There's no greater tease on the NFL schedule than the start of Organized Team Activities, or OTAs, every spring. On one hand, NFL teams will report to the practice field and go through drills as a full team for the first time since their seasons ended last winter. On the other hand, they won't be wearing pads and they won't be going full speed – it's a poor excuse for a football fix. That said, there's still insight to be gleaned from the Cowboys' 12 offseason practices, which begin Tuesday at Valley Ranch. Here are five things to watch for at OTAs this week.
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Greg Hardy will make his debut
After all the talking and debating, we'll actually get to see the Cowboys' big acquisition take the field and play football – or, at least partake in football-related activities. Hardy is still appealing his 10-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, so as of right now we don't know if the domestic violence charges from last summer will keep him off the field until Thanksgiving – or if he could come back sooner. What we do know is that he'll be available for OTAs, training camp and the preseason, so this week will serve as our first glimpse of the Cowboys' best pass rusher.
Tony Romo will participate
Big deal, right? Like everyone else on the roster, Romo's going to put on some shorts and a helmet and run some glorified drills. It's not exactly groundbreaking stuff, but it will be the first time Romo is available for OTAs since 2012. He had a minor back surgery in 2013, which held him out of spring entirely, and he missed last year while he was recovering from the major back surgery that ended his 2013 season prematurely. This year he should be completely healthy and will have 12 extra practices to get into rhythm.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY SportsTim Heitman
All the WRs not named Dez
The odds are pretty good that Dez Bryant won't be a part of OTAs, as he has yet to sign his franchise tender and can't take part in organized activities. There's not much legitimate concern that he's going to hold out, so that should serve as an opportunity for the other guys to get reps. Specifically, it's worth keeping an eye on Devin Street (pictured), who is hoping for a larger role after Dwayne Harris' departure in free agency. Speaking of Harris leaving, there are five rookies – Lucky Whitehead, Deontay Greenberry, George Farmer, Nick Harwell and Antwan Goodley – who will be competing for a chance at the No. 5 receiver and return man jobs. OTAs mark the start of that competition.
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All eyes will certainly be on Sean Lee, and there will be no shortage of people hoping he can stay healthy in his return from his 2014 ACL tear. Assuming he can stay healthy, though, Lee is one of the few knowns about this linebacker corps. Lee and Rolando McClain are expected to be the starters at Will and Mike linebacker, but there aren't a lot of answers elsewhere. How will the depth chart shake out between the likes of Anthony Hitchens, Damien Wilson, Jasper Brinkley and Andrew Gachkar? And then there's the oft-discussed strong side position, where guys like Keith Rivers and Kyle Wilber will get a look at a starting spot.
There's no shortage of talent on this offensive line, as has been well-covered. The amount of options the Cowboys have to work with should produce some interesting combinations, as they seek to sort out a pecking order among their linemen. It's perfectly reasonable to expect La'el Collins to work at a variety of positions, including left guard and right tackle, while other versatile pieces like Mackenzy Bernadeau and Chaz Green should get looks at different places. It'll be hard to tell much, considering they won't be wearing pads, but it's a position that requires a lot of chemistry.