Dallas Cowboys rookies must earn star

SAN ANTONIO -- Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett wants his rookies to earn their spots on the roster in so many different ways.

And to emphasize what it means to play for the Cowboys, Garrett won't even allow the rookies -- from first-round pick Tyron Smith all the way down to the undrafted free agents -- to wear the star decal on the side of their silver helmets.

And Smith is the projected starter at right tackle.

"The star is very important to us," Garrett said after Monday's walkthrough practice. "The star is an international symbol. It's the Dallas football Cowboys. And the players hear me say that a lot. The star means something.

"This team has been around 51 years, and it's a great tradition. You have to earn the right to wear that star, and we're very clear with the players about that. Just because you sign with the Dallas Cowboys doesn't mean you earned that thing yet."

Rookie cornerback Josh Thomas seemed motivated by the policy.

"Coach Garrett said, 'You guys are going to have to earn the star,' and I'm like, 'Heck yeah, I want to earn my star,'" the fifth-round pick said. "I'm not about receiving things for free. This is an opportunity, and when you do get the star on your helmet then you know you earned it. It's a privilege to wear that star on your helmet."

It has not been determined when the stars will be placed on the helmets, but all will be donning them for the preseason opener on Aug. 11.

"The veteran players have them on and the young players do not have them on," Garrett said. "Hopefully, at some point, they will do the things necessary to earn that star on the side of their helmet."

It's not the first time a Cowboys coach didn't allow stars on the helmets during training camp.

When Bill Parcells became the coach in 2003, he didn't let rookies wear a star on their helmet. Parcells went so far as to make the first-round picks bring him a cup of water during breaks in practice.

The star on the field and against the walls of old Texas Stadium has always been a source of pride for the Cowboys.

In 2000, wide receiver Terrell Owens, then with the San Francisco 49ers, ran to the midfield star and posed with his arms outstretched after scoring both of his two touchdowns. On the second, Cowboys safety George Teague knocked down Owens, and tempers between both teams became heated.

In the same game, running back Emmitt Smith ran to the midfield star after scoring, slammed the ball down and glared at the 49ers sideline.

In 2006, Detroit Lions wide receiver Mike Furrey scored and threw a football against the Texas Stadium end zone wall, knocking down one of the white stars and drawing boos from the crowd.

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.