IRVING, Texas — DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer have much simpler job descriptions in the new Dallas defense: Go get the quarterback.
The pass-rushing ends for the Cowboys’ return to the 4-3 won’t carry out their new marching orders together until training camp starts next month in California, with Ware still recovering from shoulder surgery and Spencer a week removed from hyperextending his left knee in an offseason practice.
Most everyone else hardly missed a snap in four weeks of offseason work that wrapped up Thursday with the final day of a three-day minicamp. They probably have more to learn anyway under new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin with the Cowboys changing schemes after nearly a decade with three linemen and four linebackers.
“Every coverage is new. Every blitz is new,” said the 73-year-old Kiffin, architect of the defense that won a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay in 2003. “It’s all good, but the players have to get it down. But they’re really working hard at it. Can’t ask more than that.”
Ware and Spencer will spend less time thinking and more time attacking in Kiffin’s system. Under Rob Ryan, who was fired after two seasons, they were linebackers just as likely to be chasing receivers and tight ends as they were quarterbacks.
Now, Ware and Spencer will generally leave the reading to middle linebacker Sean Lee.
“Half the weight of learning stuff is gone,” said Ware, who is fourth among active players with 111 career sacks and is the first to lead Dallas in each of his first seven seasons. “It’s more technique stuff than anything.”
Lee and Bruce Carter were inside linebackers in Ryan’s scheme. They will still play alongside each other, but will see a lot less of Ware and Spencer unless the linebackers are blitzing.
“I think it’s gone really well,” said Lee, who missed most of last season with a toe injury. “I think they have done a good job of progressively giving us stuff to work on and take to the field. So, if you look at our defensive line and our whole defense, we have played faster and faster each week. And that’s the key for us.”
Dallas coach Jason Garrett said there was some installation of the defense each of the nine days of offseason workouts, then each of those days was repeated during minicamp this week. The process will start over on the first day of training camp July 21 in Oxnard, Calif.
Rookies got a little extra repetition with their own minicamp before offseason workouts.
“It’s a lot of stuff, but it’s over and over and over again,” Garrett said. “And hopefully over the course of April, May, June, you’re ready to play in early September.”
Garrett says the decision to switch to the 4-3 wouldn’t have happened if coaches felt the players already on the roster weren’t a fit.
“We felt like we could make that transition in Year 1,” he said. “A lot of guys have a lot of position flex and versatility to what they can do. We just feel like our veteran players fit into it and our younger players fit into it, and we’re excited to really see them play football come training camp.”
The Cowboys poured a lot of resources into cornerbacks last year, trading up to draft Morris Claiborne in the top 10 and giving Brandon Carr a $50 million free-agent contract. They’ll be expected to generate more turnovers.
NFL to limit bags brought into stadiums
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Bring yourself to the game. Leave the cooler and backpack at home.
The NFL is tightening stadium security starting this preseason, limiting the size and type of bags fans can bring to the game.
The restrictions are designed to enhance security while speeding up entry into stadiums.
With the exception of medically necessary items, only clear plastic, vinyl or PVC bags no larger than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches will be allowed. One-gallon clear plastic freezer bags also will be OK, as will small clear plastic bags approximately the size of someone’s hand, with or without a handle or strap.
One of those clear bags and a small clutch bag will be allowed per person.
Binoculars, cameras, and smartphones also will be permitted.
Banned items will include purses larger than a clutch bag; coolers; briefcases; backpacks; fanny packs; cinch bags; seat cushions; luggage; computer bags; and camera bags or any bag larger than the permissible size.
The league is encouraging fans not to bring any bags to games.
“Our fans deserve to be in a safe and secure environment,” Jeffrey Miller, the NFL’s chief security officer, said Thursday. “Public safety is our top priority. This will make the job of checking items much more efficient and effective. We will be able to deliver a better and quicker experience at the gates and also provide a safer environment. We appreciate our fans’ cooperation.”
An NFL committee on stadium security recommended these measures in May and the owners have approved them.
A secondary buffer area well outside the stadium will be established where security personnel will check for prohibited items or bags being carried toward the ballpark. Fans with prohibited bags will be turned away until they dispose of those bags. Stadium personnel are being encouraged to have approved bags on hand to give to fans, or to have a place outside the restricted areas to check items, so that fans can reclaim after games.
Recently, the NFL has done pat downs and bag checks and also used metal detectors to upgrade security. The new policy announced Thursday has worked well at colleges such as Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State, which do not permit any bags in their stadiums. Boston’s TD Garden allows only clutch bags.
The NFL ramped up security at the draft in late April, its one major event since the Boston Marathon bombings. In a statement Thursday, the league said:
“We had been discussing a new approach to bag restrictions before the Boston Marathon incident. We have come up with a way to do it that will actually make access more convenient for fans than it has been. We think the fans will embrace and appreciate it.”
Stadium workers and media will continue to enter NFL stadiums through designated gates where they will be subject to screening and bag inspections.