OXNARD, Calif. -- Most of the cornerback chatter in Dallas Cowboys training camp has centered on the health of first-round draft pick Morris Claiborne, who has battled wrist and knee injuries, and the surgically repaired shoulder of Mike Jenkins, a 2009 Pro Bowler.But the team's gold standard for the position, Brandon Carr, shows up every day and quietly reinforces reasons why the Cowboys signed him to a five-year, $50.1 million contract as a free agent in the off-season."He's the cornerback that, for the receivers, is real hard to beat," said wideout Raymond Radway, who spent last season on the injured reserve list after breaking his leg in the final preseason game. "Everyone wants to get their plays in with him because, if you can beat Carr, it's going to be easy on Sunday."Rob Ryan, the Cowboys' defensive coordinator, said Carr has been even better than coaches envisioned when they lured him away from Kansas City, where he had been a four-year starter."The guy's got an unbelievable work ethic. He was the best player in free agency by far. Not even close," Ryan said. "He's a leader, he helps the other guys around him and he's a tough kid. We need smart and tough. This guy is not nervous about playing under the big lights. He's here in Dallas. It's a different world here. Everything you do is scrutinized. But this guy won't flinch, I can promise you that."Nothing in Carr's background screams "big lights" at the NFL level. Carr, 26, was more serious about basketball than football until his junior year in high school in Flint, Mich. That's when he realized his size (6-foot, 210 pounds) could limit him as a college or NBA point guard. So he shifted his focus to football and played for an NCAA Division II school, Grand Valley State, where the on-campus stadium seats 8,500 -- fewer than the attendees at Sunday's Blue-White scrimmage in Oxnard (9,008).But when Carr speaks, it is clear that he relishes his new environment. Despite growing up in Detroit Lions country, he always cheered for the Cowboys. And longed to play for them some day."To come out here and wear that star and come out and represent, that's what I've dreamed of since I was a little boy," said Carr, 26. "It's all that I expected. I'm trying to make the best of the opportunity."In training camp, he's making that happen with a straightforward approach."I don't really do too much talking. I feel like you go out there, you shut them down and you let your play do your talking," said Carr, who made 237 tackles and intercepted eight passes during his four seasons in Kansas City."The NFL, pretty much, is a mental thing. We all have the physical attributes to come out here and play. What pushes guys over the edge is that mental piece. You have to find a weakness in your opponent and take advantage of it."Carr's primary physical attributes, in the estimation of coaches and teammates, are his technique, upper-body strength and stellar footwork. He credits the latter to his extensive basketball background. But he's also got a swagger that allows him to live on an island in press coverage.Asked to identify the NFL's top press corners, Carr responded: "Can I name myself?"After a pause, he listed the New York Jets' Darrelle Revis, Philadelphia's Nnamdi Asomugha and Denver's Champ Bailey."I still study those guys and take bits and pieces of their game into my game," Carr said. "A good press corner starts with having confidence...that you'll make more plays than you give up. It's an attitude. And you have to have the upper body and the feet to pull it off."Cowboys receivers who have worked against him and studied him in practice vouch for the physical skills. So does quarterback Tony Romo, who credited Carr with a superior athletic move that led to an interception on a pass directed toward Dez Bryant in Sunday's practice."He got inside on a coverage that he really shouldn't," Romo said. "So I'm excited about that. If he can get there and do things like that, that's going to help us a lot."Carr said he is comfortable being looked at by coaches and teammates as the shut-down corner who mentors others, notably Claiborne, at the NFL level."It's a compliment," Carr said. "No one wants to be the weak link. As far as leading, I like to lead by example. So every day I'm going to come in and show these guys how to work and how to practice."That approach works with coach Jason Garrett, who seconded Ryan's assessment that Carr was the team's top priority in free agency."He's big, he's long, he's competitive, he's strong. He knows how to play. I think everybody is seeing that," Garrett said. "I know the receivers are seeing it. The guys on defense are seeing how good a football player he is and how much they appreciate his approach. We liked him a lot when we signed him. Everything we've seen makes us like him even more."Brandon Carr file Age: 26 NFL experience: Fifth season Height: 6-0 Weight: 210 College: Grand Valley State (Michigan) Quotable: "I don't really do too much talking. I feel like you go out there, you shut them down and you let your play do your talking."