IRVING -- A year after predicting his departure from Dallas, wide receiver Patrick Crayton was back Thursday at the Cowboys' Valley Ranch training complex as a member of the San Diego Chargers.
For Crayton, it was business as usual. He felt right at home during the joint practices between the teams in advance of Sunday's preseason game at Cowboys Stadium.
"It's still work for me," Crayton said. "You have to treat it every day like it's work. I'm just on the different side now. No, it's not strange, not strange at all. It feels like I'm back at home. I'm back on this great field again. It's like a putting green. I love it. It was good."
There were no fireworks between Crayton and his former teammates. He and Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick renewed their battles and trash-talking session. Crayton, however, did get shoved after a play by defensive end Jason Hatcher.
"I told him I saw better hands on a snake," Hatcher joked.
Said Crayton: "It's all in fun."
What's not fun for the Cowboys is their own situation at receiver, where they have not found a suitable replacement for Crayton as a reliable third receiver.
The steady and crafty Crayton would be a good fit for the Cowboys, complementing game-breaking receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Austin.
Kevin Ogletree is being targeted for that role after the Cowboys cut Roy Williams in the off-season. He received a trial by fire practicing against the Chargers on Thursday.
Austin (sore hamstring) was held out for precautionary reasons. He might miss Sunday's game if he can't practice on Friday.
Ogletree got a chance to work with the starters opposite Bryant.
"It's an opportunity for me every day just to prove my worth being here and my role on this team," Ogletree said. "I think I'm getting there. It's a process. I'm getting better. That's what counts."
One of the reasons the Cowboys cut Crayton last year is because they thought Ogletree was ready for a larger role.
He played in only six of the Cowboys' first 13 games, catching three passes for 34 yards, before going on injured reserve with a dislocated big toe.
Ogletree is healthy and has shown improvement in camp, but is being pushed by rookie Dwayne Harris for the third spot.
"There are a lot of good things that he's done," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said of Ogletree. "He shows really on a daily basis that he's a guy who can win as a route runner in this league both as an outside receiver and inside receiver.
"Kevin, like a lot of our younger players, shows you flashes and needs to do it on a more consistent basis. I think he's done that more and more over the last three years and he just needs to keep doing it."
If Ogletree doesn't do it, the Cowboys, who have $6 million in salary cap room, will likely search for a proven receiver on the waiver wire after final cuts are made.
The irony is not lost on Crayton, who has been the epitome of reliable since being taken as a seventh-round pick in 2004.
"Well, I don't know what to tell them because I won't be available," Crayton said, joking.
How it ended was no laughing matter to the DeSoto native, who enjoyed living the dream of playing for his hometown team.
He said he has no hard feelings about his departure, which came after the Cowboys tried to trade him during the 2010 draft. He had boycotted the off-season workouts and then accused the Cowboys of only taking him to camp for insurance.
"I had a wonderful six years. I'm very grateful to Mr. [Jerry] Jones and this organization for what they did for me. There will never be any hard feelings for me. There will always be motivation. You have to prove every day that you can play in this league."
Crayton said he is happy to be with the Chargers, who run essentially the same offense as the Cowboys. Chargers coach Norv Turner taught the offense to Garrett when Garrett was a player and Turner was the Cowboys' offensive coordinator in the 1990s.
So far, Crayton is an even better fit with the Chargers than he was with the Cowboys.
He made an immediate impact last year, catching 28 passes for 514 yards, including a career-high 18 yards per catch, playing nine games before a season-ending wrist injury.
Crayton is San Diego's No. 2 receiver opposite Pro Bowler Vincent Jackson.
"It's another veteran, it's another veteran," Turner said of Crayton. "It's another guy who knows how to come to work every day and play.
"He was getting on a roll last year when he got hurt. It was a big negative for our team when he got hurt. He is back. He is going to give us some big plays."
Clarence E. Hill Jr.