By Stephen Hawkins
The Associated Press
IRVING, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys have made it back to real life and the heat.
After a month on the West Coast for training camp and three exhibition games, the Cowboys were finally home Monday when they practiced at their Valley Ranch facility.
“We have been in that environment out there by ourselves, away from our families. And you get used to that, you get used to being focused only on football. And that’s a good thing,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Now you come back to real life and you have to stay focused on football.”
And readjust to the warm temperatures in North Texas.
There is no marine layer lingering over the Valley Ranch practice fields as so often is the case in Oxnard, Calif.
The forecast highs at home this week are in the mid- to upper-90s, about 25 to 30 degrees warmer than in Oxnard, where the team had camp. The Cowboys have morning practices through Wednesday, avoiding the hottest part of the day.
“It ain’t changing, so make it work,” Garrett said.
“It’s always great to be home,” receiver Dez Bryant said. “I think the approach we came with (Monday) morning was outstanding. There was no sluggish feeling.”
Second-year running back Lance Dunbar was at Valley Ranch with a protective boot on his sprained left foot. He had catches of 43 and 18 yards in Saturday’s loss to Arizona, though Garrett said he wasn’t sure when Dunbar hurt his foot.
Garrett said Dunbar is certainly out of Saturday night’s game at home against Arizona, the fourth of the team’s five exhibition games.
The injury could also put Dunbar’s status for the Sept. 8 season opener against the New York Giants in jeopardy.
“He’s certainly going to be out for this week, and we’re just kind of seeing day to day beyond that,” Garrett said. “He’s playing really well. Done a really nice job for us in all phases as a runner, as a receiver and as a pass protector. He’s showing up on special teams and hopefully this is just a mild setback for him.”
The second-year running back out of North Texas had eight rushing attempts for 45 yards and caught six passes for 83 yards in the preseason games.
“Explosive. He’s just one of those guys who can turn like a 5-yard play into an 80-yard play,” Bryant said.
Bryant had a bulky wrap around his right thumb, which he jammed during camp. He was quick to say that his thumb is great, and his performance during camp and in the games (seven catches for 129 yards) certainly indicates that.
As for making the transition from California camp to being at home, defensive tackle Jason Hatcher said it was good for him.
“Seeing my wife and kids ... it was great,” Hatcher said. “I was excited to come in and have this early practice.”
Hatcher then looked into one of the television cameras and requested that Garrett keep the morning practice schedule.
Cornerback Orlando Scandrick said the only thing that changed for him was not having a camp cafeteria for meals.
“I go home and there’s no food in my refrigerator,” Scandrick said. “Work is work. I’m excited about this season, taking the next step and winning games, and being a good football team.”
Notes: The Cowboys waived/injured LB Alex Albright, DT Travis Chappelear and DE Toby Jackson. ... LB Anthony Spencer, who had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee four weeks ago said he has no doubt about playing in the season opener Sept. 8 against the New York Giants. Spencer is building up strength in the weight room and isn’t back on the field yet. ... Safety J.J. Wilcox had not returned to the team yet following his mother’s death last week. “We do anticipate him coming back at some point this week,” Garrett said.