Its the atmosphere more than the style of punting that will be different for Dallas Cowboys undrafted rookie free agent Cody Mandell.After spending four years at Alabama and playing in Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., everything in the NFL is new to the former college walk-on, including the locker room culture.You learn really quick that youre a grown man here, Mandell said. You make your decisions, and every decision can either hurt or help you. Ive had to learn that pretty fast.Mandell has had help adjusting from backup quarterback Brandon Weeden, a veteran free agent acquisition from Cleveland. Weedens locker was next to Mandells locker at Valley Ranch.I know how it is when youre a rookie, Weeden said. Your heads spinning. Guys are going everywhere. Its a lot more organized at this level, but youve got to be on time.And you have to be consistent.Mandells punts in practice are getting longer and more consistent. Part of the reason for his success so far has been his work ethic and competitive drive.Hes a good worker, working towards being a great worker. And hes talented, so Im glad hes here, Cowboys special teams coach Rich Bisaccia said.The Cowboys report to training camp in Oxnard, Calif., on July 22. The first full workout is July 24.Mandell and veteran Chris Jones are the only punters on the roster. Both know the team will only keep one.Jones, who is 6-foot, 197 pounds, is starting his fourth season in the league and with Dallas. He played in two games with 10 punts in his first season before being named the regular punter for 2012, but he injured his knee and played in only four games before being placed on injured reserve.Last season, he averaged 45 yards per punt, including a net of 39.1, with a long of 62 and 30 downed inside the 20.Mandell is 6-2, 214 pounds. At Alabama, Mandell averaged 47.1 yards as a senior with 14 of his 39 punts covering 50 yards or more, and he had 15 inside the 20 on the way to second team All-SEC honors. He averaged 42.6 yards for his career with 58 inside the 20 and a long of 63.Mandell created a buzz on the final day of minicamp when he hit the center-hung video board inside AT&T Stadium three times. However, coach Jason Garrett said the board was lower than its usual 90 feet. It had been lowered 12 days earlier for a George Strait concert.Hes your stereotypical specialist, said rookie deep snapper Casey Kreiter, who roomed with Mandell briefly when they both arrived in Dallas. He does his work. He does his job, and he does it consistently.Even Jones offered a positive early review of Mandell, who wears a size 10 1/2 shoe on his right foot for contact and a 12 on his left foot.Hes showing a lot of good things, Jones said. He does what hes asked, all that kind of stuff. I think hes the right kind of player.Making the team will come down to consistency, veteran long snapper L.P. Ladouceur said.Its hard. Its hard for anybody at our position specialists to be coming in, taking the job right away, Ladouceur said. I didnt get it as well. I had to wait a little bit. Its just a hard deal, but hes got to work hard. You never know.If he makes the team, Mandell said Alabama coach Nick Sabans 24-hour rule will still be intact. The rule allows players either to celebrate a win or cope with a loss for 24 hours before getting back to work.Sabans 24-hour rule will always apply to my life. You cant eat a steak dinner if you dont win a championship, Mandell said.
Kelly Ward, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @kellynnward