NEW JERSEY - NOVEMBER 11, 2007: Mat McBriar #1 of the Dallas Cowboys prepares to punt the ball during the NFL game against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium on November 11, 2007 in Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Unbeknownst to anyone, Dallas had already lost Tony Romo for three games and Felix Jones for the season, when Sean Morey went by Dallas' line untouched and blocked the punt that resulted in a 30-24 loss to Arizona. In 60 minutes of football, Dallas had lost two Pro Bowlers, a rookie sensation, a game and, in retrospect, probably, a playoff berth.
Indeed, McBriar's injury was the cherry on top of a crap-cake, for 'Boys fans. Special teams had been mediocre to gouge-my-eyes-out awful, but this was a loss directly on the shoulders of the unit, one that is too often overlooked despite, as we saw last October, its capacity to win and lose ballgames.
This is why Dallas brought in Joe DeCamillis, a fiery, 15-year special teams veteran who spent 2008 with Jacksonville. And, if DeCamillis has anything to say about it, there will be no more Arizonas.
McBriar discussed the shift in mindset after the late practice on Sunday at the Alamodome. "[DeCamillis] has just really stressed competition and he really wants the guys to be out here, and not sort of messing around on special teams," McBriar said. "When it's time to work on special teams, everyone's focused and everyone's working hard."
One step in preventing another Phoenix Flop is a new scheme on punts, designed, presumably, to avoid having McBriar's foot smashed to bits...again.
"We have a different protection scheme," McBriar continued. "I'm not straight behind the snapper, I'm off to the side, depends what way we're kicking. We have like a man protection on one side and a zone on the other. Number one it's for protection and number two it helps the guys get down into coverage, into their lanes faster. We'll see how it goes, kind of looking forward to seeing what happens in Oakland."
As for McBriar himself, the former Pro Bowler insists that he is not feeling any lingering effects from the injury.
"I normally start camp pretty rusty and this camp is sort of no exception, but I've been getting better every day," McBriar said. "My foot feels like it used to feel before the injury and [I'm] really happy with the way things are progressing."
"It feels good."