Bryant, Romo on track with Cowboys set to open training camp
IRVING, Texas (AP) Dez Bryant won't miss any of training camp because of a contract holdout, and Tony Romo won't need a crash course on conditioning in the mountains of the West Coast.
Throw in the reduced season-opening suspension for defensive end Greg Hardy, and the focus will be just where the Dallas Cowboys want it for their first workout Thursday in Oxnard, California: starting preparation for what they hope is their first deep playoff run since winning the Super Bowl 20 years ago.
The most significant development was locking up Bryant on a five-year, $70 million contract July 15, hours before a deadline that would have forced the emotional All-Pro receiver to play on a one-year deal - or not at all.
He'd been tossing threats, mostly through social media, since even before his much-debated catch that wasn't - a showcase moment for his unique skills - in a playoff loss to Green Bay last January.
Don't test his loyalty. He won't be at camp without financial security. Maybe he'll even skip some games.
''We know what he means to the team in many different ways and he's evolved to his credit, he's evolved into a player where he's indispensable to us,'' owner Jerry Jones said after signing Bryant. ''Now, Dez would be the first to tell you that he's only one of a team here, but I'm sure pleased at this juncture with the pieces that we're putting together.''
Romo heads west with the benefit of offseason practice for the first time since 2012. He missed all the workouts the past two years coming off back surgeries, and was so far behind in 2013 that he went to California before most of his teammates for some heavy-duty fitness work to try to catch up.
He was in better shape going to camp last year, but had been limited to individual drills in the offseason. Now the 35-year-old Romo starts camp on schedule, and coming off the most efficient season of his career.
''To see him out there leading our team I think is really important; interaction with the other players, him getting better, improving his skill level at all different things,'' coach Jason Garrett said. ''I just think it's a real positive situation for us, and certainly (would) rather have that than him not being out there.''
Things to consider as the Cowboys begin defense of their NFC East title while looking for multiple playoff wins for the first time since beating Pittsburgh for the title following the 1995 season:
RUNNING BACK: With Bryant signed, the biggest issue by far is the replacement for NFL rushing champion DeMarco Murray, who signed with division-rival Philadelphia in free agency. Joseph Randle, Murray's backup his first two seasons, has a pair of legal issues behind him and is likely to line up with the first team to start camp.
Darren McFadden, a 2008 top 10 pick by Oakland, gets perhaps his last shot to reverse years of unfulfilled promise, this time behind one of the league's best offensive lines. Lance Dunbar, the change-of-pace player in the Dallas offense, could see an expanded role.
FIRST FOUR OUT: Hardy (domestic violence case) and linebacker Rolando McClain (violation of substance abuse policy) will be suspended the first four games unless Hardy successfully challenges his ban in court. Both are eligible at camp, although McClain is likely to start out sidelined after offseason knee surgery. Hardy's situation puts more focus on the camp work from second-year player DeMarcus Lawrence and rookie second-round pick Randy Gregory, whose stock fell in the draft because of off-field concerns.
HE'S BACK: Linebacker Sean Lee took it easy in the offseason but should be ready to go after missing all of last season when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the first offseason practice. The Cowboys lost Bruce Carter and Justin Durant in free agency, but a healthy Lee would be a huge boost in replacing them. Lee was the middle linebacker when he got hurt, but is likely to stay on the weak side even while McClain is out.
ANOTHER NEW GUY: The Cowboys thought they essentially landed an extra first-round pick when offensive lineman La'el Collins signed as an undrafted free agent. Collins didn't get picked because his name surfaced in the investigation of a woman's death just before the draft. He was essentially cleared by police and picked Dallas in what turned into a replay of college recruiting for him. Now the question is whether is he can become the fourth rookie lineman since 2011 to crack Dallas' starting five.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apschuyler