- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS -- Dallas Cowboys receiver Miles Austin denied that his absence from the first two weeks of voluntary workouts had anything to do with his contract status and declared that he'd have perfect attendance for the rest of the offseason.
Austin, a restricted free agent who emerged as a Pro Bowler despite not starting until October, showed up at team's Valley Ranch practice facility this week and plans to participate in the rest of voluntary workouts, organized team activities and minicamps. He said he would sign his tender offer for $3.168 million before the deadline and wouldn't have a problem playing for that salary in 2010, although he would prefer to sign a long-term contract before the beginning of training camp.
"I would love it really, but that's stuff I can't control," Austin told ESPNDallas.com while watching Wednesday night's game between the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks. "I can just go out and be a player and play as hard as I can. That's what I love to do."
Austin spent the first two weeks of the Cowboys' voluntary workout program in Los Angeles. He returned to Valley Ranch after receiving a phone call from quarterback Tony Romo requesting he do so, but Austin said that was in his plans anyway.
"I'm going to continue to do the things that I've been doing and be the guy that I have been and show up, do what I have to do," said Austin, 25, who had 81 catches for a NFC-high 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns in his breakout season. "I was out in L.A. working. To be honest, I was really working hard. I came back the lightest I've ever been, in shape already. I'm feeling really good and looking forward to the year."
The perception has been that Austin's absence was an attempt to create some leverage in his contract negotiations, which haven't advanced past the preliminary stages despite owner/general manager Jerry Jones saying the week after the season ended that he was interested in locking up Austin to a long-term contract.
Austin said he felt working out with a personal trainer in Los Angeles was the best way that he could begin preparing for next season.
"Not a power play, nothing like that at all," said Austin, who has slimmed down to 207 pounds. "It just came down to when I was working out there, I was really buying into the workouts. Not only was I working out with a personal trainer, but I was running hills, running Runyan [Canyon], a lot of things.
"It was just a good thing out there. I was getting good work in, shedding weight, running fast. I just wanted to be ready when I came back here, and I'm ready now."
1dEric D. Williams