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Cowboys training camp: Dak Prescott and Mike McCarthy’s growing bond

OXNARD, Calif. – The Cowboys have completed eight practices, three in full pads, since training camp started on July 27. Here is the latest notebook from what has taken place on the two grass practice fields behind the Marriott Residence Inn on West Vineyard Ave.

Anthony Barr has officially signed his one-year deal

The four-time Pro Bowl linebacker spent the last eight seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. During the first six, Minnesota’s defensive coordinator was George Edwards, the Cowboys’ current senior defensive assistant. The plan is for the ninth overall pick of the 2014 draft to give Dallas even more flexibility at the position and likely allow Micah Parsons more opportunities to rush the passer. Parsons had 13 sacks during his NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year season. There’s no reason to think he can’t improve on that number and again be among the league leaders in that category.

“I think when you look at packages and how we feature Micah, I think it gives you another weapon, another excellent player on and off the ball,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said of Barr. “We want to be multiple in our defensive packages and we want to continue to develop different rush plans. He’s a great fit for us.”

More on Micah

Since Parsons has been spending so much time in both the linebacker and defensive line meeting rooms, Cowboys LB coach Scott McCurley has been attending all of the meetings, too. “When a player is working both rooms,” McCarthy said, “I think the special treatment is needed.” McCarthy said they have considered doing something similar with running back Tony Pollard and a member of the coaching staff because of the time Pollard is spending in the running backs and wide receivers meetings.

Coach and QB

During a recent interview with CBS Sports, McCarthy mentioned a story about Dak Prescott waiting at the team facility to be picked up from rehab last year as he recovered from a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle. While Prescott was standing on crutches, McCarthy passed him on the loading dock at The Star. The Cowboys head coach offered to give the franchise QB a ride home. They ended up hanging out at Prescott’s house, talking over iced tea on the back porch.

“I definitely remember that,” Prescott said. “As I continue to say, that’s my guy. He’s a great coach. He’s a great players’ coach in a sense. You don’t want to say that he’s just a players’ coach, but he does things the right way. He takes care of us. He builds his relationships. We have a great relationship that has continued to build.

“That (ride home) was early on when I broke my leg. He had only been here a year. But just for us to talk, to talk about the past, to talk about the present and where we are going to go in the future. It seems like yesterday, but then again it seems like forever ago. Just where our relationship is now, that’s my guy. I’ll go to war for him each and every day.”

Was the back porch discussion more about life or football?

“Normally, those conversations for me have always been so much more about the personal (stuff), especially with what he was going through at that time,” McCarthy said after a news conference this week. “That was more of an illustration of kind of what the pandemic did. It was obviously crazy times for all of us, but to start to be a head coach of an organization and not really getting an opportunity to get to know your quarterback. That was a cool moment. Unfortunately, it took that long to have those types of moments.”

Dan Quinn

How much of a raise did Quinn receive to remain the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator? “The first rule of Fight Club is you never talk about Fight Club,” Quinn joked. “Unless my Jersey roots have changed, you don’t talk about contracts. Honestly, I’m having a blast here. I really am. And I’m enjoying the whole process of what we’re doing. I just want to add value, to (McCarthy) first, and to the defense. Every once and a while you find where your feet are, and you’re in a good space, and you feel it. That’s really how I feel here.”

Quinn on McCarthy

Both insist that everything is great with their relationship following an offseason where Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was intentionally vague about McCarthy’s coaching future in Dallas because he wanted other teams to think Quinn might be the team’s next head coach. Jones insists that he was playing it up all along in order to keep Quinn as the team’s defensive coordinator.

“I have been in his seat,” Quinn said of McCarthy. “In that seat, I had somebody that would help look around corners for me in Atlanta. That was a guy named Raheem Morris, who would say, ‘Hey, Dan, think about this.’ That is one of the nice parts for me. I get to look around some of those corners for Mike, to point out some things that might be coming down the road. ‘Let’s look at this.’ I just wanted no uncertain terms, make sure I am looking around the corners. I ain’t coming around the corner. I love my relationship with Mike. I enjoy working with him. And I respectfully know (what) outside the building has been a discussion, but it is never one inside. So, respectfully, it will be the last question on that topic. I am absolutely having a blast with him. It is part of the reason I came to Dallas in the first place.”

Kicker battle

Lirim Hajrullahu clearly had the better day on Thursday. He was 7 of 8 during the field goal portion while Jonathan Garibay was only 4 of 8. The longest kick for both was from 49 yards. During the Mojo moment segment of practice, Hajrullahu was 3 of 3 while Garibay was 3 of 4. At this point, neither has much of a lead in the competition as both have had their share of struggles. But none of that will matter if one or both kick well in their practices with the Broncos and Chargers and in the preseason.

More touches for Tony Pollard

Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore says it’s “definitely fair” to question why Pollard didn’t get more touches last year. The plan is for his role to increase in his fourth season. That is expected to include more targets in the passing game and more snaps with both Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott on the field at the same time.

“He’s a guy that we want to get the ball to,” Moore said of Pollard. “He’s had a ton of success when he does get those opportunities. I think the running back role is one thing, certainly when Zeke and him can kind of tag-team that role, but then it’s another opportunity for him to expand that role and play in some different positions, out in space and some of the things that certainly he’s capable of doing. I think the more we expand those roles, the more opportunities he’ll be able to get out there and get touches.”

Latest from Zeke

Elliott has 7,386 career rushing yards. He thinks he’ll be able to play long enough to get 10,000 yards. “Obviously that’s a goal,” Elliott said, “winning a Super Bowl, getting a gold jacket. There’s not many guys with gold jackets that didn’t rush for 10,000 yards.”

Elliott is not expected to play in the preseason. “I’ve been playing football 20 years. This is my seventh year (in the NFL). I’ve seen a lot of football. I don’t think I need a preseason game, especially with the joint practices (with the Broncos and Chargers).”

Stephen Jones

The Cowboys executive vice president said on 96.7 The Ticket that they have not yet had contract extension talks with Pollard, who is in the final year of his rookie deal. “There are some things as we move forward that we just have to take a look at,” Jones said, “in terms of that running back position and the cap and how that works, in terms of Zeke and Tony and how we work those two together. So, we’ll continue to see how that’s evolving as the year goes. But the goal is to have Tony Pollard back here next year.”

While Jerry Jones said there’s no urgency to add another wide receiver after James Washington fractured a bone in his right foot earlier this week, Stephen Jones said on The Ticket that they’re “always looking to upgrade.”

“I’d say we were probably looking to upgrade before the injury,” he added. “We’ll just kind of see what goes on out here. … We continue to look to upgrade our roster at every position.”

CeeDee Lamb when asked if he’d like to see the Cowboys add a veteran wide receiver: “We can play it out for a while. I’m not opposed to having another vet in here. I’m never against having help. But I like my young guys right now. I want to see what they can do.”

Working on the deep ball

For the first time in camp, the Cowboys took some shots down the field during individual drills on Thursday. Prescott connected with Simi Fehoko and Lamb on consecutive deep balls that were defended by All-Pro cornerback Trevon Diggs. At one point, Cowboys defensive backs coach Al Harris and Diggs exchanged words about how far Diggs was playing off near the line of scrimmage.

Injury updates

Second-year linebacker Jabril Cox “dinged” his knee during a recent practice and has been held out the last two practices for precautionary reasons. Cox is coming back from a season-ending knee injury, so he’s been spending the recent practice time working on the resistance cords. The Cowboys insist that the signing of Barr has nothing to do with Cox’s health or any concern about it going forward. Cox is expected to practice again on Saturday. Tight ends Jake Ferguson (hamstring) and Jeremy Sprinkle (Achilles) also did not practice Thursday. Neither injury is considered significant.

(Top photo of Mike McCarthy (left) and Dak Prescott: Tim Heitman / USA TODAY Sports)

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