Ball, Brown steal show at OTAs
CARROLLTON, Texas -- Maybe the Cowboys won't need Adam "Pacman" Jones back in the secondary after all.
The biggest playmakers at organized team activities Tuesday were a pair of low-profile, third-year defensive backs: cornerback Alan Ball and safety Courtney Brown. Ball had an interception and each player had a couple of deflections, earning praise from teammates and coach Wade Phillips.
The performances came one day after the team backtracked on owner Jerry Jones' comment that he was considering a reunion with Jones, the cornerback released following a troubled 2008 that included a fight with his team bodyguard and a six-game suspension.
Most of the offseason chatter about the Cowboys' secondary has been about the free-agent signing of Gerald Sensabaugh, the return of a healthy Terence Newman and the development of second-year pros Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick. But Ball and Brown stole the show Tuesday.
Although Ball is a corner and Brown a safety, Phillips said he hopes to engineer a switch. He wants each to learn the other position, and said he thinks their skills are better suited to their new spots. Both are listed at 6-foot-1, but Brown is about 20 pounds heavier at 204.
Phillips said Ball, though undersized, is a good tackler capable of handling the physical play required of a safety.
"Smaller guys have played safety before," Phillips said. "Not many of them can do it. I think he is one that can."
Ball appeared in 10 games last season, and had nine tackles and one pass deflection. He took most of his reps Tuesday as the first-team safety, filling in for Ken Hamlin, who was out for personal reasons.
Ball's biggest fan Tuesday was linebacker Bradie James.
"Alan Ball is a guy I definitely would want to play with," James said. "He has a high motor. He knows what to do. And he is a guy you can be confident in."
Brown, who played corner in college at Cal Poly, appeared in nine games and recorded seven tackles last season. Phillips said he is more of a natural cornerback who was forced to play at safety last season. On Tuesday, he had two deflections, including a deep pass from Tony Romo to Roy Williams that he knocked down at the last moment.
"If he can cover like he covered today, he might have a home right there," Phillips said.
Phillips said he threw both into the Tampa game and that the 13-9 win was "one of our best games of the season."
Newman, who battled a groin injury last season, said his young teammates have shown they can handle the strain of learning two positions. Their flexibility, he said, ensures the Cowboys will have depth.
"For those guys to play corner and safety, and have to learn both positions as well as the nickel -- they are playing three different positions and they are not making any MEs," Newman said. "Those are mental errors. It's a good thing when they can do that and play good football."
The team has been practicing at a high school stadium in suburban Carrollton since the collapse of its practice facility last month. A handful of players were sidelined with a variety of minor ailments that receiver Patrick Crayton said might have to do with the artificial turf.
"It's a nice high school stadium, but I hate this stuff," Crayton said. "[It's] pitiful on your legs and joints. I wish we could have found a grass stadium. You have got to work with what you got."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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