FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys‘ offseason program ended Thursday with a team lunch inside the swanky Cowboys Club following the final minicamp practice at The Star.
Some business was finished, like Zack Martin actually signing his six-year extension, which is worth $84 million and includes a $20 million signing bonus. The rookies will remain around for a week to work more on conditioning, but the veterans and coaches are off until the team boards a flight July 24 for Oxnard, California, and the start of training camp.
But that doesn’t mean the Cowboys will be saying goodbye completely for the summer break.
Among the healthy and available wide receivers in the offseason program who caught a pass from quarterback Dak Prescott during a regular-season game last year were Cole Beasley and Noah Brown. Terrance Williams did not take a snap in the offseason program because of foot surgery. Prescott is welcoming a number of new faces to the wide-receiver room in Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Deonte Thompson and draft picks Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson.
Prescott called Austin, a draft-day pickup in a trade from the Los Angeles Rams, “a steal.”
“He’s one of those guys, he’s hungry,” Prescott said. “He’s trying to get better. He’s talking about asking me what I’m doing in July, what my plans are because he wants to make sure that I can throw the ball to him with my eyes closed and he knows where the ball’s going to be.”
It won’t just be Prescott and Austin. The quarterback plans to get together with the wide receivers and running backs at some point in the next month at some unknown destination to throw passes and grow their on-field chemistry.
“We’ll definitely get away,” Prescott said. “Work out in the morning, throw, then hang out in the afternoon.”
Prescott believes that camaraderie off the field can lead to success on the field.
It’s really nothing new.
During organized team activities, Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott were joined in Key West, Florida, for a fishing trip by Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Martin and La’el Collins. Safety Jeff Heath was also on the trip. The getaway served to build a bond that has been tight for years.
Of course, there was a competition as to who was the best fisherman. Collins claimed he was, but Prescott might be. Collins hooked a shark he said was over 7 feet long and weighed 225 pounds, but after 30 minutes of fighting the shark he could not get it on the boat.
“I was sweating bullets,” he said. “My back started getting tight. I was to the point where I was like, ‘All right, if I get him up here and he takes off again, just cut the line.'”
Collins might not have landed the shark, but he has the story forever with his teammates.
“It’s about being a family, not just being a team,” Prescott said. “The moment we walk in here we’re a team, so it’s about being more than that, finding when and where we can get that camaraderie in the right way. We grow with each other. Be a brotherhood and be a family. Doing things like going to Key West and the trip with me and the receivers and backs will only help us grow.”
There is something of a tradition that has been built the past decade or so, with the offensive linemen and some skill players going to Las Vegas after the season ends. Players regularly show up to teammates’ offseason charitable functions, from camps to bowling events. A number of Cowboys took part in NBA star Dirk Nowitzki‘s charity baseball game last weekend.
“Whenever your relationship with your teammates goes beyond just the practice field and the locker room, when you get in a game, when you get in tough situations you’re not thinking about yourself,” Heath said. “You’re thinking about these guys that you’ve become so close with and built these bonds with, it just makes these situations easier.”
Chemistry doesn’t necessarily lead to more wins. Talent outweighs chemistry. For most of Jason Garrett’s tenure as Cowboys coach there have been few in-house problems from teammate to teammate, and Garrett believes the relationships built off the field help.
“It’s really, really important, the culture of your football team, like any organization, is critical to your success,” Garrett said. “You want to create a really good environment for each individual to be their best, the units to be their best and ultimately the team to be their best. You get the right kind of guys, the guys who get along, who share the same kind of values, understand what the standards are, I think that’s all really positive.
“And hopefully that carries from the field to the locker room to off the field. We spend a lot of time with each other, get invested in each other. You want to do for each other. Those are all really good things for a team.”