SAN ANTONIO (AP) – From the first blast of the airhorn Thursday morning, the Dallas Cowboys showed how eager they were to be playing football again.
Players moved so quickly during their morning walkthrough that some coaches told players to ease up. New boss Jason Garrett still hollered, “Let’s go, let’s go! C’mon now!” between drills, but later smiled and said, “It was nice to see the energy that everybody had out there.”
Tony Romo and Dez Bryant were among the most enthusiastic. Romo missed the final nine games last season because of broken collarbone and Bryant missed the final four with an ankle injury. Add in the lockout that wiped away the offseason and the lingering bitterness of going 6-10 last season and it’s easy to see why everyone was so giddy.
“I’m as excited as a guy can be to be playing football again,” Romo said. “It’s just great to be out here competing.”
By the afternoon, things were back to normal — or, at least, normal under Garrett. The pace and intensity are up from what fans at the Alamodome saw last year under coach Wade Phillips.
The Cowboys had more players by the afternoon, too, as six of their eight draft picks signed and were on the field, including first-rounder Tyron Smith.
Smith is expected to start at right tackle, but he stepped in on the left side because starter Doug Free can’t suit up until next week. He’s already agreed to sign a $32 million, four-year deal, a person familiar with negotiations told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team hasn’t announced it.
Smith and all his fellow rookies certainly stood out on the field: they were the ones in silver-only helmets, forced to earn the blue stars. Garrett is reviving a trick last used by Bill Parcells.
The start of camp also marked the start of Rob Ryan’s hands-on work as defensive coordinator. He’s taking over a unit that last season allowed the most points in franchise history.
As if a new coach coming off a bad season isn’t enough of a challenge, he doesn’t even have all his main players yet. The Cowboys are expected to sign two new starting safeties and an end.
“We’ve got a great coaching staff, we’ve got smart players, so we’re going to be fine,” Ryan insisted. “We don’t have to make excuses. We’re going to have everything we need to be successful.”
Linebacker DeMarcus Ware likes what he’s seen from Ryan.
“He’s a fun coach,” Ware said. “He’s serious the whole time, but he adds a little flavor in there every once in a while to sort of keep you on your feet. He’ll ask me questions, he’ll ask the rookies questions and he’ll try to trick you a little bit. He keeps you on your feet; that’s what it’s about.”
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