DALLAS — One of the biggest stories of the Dallas Cowboys three weeks of organized team activities has been the absence of starting right guard Zack Martin.
The four-time Pro Bowler has sat out every practice as he patiently awaits his representatives working out a contract extension with the front office.
"Obviously this is a contract situation going on there, the business of the NFL," head coach Jason Garrett said on May 23. "We'll see how that gets resolved here. But that's really the reason he hasn't practiced up to this point."
Not to bring back memories of Darren Hambrick and the glory days of the Dave Campo regime ("What do 'voluntary' mean?"), but the OTAs are not obligated practices in any way. No doubt a team coming off of a 9-7 record and a failed bid for the playoffs would want 100 percent attendance from its starters, but Martin's absence isn't an inauspicious start to the 2018 campaign.
Let's go back to 2016. The Cowboys had another truant guard in Ron Leary, who missed all of OTAs because he wanted to be traded. Do you know why he showed up at mini-camp in mid-June? Because they are mandatory; the club could have fined him for every practice missed.
And when Leary did show up for mini-camp, the coaching staff worked him back in slowly with workouts off to the side away from the team. It gave Leary a chance to get back into shape and get acclimated with the team.
Of course, Leary filled in beautifully when the regular season rolled around. Starting left guard La'el Collins, who was in large part the impetus for Leary wanting to leave Dallas, played only three games before going to injured reserve with a torn ligament in his right big toe. Leary started 13 games at his old position and helped the Cowboys to a 13-3 mark and the top spot in the NFC Playoffs.
Here is the difference with looking for Leary in 2016 versus missing Martin missing in 2018: the two-time first-team All Pro has been working off to the side and getting in his personal workouts while at OTAs. He has even been a staple of the team's off-season program.
And if Garrett knows fully well why Martin is missing according to the "business side" of the NFL, then so too do Martin's teammates.
Said Garrett: "We've had really good conversations about this, he and I have. And I know there's ongoing dialogue between his representatives and the Joneses about getting his contract done. He's one of the best players we have. He represents everything we want, but there is a business side to this that both sides are working through."
It would be a surprise to this writer if Martin does not show for mandatory mini-camp, especially when the team can start to fine him for being absent. If so, perhaps it will motivate Tom Condon of CAA Sports, one of the best in the business who also represented Tony Romo and Jason Witten, to work things out with the Joneses.
"I do know he's everything you want in a football player, and he's an outstanding player, the best at his position in the National Football League and represents our team on and off the field exactly how you want to," said Garrett. "He's a great leader. He's been a great leader right from the start. But, again, this is the business side of the NFL and he and his representatives are working through things with the Joneses about getting this deal done."
What date would you bet on seeing Zack Martin sign his long-awaited contract extension? Share your predictions with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.