OXNARD, Calif. (AP) — Getting settled at center has been far from a snap for the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys had planned to provide some competition in training camp for starter Phil Costa, but Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski are both out with ankle injuries and could miss the rest of camp and the start of the season. Rookie guard David Arkin had never played center before, which has been obvious at times, and Mackenzy Bernadeau is coming back from hip and knee surgeries.
“This snapping situation that we’ve had in practice is a result of the injuries we have had,” coach Jason Garrett said Thursday. “We felt very good about our center, our backup center, our third center, the guys who can play both center and guard going into training camp. We just had a rash of injuries, so you try to adjust as best you can.”
Arkin was a fourth-round pick in April, and had never played center before. During one recent practice after several bad shotgun snaps, Garrett said they “cued the circus music a couple of different times.”
Overall, though, Garrett said Arkin has done a nice job for somebody who has never snapped before and is also trying to learn how to play guard. There have also been other interior linemen getting a chance to snap the ball.
“You just try to scramble a little bit and try to come up with a way to handle it,” Garrett said. “It looks that much worse when it’s happening at a center position because he is handling the ball. … We’ve just got to make sure we find that solution so we can function in a normal practice.”
Bernadeau is another option at center, but the veteran began camp on the physically unable to perform list and didn’t practice in pads for the Cowboys until Tuesday, right before a day off. He is expected to be a starting guard, so is getting his initial work there.
“We’re excited to see him playing football, trying to get his conditioning right, and we feel like he’s at the point he can practice,” Garrett said. “We’ve just got to see him play guard, that’s where he’s most comfortable. That’s one of the things that we liked about him when we signed him in free agency, was his position flex. He has played center, had the ball in his hand before, that’s a positive thing. Right now, we just want to see him break the huddle and play some football first.”
Dallas (No. 15 in the AP Pro32) plays its preseason opener Monday night at Oakland (No. 23).
There are several potential veteran centers still available, including former Cowboys starter Andre Gurode, who spent last year with Baltimore. Garrett said there have been some good conversations among team officials about bringing in someone.
“Trust me, we’ve scoured the short list,” Garrett said. “We feel the best way to address it is with the guys we have in house. If someone comes available that is attractive to us, we’ll certainly address it that way.”
Garrett, who didn’t get into any specific names from outside the organization, said they have to take into consideration what shape such players are in and what they have been doing. Plus, anybody signed from outside would have to wait three days after signing before being able to practice in pads.
Costa, a third-year player from Maryland, started all 16 games at center last season. That came after the Cowboys released Gurode, a Pro Bowl center who had started all but two games the previous five seasons but was coming off knee surgery.
“He’s played center for us and for the most part has done a pretty decent job,” Garrett said of Costa. “He has had some hiccups over the last year with that as well. When you have the ball in your hands, it’s a big responsibility. … We’re always working on it, always emphasizing it to our team. We’ve just got to do it better.”