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Cowboys missed Orlando Scandrick in more ways than one

OXNARD, Calif. -- As Orlando Scandrick walked on to the field for the Dallas Cowboys’ first walk-through of training camp, he took a moment to bless himself and point to the sky.

Almost 11 months to the day since tearing the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee, Scandrick was glad to be back where he never wanted to leave.

“Time kind of went by fast,” Scandrick said.

The Cowboys missed what Scandrick brings to the defense. He is among the best slot corners in the NFL. He is a tough defender on the outside as well. Of the players eligible for the season opener, he has more career sacks than any defender with 9.5.

But the Cowboys missed how he plays as much as what he does.

“He's an edgy guy, and I say that as a compliment,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Everything he does, there's a little bit of 'I got a little chip on my shoulder' with that. He's always had it. He had it when we drafted him in the fifth round. He thought he should have been drafted higher. He came in here and is one of those guys that constantly over delivers throughout the early part of his career and really found a home for us as an inside guy, plays outside, can show up on teams. And you said it: It's not always his performance on the field. It's how he goes about it in practice and the meeting room and just how he functions in our locker room, really a good leader, a positive influence in so many ways on our younger players.”

Scandrick doesn’t want to get into that stuff, saying he’s “not a self-promoter.”

“I just want to get back out there and just help my team win,” Scandrick said. “I’m going to bring what I bring to the defense. I’m going to be myself. I’m going to come out. I’m going to bring the fight. I’m going to be aggressive. I’m going to try and play with swagger and just be myself.”

To be himself again, Scandrick will have to deal with issues that invariably come up with the injury he suffered. There will be good and bad days. Sean Lee missed the 2014 season with a torn ACL. He went through a similar rehab process and was worked into practice in a manner in which the Cowboys will work Scandrick this summer.

“I talked to him about [how] in the past you could bring it every single day. You’re going to have days where you’re not feeling great,” Lee said. “You’re going to have to fight through those days. It doesn’t mean you can’t be the same player or he’s probably going to be a better player because of the work he’s put in. But you’ve got to take your time and you have to keep at it. You can’t get frustrated and too low when you have a bad day.”

The Cowboys will give Scandrick a day of rest here and there. He said the knee is healed. He feels as strong as he has ever felt after the daily grind of the rehab.

But he knows he needs to adjust to the game. Early in camp he has attempted to steal some downtime during special-teams drills to work on his footwork and drops. He works on ball drills, shuffling back and forth, catching passes at different angles.

“It’s a lot different than doing things on the side in cords and knowing I got to break,” Scandrick said. “I need to work on making those movements on anticipation on other people. Training camp is going to be good for me. I’m really excited. I can’t stress the excitement that I have and I’m really excited about the season.”

Those drills he has done have been yards away from where his knee crumpled last summer, but he said there was no mental hurdle he needed to clear when he got back on the field.

“I am back,” he said. “There’s nothing I need to see. I just need to get the repetition of making the plays and just being out there and seeing the things and just going through it. Training camp has always been for me, and I’ve always said throughout my whole career, I use this to get prepared for the season. I know everybody wants to see who looks good and who doesn’t look good during this. But for me it’s never been that. For me it’s who’s going to look good on Sept. 11.”