Inside linebacker Dan Connor did not get a chance to practice during the OTAs and minicamps.
But the Cowboys aren’t worried about him being able to pick up the defense when training camp starts.
They figure he knows enough defense.
“He has been in different systems, and he’s been trained well,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said after the last practice of the offseason wrapped up last week.
Connor shrugs. Yeah, he’s seen some defenses.
“I’ve been in three different systems already in Carolina. So this is the fourth system,” he said, but noted that doesn’t mean a problem. “You can only run so many coverages. Kind of getting the names down, what name is what, is pretty much it. Once you get that done, you’re good.”
Connor, 26, a five-year veteran out of Penn State, signed a one-year free agent contract with the Cowboys in the offseason after spending his first four years in the league with the Panthers.
The Cowboys are counting on that experience, so they didn’t worry about the shoulder surgery that would keep him off the field in the offseason.
“He’s a very instinctive player,” Garrett said. “You see him see things unfold very quickly and get where he needs to get. I don’t think understanding football and understanding schemes are an issue with him. He’s been banged up a little bit. The biggest issue is he hasn’t really practiced football with us.”
Instead, Connor has studied.
“That’s pretty much all I can do now – work out and study,” he said. “So I continued with the offseason program, with the runs with Coach Woicik and the lifts with him. Like I said, I have more time so I can do more than the guys practicing. Pretty much studying the rest of the day. Staying up late, trying to get that defense, feel comfortable with it as quickly as I can.”
Connor had his most productive year last year, ranking third on the Panthers with 75 tackles, and forcing a fumble. With the Cowboys, he will compete against Bruce Carter for a spot on the inside alongside Sean Lee.
"Dan Connor is a damn good football player," defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. "He’s going to find a role in here, too. Whether it’s starting or playing, it doesn’t matter to me. We’re going to play our best players. We’re in a fortunate situation to have three damn good players there."
-- Carlos Mendez