OXNARD, Calif. - Day 9 is Sunday and bittersweet.
Today is our final day at Cowboys Camp but it's also the day for the annual Blue-White scrimmage an intra-squad game where the coaches try and evaluate just how far along the team is in simulated game conditions without getting anyone injured. No morning walkthrough today, just Jason Garrett's press conference at noon so we got to sleep in a bit. Although for some reason I keep waking up at 8 a.m. regardless. Guess that translates to 10 a.m. back home and that's normal when you work till 11:30 every night.
During Garrett's press conference he told a great story of how hard it is to reign in Jason Witten. Couple of years ago, the Cowboys put in a play called Aggie 21. It involved a quick substitution in which Witten was pulled from the game in favor of former Aggie Martellus Bennett. His job was to wham the nose tackle. Take him out! Garrett said he didn't want Witten being part of the wham play for fear he would separate his shoulder and you loose guy who is essential to the success of the offense. He said Witten, who he has a solid relationship, with wouldn't talk to him for a week. What? I can't do that coach? That's how much he loves the game. He never wants to come out for any reason.
Ran into Jason by accident after his noon presser - always gracious and nice to say hello leaving our brief conversation with, "You've covered a couple of these." Next up, classroom time for the media. Gary Slaughter, Supervisor of NFL Officials, and his staff on hand to present the new rules for the coming season. The biggest change, especially for running backs, is the dropping your head and using the crown of your helmet to take out an opponent trying to tackle you. A lot of players are upset with this new rule, but when explained, the running back has to be more or less targeting his opponent in open field before they are going to call it. They are not going to allow running backs in the league to be unprotected when going into the line. So it will be interesting to see how that gets called over the season and the other is the tuck rule. Thank goodness they have changed that where it's now a fumble. That was always one of the most controversial that sent most of us screaming out of the room - especially when it was your team recovering the fumble only to find out it was protected due to the tuck rule. No longer.
By the way, in a brief conversation after the presentation, Gary was nice enough to confirm for me he had his leg broken and knee shattered when he was working a Rams-Eagles game as head linesman and it started his conversation about leaving the field even though he didn't want to at the time. Now he's also looking for NFL recruits through college football like the Big 12 or Pac-12 and even at the high school level. Gary does a tremendous amount of scouting for future officials to try and keep their ranks filled with good officials. That was the first time I have had the opportunity to sit through the entire presentation and I was glad I did.
Blue-White scrimmage takes place in the last 45 minutes of this afternoon's workout. Jason Witten with a TD in red zone drills right out of the gate. Former Baylor wide receiver Terrance Williams with some impressive catches and Joseph Randall (the fifth round draft pick out of Oklahoma State) took another step towards becoming DeMarco Murray's primary back up with a touchdown. For the defense, a fourth round draft pick out of William and Mary has a pick six when he jumps a route on a Kyle Orton pass and returns it for a touchdown.
On the downside, the offensive line still needs a lot of work. DeMarcus Ware abused Tyron Smith. Nate Livings struggled as well today. Confirming with offensive play caller Bill Callahan again today that he will try calling plays from the press box using the wrist band system starting this weekend in Canton and see how it goes.
Thus ends another Cowboys training camp for us with a goodbye tonight on Instant Replay. Thanks to all the help we received from the Cowboys, KTVT in Dallas and of course our crew in Oxnard Mike Klein and Billy Caldera and back home Larry Ramirez, Daniel Villanueva, and Alex Martinez and Nicole Perez for posting these blogs since I don't know how. We will have a final toast tonight to Camp before quickly packing since we must leave Oxnard at 4 am in order to be in LA for our flight home and then it's off to work as usual Monday afternoon sharing your pain of 100 plus degree weather.
To the young man from San Antonio who is now employed by the Cowboys who came up to me: thank you. He said he was meaning to talk to me before but was hesitant. He wanted to tell me he grew up watching me and was afraid I might be offended. Quite the opposite - very gratified. I consider it a major compliment and never take viewers for granted. Thank you again. See you back home.
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