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Cowboys Camp Notebook: ‘They Let ‘Em Out Of Their Cage!’

Dallas Cowboys Day 1 Camp Notebook: ‘They Let ‘Em Out Of Their Cage!’

FRISCO - At the very beginning of Friday's Day 1 of the Dallas Cowboys on the field for this "stay-at-home'' training camp here at The Star in Frisco, a group of team scouting and analytics exited their offices to grab an up-close look at the 2020 edition of the team.

"Oh,'' yelled one player at the group, "they finally let 'em out of their cage!''

Yes, the Cowboys are unleashed ... On this day, especially the newly-constructed defensive line and rookie receiver CeeDee Lamb.

Our Day 1 Cowboys Camp Notebook ...

D-Line Unblockable: The trio of DeMarcus Lawrence and Aldon Smith outside with Gerald McCoy inside often proved to be un-blockable in 11-on-11 work. And with Tyrone Crawford coming off PUP to line up at D-tackle, it was a great day for this group.

READ MORE: Crawford Off PUP, With 1st Team And Part Of Unblockable Crew

Dontari Poe is still on PUP, so it's going to get crowded inside. And Everson Griffen should be through his COVID testing as early as next Tuesday, so outside will get crowded as well.

But this group, brilliant on paper, looked brilliant on the practice field here, Smith especially as he participated in his first NFL practice since the 2015 season and was bouncy, bendy and boisterous.

CeeDee Lamb - Smooth Tracker: Much was made of the Oklahoma rookie's one-handed snag, and understandably so. But the newest member of "The 88 Club'' did something as the first-team punt returner that was even more special. ...

Greg Zuerlein's early-practice punt sailed about 35 yards wide of where Lamb was positioned. It was destined to land in the middle of another position-group's drill work. But Lamb - showing unique tracking skills - smoothly chased the path of the ball while also dodging unaware teammates ... and then fielded the punt.

Again, after a 35-yard zig-zag chase.

COVID Protection and Safety Concerns: The Cowboys from top to bottom demonstrated a high awareness of the COVID-19 pandemic. They get credit for effort that also includes "90 percent'' of the players volunteering to house themselves at the adjacent Omni Hotel in a "bubble'' of sorts.

Camp Bubble: '90% Of Cowboys' Living In Hotel, Says Dak

They also, under the direction of new head coach Mike McCarthy, in his acknowledgement of the 95-degree morning heat outside on the grass field, were frequently directed to team-wide breaks inside gigantic tents in which were cooling fans, water and ...

Popsicles.

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READ MORE: Cowboys Camp: Tank Lawrence Q-&-A, From Proud Papa To Popsicles

I think it's wonderful,'' center Joe Looney said. "Practicing in Texas presents a different challenge for us, just getting used to the heat. I think it's an amazing technique that we can go in there, grab a popsicle, cool down and then head back out to practice and hit it real hard."

"Amazing''? It's actually a "technique'' from my high-school football days in 1975. Still ...

"I'm a blue raspberry kind of guy," Looney said. "We're doing one-on-ones and people are asking me, 'Hey, Looney, why is your tongue blue?' 

"I say, 'Because I've been crushing those popsicles in the tent.'"

Why Did La'el Sit?: Right tackle La'el Collins did not work on Friday. No, not an injury; just a bit out of football shape. Not a major concern, but because veteran Cameron Erving and young Brandon Knight were not practicing, first-year tackle Wyatt Miller got first-team reps at right tackle.

Who's at Left Guard and Center: Connor Williams was supposed to be limited at the start of camp coming off last year's ACL surgery, and he was wearing a knee brace.

And he drew audible praise from O-line coaches for his quickness and mobility.

Looney got the first-team work at center. ... and Connor McGovern did mix in at left guard, all joining stalwarts Tyron Smith and Zack Martin.

The Starting Secondary: Chidobe Awuzie has seen his name in the news as someone getting pushed for a starting job, and maybe that will still happen. But the first-team secondary included Chido and Anthony Brown at the corners, with Jourdan Lewis in the slot, and Xavier Woods and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as the starting safeties.

Yes, other guys mixed in; Darian Thompson and Donovan Wilson (who recorded a fine interception of Dak Prescott) did so at safety and Daryl Worley (behind Chido) second-round rookie Trevon Diggs (behind Brown) did some work with the first group.

READ MORE: First Look: Cowboys Reveal Starting Lineups At Camp Practice

But the depth chart is the depth chart. Diggs in particular may climb it, but there can only be the five first-team guys. And that's the five.

Seeing Red: Dak Prescott and the rest of the QBs are a part of a break in Cowboys tradition: They're wearing "don't-hit-me'' red jerseys.

READ MORE: Cowboys Camp: Why Dak & The QBs Are 'Seeing Red'

Cowboys Miscellaneous: Justin March has a new number, switching from No. 53 from to No. 59. ... Trysten Hill is still wearing No. 97 - and the Cowboys tell me no decision yet on what ol' No. 97 of the Vikings, Griffen, might wear. ... Sean Lee showed up with his familiar black cleats but some unfamiliar facial hair ... Tank Lawrence spent extra time working with new D-line coach Jim Tomsula on leverage and swim moves ... DeMarcus Lawrence thought about the COVID-19 opt-out due to the Lawrences expecting a baby in the fall. But Sasha shut that down. “She basically told me there’s no way possible that I could miss this season so we’ll have to sacrifice and do whatever we have to do to survive and be a great family,” Tank said (full story here). “My wife is taking care of home. I respect her so much. I know she’ll do a great job. I just got to focus on football right now.” ... Both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard showed explosion out of the backfield ... Cowboys players are off Saturday and back on the field on Sunday - and CowboysSI.com will be as well.

The Final Word: “We want to win a championship. That’s why we’re here. We’re ready to win a championship.” - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix on all of Dallas’ free agent signings.