Cowboys put focus on keeping rookies healthy

Posted Saturday, May. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Despite undergoing surgery to repair a damaged left retina on Wednesday, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made a point to keep a watchful eye on rookie minicamp Friday and Saturday from his luxury box overlooking the practice field at the team’s Valley Ranch headquarters.

Jones is especially interested in seeing the progress of a rookie draft class that the Cowboys expect to get significant playing time.

Jones is not just talking about center Travis Frederick, the first-round pick from Wisconsin. He is looking for big contributions from the first six picks: tight end Gavin Escobar (second round), receiver Terrance Williams and safety J.J. Wilcox (third round), cornerback B.W. Webb (fourth round) and running back Joseph Randle (fifth round).

“This is where it starts,” Jones said. “Hopefully we will be able to have more of these rookies on the field for us than we had last year. I think we have made a pretty big commitment in this draft to get these guys on the field.”

Five of the seven picks last year missed time from minicamp through the regular season because of injuries.

First-round pick Morris Claiborne was sidelined until training camp with a wrist injury. Fourth-round pick Kyle Wilber suffered a fractured finger in minicamp.

Fourth-round pick pick Matt Johnson missed minicamp because of school and most of training camp and the regular season because of hamstring injuries.

Fifth-round pick Danny Coale suffered a fractured foot in organized team activities, and seventh-round pick Caleb McSurdy suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon in training camp.

Jones said the Cowboys have made a point to monitor the rookies’ activities, contact and stretching in an attempt to avoid some of the setbacks this year.

Graduation day

B.W. Webb has been one of the more impressive players in the Cowboys’ rookie minicamp so far. But the fourth-round pick, who is expected to compete with Orlando Scandrick for the starting spot at nickel cornerback, will miss the final day of camp on Sunday to return to William and Mary for graduation.

Webb counts his family as his biggest motivation for wanting to succeed in the NFL. They are also the reason why he had to go back to attend graduation.

“If it was up to my parents, it’s graduation before football,” Webb said. “They are more happy about that than [me] being in the NFL.”

Green’s son with Dallas

Jared Green grew up a die-hard Redskins fan. As the son of Hall of Famer Darrell Green, he didn’t exactly have a choice.

Jared Green, though, chose his own road. He insists his father is comfortable with the fact that he is with the Redskins’ rivals and trying to win a job with the Cowboys.

“We appreciated everything that he did and that the organization allowed him to do,” Jared Green said. “But after that, it’s just a job that Dad worked for 20 years, and now, I’m a grown man, and my dad supports everything that I do. So we are all in for the Dallas Cowboys.”

Green spent last season on Carolina’s practice squad, but when the Panthers didn’t give him a chance on their 53-player roster at the end of the year, he opted to leave for the Cowboys. Green has been the most impressive receiver in the team’s rookie minicamp — even more so than struggling third-round pick Terrance Williams.

Leary getting attention

Ronald Leary is the most experienced offensive lineman, in the Cowboys’ system, at least at rookie minicamp.

Jason Garrett said it showed.

“He actually flashed a little bit at us this morning,” Garrett said Friday after the first practice of the weekend. “He has an unfair advantage, like some of the veteran guys who have been around. He knows the system. He’s been with us for a year. The play calls are very natural to him. He understands fronts and all of that stuff, so he’s going to play faster.”

At this time last year, Leary was in the same position as many of the other players in the three-day camp. He was an undrafted rookie, signing with the Cowboys out of Memphis. He went undrafted largely because of a knee condition that could shorten his career.

He spent last season on the practice squad before being activated for the season finale in Washington.

He said Friday he has come a long way since this time a year ago.

“I learned a lot from coach [Bill] Callahan, learned a lot from a lot of players on the team about just being a professional, that this is your job,” he said. “I think I’ve grown as a person.”

Garrett agreed and said Leary will have a chance this summer.

Briefly

• Third-round pick Terrance Williams has struggled with drops through the first two days of minicamp. The former Baylor receiver spent time catching passes after practice Friday with receivers coach Derek Dooley.

• Guard Charlie Bryant left the team after Friday’s practice, and wide receiver Darrin Moore, who was at minicamp on a tryout basis, quit because of a groin injury.

• The Cowboys are going through their first minicamp practices, but Jason Garrett said he is no closer to announcing a decision on the offensive play-caller for next year.

Clarence E. Hill Jr. 817-390-7760 Twitter: @clarencehilljr

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