Cowboys back home after 31/2 weeks in California
The Dallas Cowboys are finally home, and out of training camp mode.
Even with two preseason games left in five days at Cowboys Stadium, where the team had a two-hour workout without pads Thursday, coach Jason Garrett said the team is making the transition to the regular season.
''We're a different team now than we were 3 1/2 weeks ago when we started out there in Oxnard (Calif.),'' Garrett said. ''The training camp is behind us now. ... (Players) have to kind of shift gears, get back in the mode of being back in Dallas and get the right mindset to prepare themselves the right way.''
The Cowboys (No. 15 in the AP Pro32) spent all that time in California for training camp, two preseason games and two days of practices with the San Diego Chargers. There is now less than two weeks before their Sept. 5 regular season opener at the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
''We've just got to keep the momentum going,'' linebacker Sean Lee said.
Quarterback Tony Romo and the rest of the healthy starters are expected to get their most extensive playing time of the preseason in Saturday night's game against St. Louis.
The preseason finale is against Miami on Wednesday night, a week before the season opener.
Among the starters who didn't practice Thursday and won't play Saturday are the top three pass-catchers, Pro Bowl receiver Miles Austin (hamstring), Dez Bryant (patellar tendinitis in his right knee) and seven-time Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten (lacerated spleen).
Garrett said the team is remaining extra cautious with Austin, who missed six games last season because of problems with both hamstrings. Witten is making good progress from the spleen injury he sustained on a hard hit in the preseason opener Aug. 13.
''The most recent update on Witten is everything is going fairly well with him. Obviously it's a very serious injury,'' Garrett said. ''The doctors have seen all of his tests, his blood work all throughout the process and he's scheduled to see another doctor on Tuesday, and hopefully we can get an OK from that. But this is all normal within the process of what we thought right from the outset. ... Everything has come back positive for him and we're hopeful that he can return sooner rather than later.''
Austin, Bryant and Witten stood on the sideline for Thursday's session, which was open to the public.
Witten said he is feeling ''a lot better'' but that there is still a lot of uncertainty as he heals.
''We'll find out soon enough,'' Witten said while walking off the field. ''I'm sure we'll evaluate next week and see where we're at and go from there.''
When Austin started dealing again with hamstring problems a week into camp, the Cowboys said they planned to be careful with their top receiver. Garrett said there has been no setback, and that the focus for the Cowboys is to make sure not to bring him back too early with an opportunity to hurt his hamstring again.
''I think everything has been really positive with him since he had the injury. I think he's gotten better and better,'' Garrett said. ''We're trying to, as a staff and as a medical staff, do the right things by him to make sure that these things go away a little bit. He's worked very hard, and in some ways how hard he works might contribute to this.''
Cornerback Mike Jenkins still has to have another visit with Dr. James Andrews before he can get clearance to practice and possibly be ready for the season opener. Jenkins has been recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and last saw Andrews 2 1/2 weeks ago.
''He's improving,'' Garrett said. ''Strength in his shoulder is getting better, the range of motion is getting better, his conditioning is getting better.''
Notes: There was an announced crowd of 10,121. There were also 54 former Cowboys players, including Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, who won two Super Bowl titles. ... LB Isaiah Greenhouse, who broke his thumb two weeks ago, was released. The Cowboys have 87 players on their roster, 12 above the limit for the first roster cuts Monday. ... Texas Lottery officials said more than $150 million has been spent on a Cowboys-related game since a partnership that began four years ago. ...
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