OXNARD, Calif. (AP) Dez Bryant and Tyron Smith would likely be playing – and maybe even practicing – if the Dallas Cowboys were back home in the middle of the regular season.
Since it’s still training camp in California, a joint workout with the St. Louis Rams isn’t enough to get the All-Pro receiver and Pro Bowl left tackle on the field. Bryant has been out almost two weeks with a strained hamstring, and Smith is nursing an arm injury.
Owner Jerry Jones said Bryant wouldn’t return until after the second preseason game Sunday at San Francisco, and said Smith was unlikely to play against the 49ers as well. Jones didn’t hesitate when asked about his top priorities for the remaining week and a half of camp.
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”My goal is one, do what we can do to avoid key injuries,” Jones said. ”Keep working, be smart about these injuries, be smart about how we push a player to work through an injury, make sure that any players we get out here, that we really do make sure those guys are in shape and ready and don’t get them out here too soon.”
The Cowboys also are missing their top two cornerbacks in Orlando Scandrick and Brandon Carr, and 2015 first-round pick Byron Jones will get a second opinion on a left shoulder he injured in practice Sunday. It’s the same shoulder that required surgery when he played at Connecticut.
Scandrick is getting closer to a return from a sore knee, and Carr had to go back to the Dallas area a week ago for surgery on a broken right hand. When he returned, he said people wouldn’t even know he was hurt if it were the regular season.
As for the rare opportunity to work against another team in practice, that doesn’t matter much to coach Jason Garrett when it comes to minor injuries. The Cowboys and Rams had the first of consecutive joint practices Monday.
”We anticipate having good productive days with the Rams, practicing at the tempo that we want to practice at,” Garrett said. ”We’ve had good conversations with them about what the objectives are of these couple of days.”
Bryant has been on the field most days since injuring his hamstring about a week into camp.
Last year’s NFL leader in touchdowns receiving missed the offseason in a contract stalemate that was settled hours before a deadline that would have forced him to play on a one-year deal this season.
Garrett said the Cowboys weren’t being overly cautious with Bryant.
”It’s really the same answer I gave you guys early on about all these guys,” Garrett said. ”The worst thing you can do is get a guy coming back, working hard in his rehab but then you put him out there too early and then he falls back for a couple of weeks and he’s on the shelf. You have to recognize who the player is and when you need them.”
Bryant, who wouldn’t talk to reporters when leaving the field Monday, was loud and demonstrative as usual even though he didn’t compete in team drills.
”I heard him, believe it or not, even over Rod,” executive vice president of personnel Stephen Jones said, referring to defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. ”Obviously Dez is a competitor and I’m sure he’s dying to be out there. It’s probably a good thing he wasn’t out there today. He probably didn’t need that.”
Stephen Jones said the reason the front-line players were sitting was the same: The season opener against the New York Giants is Sept. 13, nearly four weeks away.
”All of these guys do want to be out here,” Stephen Jones said. ”I do know that.”
Dallas also is easing into the competition to replace NFL rushing champion DeMarco Murray, who has moved on to Philadelphia. Free agent pickup Darren McFadden missed the first two-plus weeks of camp with a hamstring injury, and Lance Dunbar was out a week with a sprained right ankle. McFadden got his first 11-on-11 work against the Rams.
”I haven’t worried about it because I felt that we were going to see it, have an opportunity to see it at the right places and this is a good time as any,” Jerry Jones said. ”This will be a good week. We’ll be able to take a good look certainly at these backs.”
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