Football / Sports

Cowboys prefer practice, not fight, with Raiders

OXNARD, Calif. -- Nate Newton wanted no part of it. He had no interest in following a few of his teammates' lead in how they prepared for a training camp practice against the Oakland Raiders back in the day.

Some would tape up extra as they readied more for fights than football with the Raiders, long known as the bad boys of the NFL. And multiple fights would break out seemingly every practice, although Newton made sure he wasn't in the middle of them.

"I was too fat and too big to fight," Newton said, chuckling. "Fights make you tired. I don't get into fights. I would tell dudes, if you want to practice, that's fine. But I'm not here to fight. I'm not going out like that.

"But when the Raiders wanted to practice, they were one of the better teams you could practice against. What they brought to the game always was length, tall players, athletic players and ... you know what? They may have an ugly disposition, but they were smart players when they wanted to practice."

The Cowboys and Raiders held practices against each other for years during training camp, particularly when they were in close proximity with the Cowboys in Thousand Oaks and the Raiders in Oxnard. But those days faded with training camps changing locations.

The last time they practiced against each other in California was in 1997.

The Cowboys and Raiders had a scrimmage in the Sun Bowl in El Paso in 1998, but haven't practiced since.

That is being renewed this year, though, with the two teams set to practice each other Tuesday and Wednesday in Oxnard. It'll be the first time since 2012 that the Cowboys have practiced against another team.

"It's just good competition, being able to hit somebody that's not your teammate," said linebacker Rolando McClain, who spent the first three years of his NFL career with the Raiders as their first-round pick in 2010.

"I still know a few guys on that team, so it'll be good. It'll also be good to put my pads into a few of those guys."

Wide receiver Dez Bryant and center Travis Frederick agreed, and each said it would be beneficial to go against players with different styles and techniques than what they've seen the first two weeks of camp.

"It's always good to see new faces, new uniforms," Bryant said. "And work on different techniques against guys that you could potentially play in the future."

Each team hopes to keep the on-field scuffles to a minimum, and they are also going to extra lengths to make sure nothing happens between fans in the stands, with each team having a designated side.

"You have to understand that it is still practice and that you have to have an understanding of how we're going to handle the physical nature and the competitive nature," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "I've been on practice fields a lot in my life in these kinds of situations, and they turned into six, seven, eight fights a practice -- and that's certainly not what we want.

"We want to go to the brink of that competitiveness, but we certainly don't want to cross the line and have it turn into something that's not beneficial for either side."

Garrett, like Newton, recalled how productive the practices could be against the Raiders if they didn't get out of hand. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Raiders provided a great measuring stick for the Cowboys, particularly from an offensive perspective.

The Raiders' defense boasted the likes of future Hall of Famers Ronnie Lott and Howie Long, as well as four-time Pro Bowler Chester McGlockton.

As Newton said, "We might have had a 10-play script, but the Raiders would only practice us for six plays. But those six plays were going to be six plays of hell."

Said Garrett: "It was always very interesting working against them. It was a great experience. I can remember some real competitive situations, and I do think we both benefited a great deal from it."

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