Stephen Jones, Dallas Cowboys director of player personnel, said he is not ready to panic about his team’s depth at center despite watching Tuesday’s afternoon practice break down frequently with bad snaps involving reserve centers David Arkin and Harland Gunn.
Late in the workout, starting center Phil Costa was mixed into repetitions with the second- and third-team units to keep the ball off the ground. At one point, the Cowboys fumbled three straight snaps. It happened on back-to-back plays at another point.
But Jones said he is “not frustrated yet” by the breakdowns at center. Nor is he concerned about having two cornerbacks (Morris Claiborne, Mike Jenkins) out with injuries in camp. Jenkins’ shoulder surgery could put his availability for the season opener in jeopardy. Only if it reaches that point, said Jones, will he become concerned.
Asked when frustration sets in, Jones said: “When the season gets here and guys aren’t playing ... We’re not worried about Mo (out with a knee sprain). He’ll be fine.”
In terms of the center issues, Jones said he reserves the right to bring in a veteran center at a later date. But he believes the snapping problem will disappear once Mackenzy Bernadeau, who returned to practice today after overcoming hip and knee ailments, is up to speed. The Cowboys list Bernadeau as their starting right guard but he has played center in pre-season games the past four years with Carolina.
“At some point, we’ll put the ball in Bernardeau’s hands. He’s done it before. It’s not totally foreign to him,” Jones said.
Jones said he team is being conservative with Jay Ratliff’s foot injury (plantar fasciitis) and the Cowboys are “not worried (one) bit” about whether he will be ready for the regular-season opener Sept. 5 against the New York Giants.
_ Jimmy Burch