OXNARD, Calif. Tony Romo was signing autographs Tuesday before the Dallas Cowboys' final practice in California when somebody handed him a helmet.
Without breaking stride, the Pro Bowl quarterback penned his name with a black marker onto his own helmet. What Romo didn't realize was that an equipment manager had given him the helmet for practice.
Dallas wrapped up its California camp with a nearly two-hour workout before heading East, with a stop in Denver for two days of workouts with the Broncos before the teams play a preseason game Saturday night. The Cowboys then finish the preseason at home.
"Go and compete with another team, that's exciting," Romo said. "It gets you out of every day camp feel. I think it will be exciting to go out there and prove we are capable of competing against another football team."
Romo's helmet will likely be cleaned by the time he and the Cowboys hit the field with the Broncos today. But he had a black smudge on the star on the left side of his helmet during Tuesday's practice when they were unable to completely wipe off the autograph.
About 2,300 fans attended the final practice in Southern California, where more than 76,000 fans attended the 24 workouts over a 2 1/2-week period. After reporting to Oxnard on July 24, the Cowboys had only one day off the field, on Sunday, the day after losing their preseason opener 31-17 at San Diego.
This was the fourth time the team trained in Oxnard, where temperatures generally in the mid-70s allow the team to get a lot of work done.
"Have good weather, you can practice longer, practice more efficiently," coach Wade Phillips said. "I think the players, the frame of mind they are in is better."
He said that while the team may have gotten worn down some physically, they didn't get worn down mentally because of the weather.
The Cowboys were back in Oxnard this year because the Alamodome wasn't readily available. The Cowboys have a contract to return to San Antonio for training camp the next three years, but owner Jerry Jones indicated that the team could possibly split time between there and the West Coast.
"This has been a great place and if we're going to come back, I would be more than happy," Romo said.
This is the second year in a row that Dallas will spend time practicing against Denver. The teams worked out at the Cowboys' Valley Ranch facility last August.
"We're looking forward to going to Denver. We had great work with them last year," Phillips said. "That opportunity again to go against another team during training camp, I think it is going to be a really good experience for us."
DOLPHINS RELEASE FEELY: The Miami Dolphins cut kicker Jay Feely on Tuesday, one season after he set the team's single-season record for field-goal percentage. Feely's release clears the way for undrafted rookie Dan Carpenter to take over as the starting kicker. Carpenter made field goals of 41 and 49 yards in Miami's 17-6 preseason loss to Tampa Bay on Saturday. "The decision was based purely on numbers, on performance and Carpenter has outperformed him right now. That's the bottom line," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said after the team's morning practice. The 32-year-old Feely was one of the only players who willingly talked to the media during Miami's most embarrassing season in franchise history.
CARDINAL INJURES RANKLE: Arizona Cardinals rookie cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was taken off the practice field on a cart after injuring his right ankle on Tuesday. Rodgers-Cromartie, the Cardinals' top draft pick, rolled his right ankle during drills halfway through practice and did not return to the field. Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt spoke briefly after practice but provided little detail on Rodgers-Cromartie's condition.
"We'll know more tomorrow," Whisenhunt said. "He tried to go but it's a little sore so we'll see tomorrow." The Cardinals drafted the speedy 6-foot-2, 182-pounder with the 16th overall pick.
COLTS' COE OUT FOR SEASON: Colts defensive back Michael Coe will be placed on injured reserve and will miss the rest of the season after having surgery on his left knee last week. Coach Tony Dungy had said Coe was likely to miss at least eight weeks and Indianapolis hoped to wait until the two roster cutdowns before making a decision. The plan changed Tuesday when Dungy announced they couldn't wait for Coe to return because they needed a roster spot. The problem for the Colts is that they've been ravaged by injuries, including a handful to prominent players. Five starters two-time MVP Peyton Manning, 2007 defensive player of the year Bob Sanders, former league sacks champion Dwight Freeney, left guard Ryan Lilja and outside linebacker Tyjuan Hagler still have not practiced after being placed on the physically unable to perform list.
GIANTS' BURRESS TAKES FIELD: Super Bowl star Plaxico Burress took the field in pads Tuesday night for the first time since the New York Giants opened training camp late last month. Burress jogged a few pass routes during individual drills and lined up with the starters as they walked through a couple of plays in the evening workout. He did not run any patterns full speed.
STEELERS UNDECIDED ON CENTER: As the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp enters its third week, coach Mike Tomlin is still looking to find a starting center. Offseason free-agent acquisition Justin Hartwig will start Thursday night against the Buffalo Bills in Toronto after last season's starter, Sean Mahan, started the preseason opener against Philadelphia last week. "I'd like to have it solved yesterday," Tomlin said Tuesday. "But you don't always get what you want." Mahan-Hartwig is the hottest competition for a Pittsburgh starting spot. The only other clear-cut battle is at punter, where veterans Paul Ernster and Mitch Berger will each get equal opportunities to punt in the final three preseason games until Tomlin decides on a replacement for Daniel Sepulveda, who is out for the season after knee surgery.
TAYLOR IN SEAHAWKS' SPOT: The last thing Courtney Taylor needs is a reminder that he's young and inexperienced. He reads or hears it anytime somebody mentions that the Seattle Seahawks' young wide receivers are being called upon to grow up fast this season. "We understand that we are young. We understand that we don't have the experience. That's all we hear," Taylor said on Tuesday. "But that motivates me, gives me more will power to say, 'Hey, I'm ready to do this."' The maturation of Taylor and his young teammates was kicked into warp drive earlier this week when coach Mike Holmgren announced that leading receiver Bobby Engram will be out up to eight weeks with a cracked right shoulder. That leaves Nate Burleson as the Seahawks' only healthy receiver with more than 12 career catches and who understands the offense.