When veteran safety Brodney Pool signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys in March, he knew he was getting the chance to perhaps earn a multi-year contract here or elsewhere.
He might not have known he would have to beat out Barry Church first.
"I think that's going to be a hell of a competition," defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said the first week of organized team activities.
He was right.
Church, a third-year player who went undrafted out of Toledo, and Pool, an eighth-year veteran out of Oklahoma, each got a lot of chances to impress the coaches because of a knee injury to Gerald Sensabaugh.
And both did.
"Right now, they are both competing for it and splitting time, and the best man will win," secondary coach Jerome Henderson said.
Church smiled at the thought.
"I definitely thought they were going to give me a shot at it," he said. "It was my responsibility to take advantage of it. So far, I think I did."
Pool has advantages, however. He is the veteran, and he has a history with Ryan. He is familiar with the defensive scheme, although it has changed since player and coach were together in Cleveland.
"Football is football," said Pool, who spent the past two seasons with the Jets. "There are only so many things you can do. From Cleveland to New York to Dallas, I've been through a lot of defenses. I've studied a lot. I've been with Rob before, so I know what's going on. He wants his players just to make plays. That's the best thing about playing for him. He's always got your back, and he wants you to go out there and perform at your best."
The Cowboys want athleticism and turnover-making ability in their safeties. It is what they liked in the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Pool.
"With Brodney, he's so athletic," Henderson said. "He's one of those guys that if the ball's in the air, you think he's got a chance to get to it. Great ball skills. Great range. Really loves the game. Plays it the right way. I love being around the kid."
But with Church, it is a learning period for Henderson.
That has meant studying Church on film from last year, when he proved to be a physical player near the line of scrimmage before his season was cut short by a shoulder injury that required surgery in the off-season.
"When you watch him on tape, he just jumps out at you," Henderson said of the 6-2, 220-pound Church. "You say, 'Wow, we've got to find ways to play this guy more.' He just shows up making plays. All the time. Always around the ball. You look at that, you say you want to give him more opportunities. Now he's getting his opportunities. We'll see how it plays out."
The first practice of training camp is scheduled for July 30 in Oxnard, Calif.
Church knows what he wants to do before then.
"I want to know the playbook, front to back, without even having to think about it," he said. "Bam, I know this call, I know that call. That's what I'm going to work on. ... Last year, you know, it was a miscommunication a lot of the times. Now I know the playbook, kind of front to back, but it'll get better going into training camp."
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407