OXNARD, Calif. — Earlier in Dallas Cowboys training camp, cornerback Orlando Scandrick was going back and forth with receiver Dez Bryant during post-practice stretching over who got the best of each other during drills.A fan chimed in from behind the stands, with “Give up, Orlando. He dominated you.”Instead of letting it go, Scandrick switched his beef from Bryant to the fan.“And you still going to be behind that fence watching me. And you still going to be behind that fence watching me,” Scandrick repeated with a classic hate smile on his face.This just in: Scandrick sees all, hears all and reads all, especially the negative, and he uses it as fuel to stoke a fire that burns within.“Of course, I hear,” Scandrick said. “You are going to hear it. You are aware of it. But it’s all motivation to me. It’s all motivation. I’m driven by negative motivation. It lights a fire under me.”That fire is manifested by a feisty demeanor on the field and prickly personality off it. It has also rubbed some people in the Cowboys’ organization wrong.So instead of being celebrated for being a five-year mainstay at nickel corner, overcoming his small size and modest beginning as a fifth-round pick from Boise State, Scandrick feels as if everything he does gets nitpicked and scrutinized.“My demeanor is my demeanor,” Scandrick said. “My edge is my chip on my shoulder, always wanting to prove somebody wrong, being a reserve, being a little feisty. That’s my edge. That’s what makes me successful. It’s funny to me. I take a lot of criticism. But it’s not warranted. It’s motivation to me.”Scandrick is not just motivated by the fans or his critics but also by the moves of the Cowboys’ front office.He called it “huge motivation” a year ago when the team signed cornerback Brandon Carr to a $50.2 million free-agent contract and drafted cornerback Morris Claiborne sixth overall.Scandrick felt it was a slap in the face when the Cowboys drafted B.W. Webb in the fourth round this year, causing many to believe that Webb would soon be taking Scandrick’s job. Scandrick, however, has had the best training camp of his career.“It’s outlandish and funny to think that someone was going to come in here and just off the street and put me out of job, and I was going to take it and lay down,” Scandrick said. “I think it has been good. I have thrived. And I’m playing as well as I’ve played in my career, and I still consider myself an ascending player. I’m still getting better. It’s not like I have topped off.”Cowboys coach Jason Garrett agreed.“The mindset is really good,” Garrett said. “He is one of the guys who won one of our off-season awards. So his commitment in the off-season has been outstanding. His mindset in camp has been really good.”It’s a testament to Scandrick’s competitive nature and feisty personality, traits the Cowboys have liked since they drafted him in 2008.“I love him,” Garrett said. “He is a fighter. He is a competitor. He has been that way since minute one. That’s one of the things that attracted him to us. That’s what we loved about him right from the start.”That attitude manifests itself in different ways, not just verbal jousts with fans, the media and teammates. It also was behind Scandrick’s push of an official this week that got him kicked out of practice.Scandrick was smart enough to do the right thing by his teammates and coaches and take full responsibility.“It was a huge mistake, a bad mistake, a selfish mistake,” Scandrick said “It was not putting my team first. I went, and I addressed it. I addressed the team. I addressed the coaches, and I let everybody know my remorsefulness, that those weren’t the things that we want to do if we want to be a winning football team.””Scandrick’s complete contrition was welcomed by the coaching staff and the main reason Garrett didn’t fine him.But right on cue, the incident became another source of motivation. Scandrick responded with one his best days of camp, knocking a ball away from Bryant, which has rarely happened all month by anyone, and nearly intercepting a pass from quarterback Tony Romo.“People don’t know how good I really want to be. People don’t know how good I can be. People don’t realize that I’m 26 years old. Some players ain’t even scratching the surface yet, and you don’t even hit your prime until you are 27, 28. “I’m 26 years old. I’m still young. I’m still getting better. I’m secure and secure with myself and content with the direction of my career. As long as I continue to work, I will get better. I am working. I’m getting better.”And one other thing for the critics to chew on, he doesn’t like to be called small.“I’m not even really small,” Scandrick said. “My height isn’t as tall, but I have the longest arms out of any corners on our team. It’s like deceptive length.”Whatever you say. Whatever motivates you.
Clarence E. Hill Jr. 817-390-7760 Twitter: @clarencehilljr