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Cowboys feeling 'energy' as football season closes in

DALLAS -- Tyrone Crawford could sense football season was close on Saturday.

It had nothing to do with his body clock telling him it was about to start. The feeling came from the fans at the National Fantasy Football Convention early Saturday afternoon ,and then a few hours later from a bunch of kids at Crawford’s Strikes for Kids charity event in Frisco, Texas.

At a bowling event that helped raise money for his charity, the Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman handed out 98 backpacks (matching his uniform number) filled with school supplies.

“I want to say they loved the backpacks, but they love the Cowboys,” Crawford said. “Just to have a Cowboy here giving them the backpack was amazing.”

They had questions about the upcoming season, as did the folks at the NFFC.

About 20 current Cowboys attended the two-day event at Fair Park in Dallas, signing autographs, taking pictures and talking all things football, fantasy or otherwise.

On Wednesday, rookies and select veterans will arrive at The Star -- the Cowboys' headquarters and practice facility in Frisco, Texas -- for a couple of days of practice before the full roster flies to Oxnard, California, on Saturday for the start of training camp. The state of the Cowboys news conference will be held Sunday, followed by the first practice next Monday.

“It came by fast,” linebacker Anthony Hitchens said. “Me and my wife just came from our one-year anniversary, and the next thing you know, we’re leaving [for camp]. It comes fast, and once it’s here, it’s here.”

The Cowboys were last together on June 15 for the mandatory minicamp. For the past month, players have gotten away from things before the training camp grind starts. Some injured players did not have a break because of their rehab.

Tight ends Geoff Swaim (pectoral, foot) and James Hanna (knee) did not take part in the offseason program, but both should be available for the first training camp practice.

“We’ve seen each other work, and [getting back] is something that you don’t really take for granted, because one day you’re healthy and one day you’re injured,” Swaim said. “Working back from injuries is tough, but we both have the mindset that we’re going to give it our all, so I’m not too worried about the pec and the foot.”

For the bowling event at Strikz Entertainment in Frisco, Crawford was joined by DeMarcus Lawrence, Hitchens and Taco Charlton. It was their final weekend to play, so to speak, before going to camp.

“When you get your downtime, you have to take your downtime,” Hitchens said. “Most people don’t like to take downtime. We took a week or so off, took a little vacation. But I’m actually ready to get back into it, ready to compete. I know it’s impossible, but I wish we could skip over camp and go straight to the season. I just like competing against other teams, but camp is going to be fun. But we have a great offense, and competing against them every day makes us better.”

The Cowboys enter the season with high expectations based on their 13-3 record in 2016. Even though they did not make big splashes in free agency or with a high draft pick, a young team with emerging stars like QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott has many wondering if this is the start of a run toward a Super Bowl for the first time since 1995.

“Everybody is getting excited,” said Crawford, 27. “You could feel the energy in the air amongst the fans. I’m excited. I’m getting old. It’s about time that we got some things done in Dallas, so the focus is real and we’re ready to go.”