DeMarcus Lawrence received some extra attention on the second day of Cowboys’ rookie camp Saturday.
He wasn’t only the last one on the field during the morning practice session, but he was also awake the earliest, as he got back to Dallas at 5:30 a.m. from Boise, Idaho. Lawrence was in Boise - and missed the first day of practice - to see his newborn son.
Making up for lost time, Lawrence showed up ready to work, said Leon Lett, a former Cowboy who now works as an assistant coach responsible for the Cowboys’ defensive line.
“We had a walk-through practice today, so I had to keep telling him ‘three steps and slow down.’ He was out there working his moves, so he’s ready to go,” Lett said.
Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli thinks highly of Lawrence for his length, his speed and his ability to rush the passer, but also for what Marinelli calls good “stuff.”
What is his good “stuff,” exactly?
“You guys probably have a better idea than I do,” Lawrence said with a chuckle to the throng of media surrounding his locker.
“It means reaction to movement,” Marinelli said, citing the fact that a 40-yard dash time is judged on a player’s first movement rather than as a reactionary time. “Different guys have different reactions. The good ones have that awareness. There’s awareness and instincts.”
Those traits that extend beyond the measurables are a big part of why Jerry Jones and the Suits decided to pull the trigger on trading up in the draft to grab Lawrence, and why they consider him “elite.” For Lawrence, living up to the “elite” label is just part of his job.
“It means being coachable, understanding the game, inside the game,” he said. “Really just being able to play football and wanting to be the best every single day.”
Saturday was Lawrence’s first time on a football field in a long time, as Boise State’s last game was the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve. The 2014 season will be the Cowboys’ first time on a game field without DeMarcus Ware, and Lawrence will be responsible for filling the role of the departed pass rusher.
Rookie minicamp is Lawrence’s first chance to show that there doesn’t need to be any longing for the previous DeMarcus.
“It’s a great opportunity to earn a spot on this team,” he said. “DeMarcus Ware set the standards very high, and that’s great, but I’ve got a job to do now.”
Head coach Jason Garrett said, though, that the focus is not on comparing the two DeMarcuses.
“I think it’s really important as a coaching staff that you evaluate the player in and of himself. There are some demands and requirements of each position. You have to evaluate them on how they stack up to those demands and make the best judgments accordingly,” he said.
“They expect me to come out and be the best player I can be,” Lawrence said. “That’s just the pressure on me, that I put on myself. I have high expectations to get the job done.”
The summer months can be spent speculating on Lawrence’s ability to fill the shoes of Ware. But the second-round draft pick knows those months will be spent earning the chance to do just that.
“It was great excitement putting the Blue and Silver on. Just waiting to see the star on the side of the helmet,” he said. “I’ll have to earn that.”
With newfound NFL status - and the financial improvements that will follow his selection 34th overall, even though he has not yet signed his first contract - it was time for Lawrence to find a house near his new job.
That was the task at hand Tuesday, when he came down to Dallas with his mom and dad to get settled in early. He got a call Wednesday, though, that his girlfriend was going into labor.
His baby was born at 7:43 a.m. Thursday, while DeMarcus was waiting for a flight to get home.
“All the flights were booked up, so I had to wait,” he said.
Lawrence was able to see the goings-on in the birth room via FaceTime. After a flight delay at Denver International Airport, Lawrence was finally able to meet his son.
“Bringing that little bundle of joy into the world makes you realize football is just half of it. It really opened my eyes,” he said.
Lawrence spent Friday - the first day of rookie camp at Valley Ranch - with his new family before flying back at 9 p.m. He said he came straight to work after getting back at 5:30 a.m. Saturday.
Video chat will connect Lawrence and his family in the coming weeks before his girlfriend and baby can move to North Texas. The two are working on finding a comfortable arrangement.
“We’re just going to FaceTime until we get everything situated,” he said. “But Dallas is our new home.”