You wouldn’t know it by turning on your TV this Sunday afternoon, but for many players across the National Football League, the offseason is effectively over. This is the case for the Dallas Cowboys, who began their offseason workouts yesterday at Valley Ranch.
Though workouts at this point are supposedly voluntary, the Cowboys have a great track record of getting their guys to come in and put in time regardless. Right now the CBA limits players to strength and conditioning work without helmets, but it’s always good for the staff to see how the team looks.
Here are three things to keep an eye on as the Cowboys dive into their workouts:
Tony Romo’s back
Tony Romo’s absence likely cost the Cowboys a playoff berth last season when he underwent surgery on a herniated disc before their week 17 matchup with the Eagles. All offseason Jerry Jones has talked about Romo being ahead of schedule, talk that seemed to be reinforced by cameos at basketball games and playing PIG at Duke.
Still, the team will feel more confident once they see Romo back at Valley Ranch working out with the guys and maybe even throwing a pass or two. The Cowboys can’t do anything that even remotely resembles a real game, but working out with Romo should show the team that he is on track and remove any fears they might have of an injury-plagued campaign.
Yesterday, coincidentally, was his 34th birthday. Hear that sound? It’s a window slowly closing.
Where is Kyle Orton?
If Romo were to go down, of course, then Kyle Orton would step up to take his place, right? It seemed that Orton’s retirement speculation had officially died until he didn’t show up at workouts yesterday.
On most teams, the backup quarterback not attending voluntary offseason workouts wouldn’t be news at all. But despite the fact that Dallas doesn’t give workout bonuses to most of its players, the all show up anyway. Orton’s absence is conspicuous, to say the least.
Orton may have some perfectly valid reason for missing these workouts that the team is completely aware of. The organization gains nothing by telling everyone what’s going on here. Either Orton is doing his own thing and the team doesn’t mind, or Brandon Weeden just became Dallas’s de facto backup and will battle it out with whoever the Cowboys draft next month.
Let’s all hope Orton shows at Valley Ranch soon.
Last year on week 17, 12 Cowboys made the official injury report. Morris Claiborne and Dwayne Harris were battling hamstring problems, Dez Bryant had a bad back and Romo and Sean Lee were both out.
Today is a fresh start for all these guys, most of whom are ready to fully participate in the team’s activities. 2014
is going to be a huge year for guys like Claiborne and Lee. Claiborne wants to show the world he is worthy of his high draft pick, and Lee could be one of the league’s best Mike linebackers if he could remain healthy.
Symbolically, today marks the beginning of working towards those goals. The team will be keeping a very close eye on all these players as they ease their way back up to full strength.
Jason Garrett and the front office are still hard at work evaluating their draft board, and few will see the hard work Dallas puts in this time of year. But the gang is finally back together up at Valley Ranch, and after months of inactivity, they’re finally ready to start working towards the season.
Remember to check out our Dallas Cowboys page for all your offseason news and analysis.