Garrett maximizes Cowboys training camp schedule

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IRVING, Texas — Jason Garrett is going to have the Dallas Cowboys on the practice field during training camp for nearly as much as the new rules allow.

With a lost offseason to be made up for, and with the new coach still trying to implement a tougher work ethic than his predecessor, Garrett has tentatively scheduled the Cowboys to be on the turf of the Alamodome for four hours a day on 11 of the 14 days of camp.

Starting Thursday, the Cowboys are supposed to have a walkthrough from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., then a full practice from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day of camp. The only exceptions are both Sundays, when the walkthrough will be dropped, and the final day, Aug. 10, when there will only be a walkthrough because everyone will head back to Dallas for the preseason opener against Denver the next night.

The schedule was released Monday afternoon hours after word that the NFL lockout was ending. Players will be allowed to report to team headquarters on Tuesday and must be in San Antonio on Wednesday.

All NFL teams will be scrambling to get players in football shape, and to make sure guys know each other and the playbook, so it remains to be seen how extreme Garrett's schedule compares with others.

Regardless, it'll be a big change from the way Wade Phillips ran things last year.

A lazy, cross-country training camp is among the reasons many believe the Cowboys started 1-7 last season, costing Phillips his job. Garrett took over as interim coach and demanded everyone work harder. Practices became more physical and the team went 5-3 over the second half, earning him the job for keeps.

Things could still change, but the initial camp schedule clearly sends the message that Garrett means business.

"Coming off last year, I think we're all anxious about getting started," tight end Jason Witten said Monday.

As the team's labor representative, Witten was closest to the negotiations. He's thrilled to be going from contract details to Xs and Os.

"A lot's going to happen quick," he said. "Teams are going to have a lot on their plates, handling practice, free agency, negotiations, but that's part of the process. My perspective is to go into camp, work at your craft and all that will work itself out. You're hopeful that you can get the best team in place. The people that need to handle that — Jason, the Jones family and everyone else — they've been handling that, I'm sure, and have been waiting for this moment."

The Cowboys will be breaking in a new defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, and several more new position coaches.

As for the roster, well, that's a work in progress.

The first priority is re-signing left tackle Doug Free, who has become a free agent through the new labor deal. He could be among the most sought linemen on the market.

Teams can re-sign their own players, plus sign draft picks and undrafted players, starting Tuesday. They also will be allowed to start negotiating with players from other teams, but can't sign them until Friday.

Trades also will be allowed starting Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the Cowboys could start cutting players. Running back Marion Barber and right tackle Marc Colombo are among those who could be dropped to help get under the salary cap. However, the team might need Colombo more if they are worried about losing Free.

Dallas also is expected to try restructuring the deals of players such as Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin to help clear more cap room.

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