OXNARD, Calif. – UPDATE: Personally, training camp doesn’t actually begin until the pads come on.
That’s when the hitting begins. Let’s face it, that’s football.
While the NFL has limited the amount of practices you can have in full pads because of player safety concerns, it still is what the game is all about and what attracts so many fans.
For the Dallas Cowboys, let the hitting begin.
“Everyone is excited to put the pads on and just hit one another,” said Tyron Smith, who happens to be one of larger player on the field at 6-foot-5, 320 pounds. “For me it’s always exciting to get back in pads. It’s like you never left.”
One of the highlights of training camp is one-on-one trench drills, which pit an offensive lineman against a defensive lineman in a battle of strength. Today, center Joe Looney held his own against stiff competition. Looney was forced into the starting lineup last season after All-Pro center Travis Frederick battled an auto immune disease. He showed no signs of slowing down this season.
“It’s exciting to get out here and test the skills you’ve been working on all offseason,” says Looney. “It’s fun coming out here. We’re having a good time.”
OXNARD, Calif. (3:30 p.m.) -- It's almost time to put on the pads and hit somebody.
After five days of orientation, stretching and technique work, the Dallas Cowboys will don pads this afternoon for the first time during this year's training camp. As always, the first padded practice brings a certain level of hype for the players and coaches.
"I just think it’s one of those days where we’re excited to see everybody," said head coach Jason Garrett. "You’re excited to see veteran players coming back. You’re excited to see the younger players and how they interact with the veterans. You’re just really excited to see where your team is."
Over the past couple months, the Cowboys have put in plenty of work on the practice field through offseason programs, lifting, conditioning and organized team activities, so there's a certain level of familiarity and camaraderie among teammates. Now, they get a chance to let loose and test their strength in physical competition against each other in order to make the final 53-man roster.
"It feels like we’ve been here for a month, but we haven’t even had a full football practice yet," Garrett said. "We’re just excited to get out there and play football, doing the fundamental things that help us win games. It’ll be a physical practice and we’re fired up to be a part of this thing."
Meanwhile, some veterans -- specifically center Travis Frederick and wide receiver Randall Cobb -- will have the first day of practice off. Garrett said that it's part of a preliminary schedule to help keep them fresh and ready throughout the season.
They ran the conditioning test, they’ve been through a lot of running," Garrett said. "As we have these days that are all bunched together, we just want to be deliberate in making sure they’re getting the work in, but getting a little time off as well. As a result, a younger player gets an opportunity, so that’s part of the equation as well."
With a Cowboys team that expects to play smash-mouth football and rely on an aggressive defense in 2019, you can expect this year's padded practices to be intense.