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SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo finally had two of his primary protectors in front of him again Thursday night.
Re-signed offensive linemen Doug Free and Kyle Kosier took part in the team’s rescheduled practice only hours after NFL players ratified the collective bargaining agreement. All players with new contracts since July 26 were able to practice for the first time.
In anticipation of the ratification, coach Jason Garrett had pushed back the start of Thursday’s second session from the usual mid-afternoon start. He got what he hoped for, a full squad for the first time since the team started practice at the Alamodome a week earlier.
“We wanted to practice at night down here at least once, so it kind of fit together,” Garrett said.
Keeping left tackle Free was the top priority for the Cowboys once most of the deal to end the NFL’s 4 1/2-month lockout was agreed to last week and free agency began. Free got a $32 million, four-year contract with $17 million guaranteed.
“It’s always fun to play football,” Free said, walking off the field without stopping after the nearly three-hour session. “Yeah, doing good.”
Free, going into his fifth season, became the starter on the left side protecting Romo’s blind side last season.
Kosier got a $9 million, three-year contract. He is going into his 10th season, the sixth in Dallas.
“It was a little strange. I felt like I was missing something, missing being sore or something,” Kosier said. “I’m just knocking the rust off a little bit. … You can’t be at home hitting your head against the wall all year long. It’s going to take a little while to get used to.”
The Cowboys last week released both right-side starters from last season, guard Leonard Davis and tackle Marc Colombo.
Unrestricted free agent Abram Elam, who has agreed to one-year deal to reunite with new Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, didn’t make it in time for Thursday night’s practice and wasn’t officially put on the roster.
Elam began his career in Dallas in 2006 and has started 31 of 32 games in Cleveland the past two seasons playing for Ryan’s defense.
Other Cowboys who practiced for the first time were defensive ends Marcus Spears, Jason Hatcher and Kenyon Coleman, safety Gerald Sensabaugh, receiver Jesse Holley and cornerbacks Alan Ball and Bryan McCann.
Spears missed the final eight games last season after being put on injured reserve because of a calf injury. He got hurt in a loss at Green Bay, the day before former coach Wade Phillips got fired, so he had never been part of a practice under coach Jason Garrett.
“It’s sort of like a game situation. You’re moving from period to period and you’re moving pretty fast,” Spears said. “To get into the swing of things is tough when you’re coming off of eight months of no football. … I hadn’t missed that much football ever. It was tough to be injured and having to sit out at the beginning of training camp. So to be back is phenomenal.”
Sensabaugh signed a $2.5 million, one-year contract Wednesday to remain in Dallas for the third consecutive season. Like Spears and other defenders, he is having to learn the new scheme being installed by Ryan.
“(My head) is spinning quite a bit. It’s the first day learning the system,” Sensabaugh said. “They’ve been around the system for eight, nine days and I’ve had just 24 hours to look over it. I’m just in there trying to make plays.”
Also back on the field Thursday was receivers coach Jimmy Robinson, who was knocked unconscious and sustained a concussion after being run over during a punt return drill Saturday when the team was in pads for the first time.
“He’s about as tough as they come. He took quite a shot the other day,” Garrett said. “He’s still not 100 percent, but he’s tried to work his way back into meetings and he’s been back on the field a little bit now.”
The 58-year-old Robinson, also the team’s assistant head coach, is in his first season with the Cowboys after coming from the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.
“It’s a little frustrating when you can’t be out here doing your job, but getting a little better each day,” Robinson said. “Still some headaches, a little bit of double vision. It kind of comes and goes. … I’m just trying to move slowly. I’m not trying to move too fast. I won’t be throwing any drills just yet. But, hopefully, we will get to that kind of stuff pretty soon.”
Robinson said he remembers receiver Teddy Williams coming his way during the drill.
“He was pretty close at the point, because I think somebody standing close to me had just maybe jumped out of the way and I was the next in line, so to speak,” he said. “It’s scary when you think about what could have been. It could have been a lot worse in terms of permanent damage.”
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