With the first two weeks of camp over, the Dallas Cowboys are now gearing up for their preseason opener against the Bengals this Sunday. Here are some storylines heading into this week.
Veterans get some rest
Most of the Cowboys starters enjoyed Sunday morning off after practicing for eight days straight.
Coach Wade Phillips said that he could tell his players were tired.
"(Saturday) especially I think they were sore and tired and their arms were a little weary, but that's what you have to go through," he said. "You have to bounce back from that or fight through that; that's a part of the training it takes to build a football team.
"To get ready for a football season in any area—high school, college, pros—it takes a lot of hard work and part of that is wearing them down some where they have to get in better physical shape."
Quarterback Tony Romo was glad to have the morning off.
"I know my body and know when I've got to say, 'OK, throttle it back.' And that's what we did," Romo said. "(Saturday) was the first day I felt it and we throttled it back right away, and we still had a good practice. That's good."
Jon Kitna also got the morning off as Stephen McGee got most of the reps and all the starters were back at it during the afternoon session which was a light no pads practice that focused on the red zone.
Bryant Injury Opens Door
With Dez Bryant out for the rest of camp, more reps open up for the rest of the Cowboys receiving group.
Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd will most likely be the first guys to benefit from Bryant's injury.
Crayton has the most experience of the backups and was the Cowboys' punt returner last season, something Bryant was expected to do this season.
Hurd didn't see much action last season but is talented nonetheless and has had great camps in recent years.
Assistant coach Jason Garrett had this to say on Crayton and Hurd:
"They have a role on this football team regardless. We'll see what that role is as we go forward. Through the first 12 or so practices they are both playing very well. They are in to what we are doing, they understand what we are doing. They are playing well, they are making some plays for us, so it's fun to see that."
Manuel Johnson, Jesse Holley, and Titus Ryan won't see much of an increase in their practice time, but the Cowboys have an extra preseason game, so they'll definitely see more time in games than borderline players on every other team (except the Bengals who also have five games) in the league.
Although the week was mostly focused on Bryant's ankle, the Cowboys did see some players return to action this week.
Jason Hatcher returned after missing four days with a hyper extended elbow he suffered last week while tackling Felix Jones.
Nose tackle Josh Brent, the Cowboys' supplemental seventh-round pick, broke his hand, but he had a protective cast put on and returned Saturday.
Long snapper L.P. Ladouceur sat out Saturday morning's practice with what the team is calling an illness, but returned for the afternoon session and linebacker Steve Octavien returned on Saturday after missing one day with a bruised hip.
Linebacker Sean Lee has yet to return to practice, but Phillips has said that barring any drawbacks he'll return on Wednesday,
"We'll see what the doctors say," Lee said. "As soon as they let me go, I'll be going full go."