OXNARD, Calif. -- After 24 nights, 16 practices and one preseason game in California, the Dallas Cowboys are ready to return to Texas on Friday.
While their time in Oxnard has been about getting ready for the 2018 season, there have been moments in camp that have brought reward and rest, levity, travel issues and learning. Lots of learning.
Stay off my scooter
Based on the performances in the offseason program, players were given golf carts to get around the River Ridge Residence Inn complex for training camp as a reward for their hard work. Quarterback Dak Prescott, who earned one of the golf carts, kicked that up a notch.
He provided some custom-made motorized scooters for his offensive linemen and running back Ezekiel Elliott.
“Those guys do so much for me,” Prescott said. “They keep me healthy by protecting me, and it's just a little treat there.
"I've gotten one and they all were trying to steal it and ride it, so I figured the least that I can do, keep them off mine, and the only way I can keep them off mine is get them their own.”
It's gotta be the shoes
Sean Lee is picky. He likes what he likes, especially when it comes to his cleats. The linebacker has worn the same style of Nikes since 2012. There is only one problem: Six years later, the pairs he has are starting to fall apart.
In one practice, Lee blew through one cleat, forcing him to wear a different color, albeit the same style. On Thursday, the glue on both cleats finally gave out, forcing him to put on a new pair of Nikes. They seemed to fit with Lee’s Penn State background since they were all black.
“You know when you put a shoe on and it feels good, you don’t want to change it. It’s like a glove,” Lee said. “The No. 1 thing, I’ve got to have my feet right. That’s like the only thing I care about uniformwise is feeling like I have my feet under me, and if the shoe doesn’t feel right, I’ve got issues with it.”
'Put your damn gloves on'
Wide receivers make their living with their hands. With the tackiness of the gloves these days, receivers rarely will go to work without them. Cole Beasley stood out when camp began, not just because of his play on the field but because he wasn’t wearing any gloves.
He taped up his fingers, but he kept the gloves to the side.
“If you can catch without [the gloves], then you can catch with them,” Beasley said. “I like to do it in practice.”
But then Beasley had two rare drops in one session, and he heard from receivers coach Sanjay Lal.
“He’s like, ‘Man, just put your damn gloves on,’” Beasley said. “I was like, ‘All right, I’ll put them on.’ He’s a big believer in practicing how you play.”
Location, location, location
The Cowboys love having camp in Oxnard because of the weather, proximity of the meeting rooms to the fields and the, well, weather. But there are issues about training on the West Coast that play a part in their personnel decisions.
In case of injuries, it is difficult to get players to Oxnard in a timely fashion. While the Cowboys don’t narrow their vision on where to look for players, flying a player in from the East Coast to Los Angeles International and then making a two-hour drive north to Oxnard, depending on traffic, can be an all-day ordeal.
So a lot of times, they will look to the West Coast first.
"There are a lot of good players out here. Oftentimes if a player is out here and we think he’s about the same level of another player that we have to bring in from a long way away and it’s going to take him a day or so to get here, we’ll give the guy who is out here the first opportunity,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We’ve done that but we’ve also brought players in from all across the country. There are not a lot of players out there who are ready to step into a training camp right now. That’s another challenge ... But there are some logistical challenges getting guys in, and certainly the guys here in Southern California have an advantage.”
Speaking from experience
Willie Anderson was a four-time Pro Bowler and a three-time All Pro in his 13-year career, 12 of which were spent with the Cincinnati Bengals, where he was coached by Paul Alexander. If there is somebody to explain what Alexander, who is in his first year as Cowboys offensive-line coach, wants, it is Anderson.
Alexander used clips from Anderson’s playing days to show the linemen how he wants certain hand placement and footwork. For the first 10 days of camp, Anderson was a de facto assistant coach, helping on the field and in the meeting rooms.
“Big Willie can move,” right tackle La'el Collins said. “He’s still got that sudden quickness with him ... He played a long time in the NFL and has got a lot of experience, a lot of knowledge of the game. He just kind of tried to get us to think about what the defensive guys, think about when they go against us. That’s huge. He showed me a lot of good things that will help me through the season.”