The Cowboys could have used the off-season. They have a new defensive coordinator in Rob Ryan. Their quarterback, Tony Romo, is returning from a fractured clavicle that ended his 2010 season after only six games. And their first-round pick from a year ago, receiver Dez Bryant, could have used both coaching and structure this off-season.
However, while Jason Witten agreed the Cowboys would have been better off with OTAs and mini-camps, he said they gained something they wouldn't otherwise have if they hadn't had the player-only workouts.
"Although we did lose out on not having that off-season with [the coaches], I think we gained so much in a different area of us being on our own and figuring it out and putting that work in and putting those practices together," Witten said. "I really think we got a lot better and came together as a group through that experience. In the end, I don't know that it's going to allow you to win more games or not, but it was a good experience for us to do that. I think we're going to be better because of that. When you start relegating responsibilities and you're handling practice and you don't have somebody doing it for you, there's a lot that goes into it. We did a good job because we had a lot of guys there, which speaks volumes about our players. Also, it was much more than a walkthrough for us. We worked in an environment where we felt like we were getting better. You can't make up what a real practice is. You can't create that environment when you're without the coaches, without the facility, without the support staff. But I think in a lot of other areas, we got better."
Witten said the Cowboys averaged about 40 players at their workouts, which were organized by Romo.
"I give Tony a lot of credit," Witten said. "It was very structured. It was very organized. It was to a point where everybody was competing. ...A lot went into it. The leaders kind of had a big charge, and I think they did a good job of it."
-- Charean Williams