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Cowboys Notebook From Inside OTAs

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IRVING, TX - MAY 10: J. J. Wilcox #27 runs a practice drill during the afternoon practice session at the Dallas Cowboys Rookie Minicamp at the Dallas Cowboys Valley Ranch Headquarters on May 10, 2013 in Irving, Texas. (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)

J. J. Wilcox at the Dallas Cowboys Valley Ranch Headquarters (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)

IRVING (105.3 THE FAN) – A skillion quickie impressions from the Dallas Cowboys’ work at OTAs at Valley Ranch:

*Tony Romo isn’t Peyton Manning. But being sidelined by the cyst-removal surgery didn’t prevent him from light sideline throwing or from counseling teammates. He was especially demonstrative in instructing Dez Bryant how to simulate the footwork needed to pretend he’s running against press coverage during route-running practice.

*Mo Claiborne reports that he’s gained six pounds of muscle — helpful for a cornerback trying to survive in the Tampa-2 scheme.

*New linebacker Justin Durant is expected to win the strong-side job. But he didn’t win it on Tuesday. He didn’t fully participate, instead working out on the side while wearing a thick hoodie sweatshirt under his jersey. While Durant sweated out some water weight, Alex Albright and Ernie Sims took some first-team snaps.

*Kyle Orton did not throw the ball very accurately on Tuesday. It would be helpful if the veteran would ramp it up.

*Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin told me that the “3-tech” and the “1-tech” decision “doesn’t matter.” Monte is, of course, playing dumb. The 3-Tech job winner has a chance to be a star; the 1-Tech guy is a plugger. On Tuesday, Jay Ratliff played the 3, Jason Hatcher the 1.

*”I don’t think I’m an 8-8 quarterback,” says Romo, and you can fact-away at this or you can joke-away at this. But this level of belief is a foundation of making the belief come true.

*Rookie Travis Frederick got much of the first-team work at center ahead of Phil Costa. (Who looks fit and happy, maybe in part the result of him dating Hulk Hogan’s celebrity daughter Brooke.)

*Linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter promised they’d be healthy for OTAs. Promises fulfilled.

*Massive Andre Smith (6-6, 270) might have a crack at being the fourth tight end here simply because the roster needs somebody who can block. (Especially if Dallas goes without a fullback on the roster). Smith can certainly absorb an accidental hit, as he was dropped by rookie linebacker Brandon Magee in what is supposed to be non-contact work.

*The cyst is off Romo’s back. But as evidenced by all the attention it’s getting, it’s clear the monkey’s still attached.

*Jared Green, maybe a practice-squad candidate or maybe something more, jumps out with his speed. Makes sense, as he’s the son of Hall-of-Famer Darrell Green.

*Tackle Tyron Smith, primed for a big year, has gained 10 pounds in order to be more of a road-grater. Meanwhile, his haircut is very closely-cropped. Why? ‘Mainly, because I’m going bald,” the 22-year-old tells me.

*There is every indication that ’12 Personnel’ is going to be Dallas’ base offense, with Jason Witten being joined by James Hanna (who is still ahead of rookie Gavin Escobar).

*Terrance Williams still has small hands and still has a case of the dropsies. Stay with that JUGS machine, son.

*Matt Johnson got yelled at early for taking a bad angle on special-teams work. But he looked the part of a starting safety throughout the day, splitting time with veteran Will Allen working alongside sure-thing starter Barry Church.

*I noticed the Cowboys working on a little Pistol wrinkle. This is not meant as a read-option play, but rather to help the running back – lined up directly behind the QB, who is three yards back rather than seven yards back as in the Shotgun — with pass-blocking angles.

*Danny McCray, God love him and his special-teams mastery, still can barely backpedal at NFL DB-level.

*DeMarco Murray tells me that him sitting out (hamstring) is “very minor and precautionary.” In our conversation, we discussed his recent participation in the team’s baseball and golf outings. ‘I had to support the good causes,’ he says.

*Coach Jason Garrett won’t give in to announcing the Cowboys’ play-calling decision. My position is as always: It’ll be offensive coordinator Bill Callahan doing so under Garrett’s supervision. (And in fact, I think that’s exactly how it’s working right now at OTAs.)

*This is a loud assistant-coaching staff. And in the case of WR coach Dooley, a profane one. The neighbors in Valley Ranch might end up wanting to wash Dooley’s mouth out with soap, if not for the fact that this is football.

*JJ Wilcox is a safety with wide receiver skills and a linebacker body and he made the defensive play of the day Tuesday with an interception that showed off that athleticism.

*A source tells me that Romo’s month-long rehab length suggests a ‘deep-tissue or near-spine’ cyst. It’s still benign, but more troublesome than your “I-had-a-cyst-on-my-hand-and-was-back-to-work-in-a-day” surgery.

*Dez Bryant on maturity: “I found myself,” he says.

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