Rolando McClain returned to practice for the first time as the Cowboys took the middle linebacker off the physically unable to perform list. It was another step as McClain continues to make progress from off-season knee surgery.
McClain got some work with the first-team defense in the walk-through portion of practice but was limited mainly to individual drills.
“We just feel like he’s ready to practice,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s going to be out there on the practice field in his gear, he’s going to be limited in practice, mostly just working individual. But we want to start bringing him back and playing football.”
McClain will miss the first four games of the season serving an NFL suspension for violating the substance abuse policy. The Cowboys considered leaving McClain on PUP to start the season, causing him to miss the first six games.
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The Cowboys have a bye in Week 6, meaning McClain would have missed only one more game as his suspension would have run concurrently with the PUP designation.
But with only 16 games in a season, Garrett said every game is important. That one game is the reason they activated him off PUP, putting him back on the field for the Oct. 11 game against the New England Patriots rather than a return for the Oct. 25 game at the New York Giants.
Anthony Hitchens is expected to start in middle linebacker in McClain’s absence. Hitchens has missed the entire preseason with a foot sprain but should be ready for the opener, Garrett said.
First-round pick Byron Jones admits he knows little about the Cowboys’ history.
Told about Hall of Famer Mel Renfro’s career with the Cowboys — six years primarily at safety and seven years primarily at cornerback — Jones vowed to seek out Renfro at the annual alumni night dinner at AT&T Stadium.
Maybe I can mold into a safety or into a corner. Maybe they’re just trying to see where I fit best.
Cowboys rookie Byron Jones
Jones doesn’t yet know what he is.
With safeties J.J. Wilcox (neck spasms) and Jeff Heath (concussion) out of practice, Jones practiced with the first team at safety Monday. He played cornerback and safety in Saturday’s preseason game.
“It’s tough. It’s tough to fine-tune the small details,” Jones said. “Some of the greats were either corners who played a lot of corner or moved back to safety, but not necessarily at the same time. So I’m still young. I’m still learning. Maybe I can mold into a safety or into a corner. Maybe they’re just trying to see where I fit best.”
After Orlando Scandrick was lost for the season with torn knee ligaments a week ago, Jones figured to line up primarily at cornerback. But the Cowboys continue to play him at both positions.
Weeden to play
Barring unforeseen circumstances, Cowboys backup quarterback Brandon Weeden will play in Thursday’s preseason finale against Houston.
Weeden, who had a concussion in the second preseason game against San Francisco on Aug. 23, went through a full practice session Monday at AT&T Stadium, and declared himself good to go for the game.
“That’s the plan unless something changes between now and then,” Weeden said. “Still a few things we’ve got to do, but I feel better than expected.”
The Cowboys left Oxnard, Calif., after nearly five weeks of camp.
But it won’t be the last time they head west for training camp, despite the building of the team’s new headquarters in Frisco.
The Cowboys have two years remaining on their contract with Oxnard, though they also have out-clauses.
Their plans are to return to Oxnard next year as the Frisco facility, part of the Star in Frisco complex, won’t be ready until mid-August. In 2017, they hope to hold at least parts of camp away from their headquarters. That plan is expected to continue beyond the expiration of the contract.
The Cowboys are brainstorming possible sites in other parts of California in addition to Oxnard, including Santa Barbara and Northern California.
▪ The Cowboys waived punter Tom Hornsey, long snapper Casey Kreiter, defensive back Robert Steeples, receiver Phil Bates and defensive tackle Carlif Taylor. The Cowboys, who have 84 players on their roster, must get to 75 by 3 p.m. Tuesday. Their 53-player roster is due by 3 p.m. Saturday.
▪ The Cowboys don’t have interest in former Arlington Lamar running back Fred Jackson at present, according to a source. Jackson, 34, was waived by the Bills on Monday.
Staff writers Charean Williams and Drew Davison contributed to this report.
12Days until season opener vs. Giants,
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