, we can compete with them and were right there competing with them maybe without a full deck. We have confidence that this team will win a championship." -- Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones.
NFL Team Report - Dallas Cowboys - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FRANCHISE PLAYER: LB Anthony Spencer (tendered at $10.627 million; signed tender March 12).
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--CB Michael Coe (not tendered as UFA).
--OG Derrick Dockery (not tendered as UFA).
--SS Charlie Peprah (not tendered as UFA).
--LB Brady Poppinga (not tendered as UFA).
--DE Brian Schaefering (not tendered as RFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--CB B.W. Webb (4/114): $2,603,380/4 yrs, $443,380 SB.
--RB Joseph Randle (5/151): $2,348,880/4 yrs, $118,880 SB.
--LB DeVonte Holloman (6/185): $2,264,220/4 yrs, $104,220 SB.
--WR Anthony Armstrong: FA had been released by Cowboys; $630,000/1 yr.
--C Phil Costa: Potential RFA; $2.7M/2 yrs, $450,000 SB/$950,000 guaranteed.
--S Eric Frampton: Not tendered as UFA; terms unknown.
--LS L.P. Ladouceur: Potential UFA; 5 yrs, $600,000 SB.
--S Danny McCray: RFA tendered at $1.323M with no compensation; terms unknown.
--LB Ernie Sims: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Anthony Spencer: FFA; $10.627M/1 yr.
--S Will Allen: UFA Steelers; $905,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.
--LB Justin Durant: UFA Lions; $2.365M/2 yrs, $400,000 SB.\
--DL Anthony Hargrove: FA; terms unknown.
--DT Nick Hayden: FA; terms unknown.
--TE Dante Rosario: UFA Chargers; terms unknown.
--CB Brandon Underwood: FA; terms unknown.
--LB Victor Butler: UFA Saints; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--DE Kenyon Coleman: UFA Saints; terms unknown.
--LB Dan Connor (released).
--CB Mike Jenkins: UFA Raiders; terms unknown.
--RB Felix Jones: UFA Eagles; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Orie Lemon: Not tendered as ERFA/Chiefs; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--P Brian Moorman: UFA Steelers; terms unknown.
--WR Kevin Ogletree: UFA Buccaneers; terms unknown.
--TE John Phillips: UFA Chargers; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--S Gerald Sensabaugh (released).
--DE Marcus Spears (released/post-June 1 designation).