Roughly a week into resuming his NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys, middle linebacker Rolando McClain is already getting first-team reps.
McClain, who took the 2013 season off while in retirement, worked with the starters at times Saturday in the regular defense and during goal-line drills.
McClain still has a lot of catching up to do to become a regular with the Cowboys. But the eighth overall draft pick in 2010 with the Oakland Raiders, who retired twice with the Baltimore Ravens last year, has made a good first impression with the Cowboys.
“I have liked what he’s done so far. He’s in shape,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s smart. He picks things up very quickly in meetings and is able to translate it on the field. It’s easy to see why he was a top-10 pick in the draft.
“Now, it’s really early and he’s probably practiced four or five days with us and he has a long way to go, but he’s really kind of stepped into this situation and it seems like he’s taking advantage of this opportunity. You see a lot of really good traits both physically and otherwise.”
McClain, 25, who was acquired in a trade from the Ravens in July and was talked into playing again by his young children, is taking nothing for granted this time. He is not worried about breaking in the starting lineup. He is just focused on playing football again after not playing in a game since 2012.
“I got a steep hill ahead of me and I’m just climbing,” McClain said. “We still got a lot more training camp left, so I’m focused on that. So far it’s been good, just learning everything on the fly, trying to figure out what I can and just play fast to be the best I can.
“It’s been awhile since I played a game. Just trying to make plays and see what happens from there.”
There was a time when Tom Ciskowski was a star on the rise in the Cowboys’ organization. But his roles have taken a downward turn the past two years.
He went from assistant director of player personnel last year to director of college scouting. His new title in the 2014 media guide is senior personnel executive and he has yet come to training camp in Oxnard, Calif.
He will remain part of the brain trust that deals with college scouting, but without the supervisory responsibilities.
It’s quite a drop-off for a man who once was in charge of the Cowboys’ drafts from 2008-2013. He joined the franchise as an area scout in 1993 and was the assistant director of college scouting from 2001-2008.
He was promoted to Cowboys’ director of pro and college scouting in 2008 when Jeff Ireland left for Miami and had the title change to assistant director of player personnel in 2011.
But that was before the Cowboys promoted new rising star Will McClay to assistant director of player personnel after the 2013 draft.
Briefly• Quarterback Tony Romo sat out of practice again Saturday as the Cowboys continue to play it safe with his surgically repaired back.
• Garrett said the team was mainly focused on short-yardage and goal-line drills and there would be few throws down the field so they figured it was a good time to rest Romo. Garrett said Romo will be back at practice for the Blue-White scrimmage Sunday. Considering the Cowboys were off Friday, it makes two consecutive days off for Romo, who has had five days off since the Cowboys starting training camp 10 days ago.
• The Cowboys waived guard Darius Morris and wide receiver L’Damian Washington to make room for defensive ends Kenneth Boatright and Adewale Ojomo.