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Vic Beasley had a season to mostly forget last year.

Now that the Atlanta Falcons have put him back full-time at defensive
end Chris
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, he’s looking to regain the form that made him the
NFL sacks leader two years ago.

Beasley, though, isn’t making big promises in the second week of training
camp. As much as he wants to get back to the top, he says the best approach is
to stay humble, fill his role and let everything else work itself out.

”I know the guys have a lot of faith in me and the coaches do also, so we’re
just going to go out there and give our best effort and do what we can to get
where we want to be,” Beasley said Wednesday.

The Falcons had solid results last season under first-year defensive
coordinator Marquand Manuel. They improved 17 spots to a No. 9 ranking in points
allowed. They were among the top 10 in total yards, yards rushing, red zone
percentage and scoring.

But Beasley was a small part of the story. He had just five sacks, 10 1/25
fewer than during his first season under coach Dan Quinn, and he wanted to
produce more.

Moving to outside linebacker on 30 percent of the snaps didn’t help. Beasley
dropped some weight to play the new position and he ran so much in coverage and
in defending the run that his energy level sometimes lagged when he lined up at
end. He didn’t have the same explosiveness coming out of his stance and beating

”He was always a nickel defensive end,” Quinn said. ”We played almost 70
percent of our snaps in nickel, but in the base one, due to injuries, that’s why
we moved him there. He was there a little bit by necessity Adolphus
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, and sometimes that’s the best thing to do. For
us it was in this case.”

Not anymore. Quinn wants to unleash Beasley exclusively at end with Takk
McKinley starting on the opposite side after a promising rookie season.

”That’s where he’s best,” Quinn said, ”playing defensive end all the

Beasley took some pointers Wednesday from former Falcons ends Patrick Kerney
and Chuck Smith, who combined for 141 NFL sacks. He got two different
perspectives in technique. Kerney played long and rangy. Smith was more compact.
Both gave Beasley a few ideas about timing, footwork and hand placement.

Beasley gets daily suggestions from his position coach Bryant Young, the
former San Francisco star tackle who finished a 14-year career in 2007 with 89
1/2 sacks.

Young believes Beasley’s time at linebacker will benefit him long-term
because it’s made him better against the run.

”He’s a very strong individual, plays with good technique, and I think a lot
of times he doesn’t get credit for his run game, which is really important in
this league as well,” Young said. ”The big, pretty numbers are in the sacks, and
we understand that, but it’s also important that you stop the run.”

Beasley is eager to show what he can do. He played end exclusively throughout
his career before last year.

”As a linebacker you normally drop into coverage and you dial up blitzes
every now and then, but as a defensive end you’re pretty much a straight-ahead
guy,” Beasley said. ”Just get after the quarterback.”

Sean Lee responded with strong words to criticism from former teammate Dez

Tyrone Crawford felt compelled to tell the team these Dallas Cowboys won’t be
in the business of dramas such as Bryant’s Twitter-fed rant early in training
camp over who he felt was responsible for his offseason release.

With tight end Jason Witten’s sudden retirement after 15 years for a TV
job Sammie
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, the Cowboys can’t defer to the franchise leader in
games, starts and catches on any number of topics. Crawford, a defensive
lineman, doesn’t think they can replace the 2012 NFL Man of the Year either.

”If you’re being real with yourself, Jason Witten’s one of the best ever to
do it,” Crawford said. ”And if you knew him as a man, one of the best men you’ll
ever get to meet. To me, there’s never going to be another Jason Witten that’s
going to be around me.”

Still, the Cowboys have to figure out life without Witten’s leadership. Ask
around, the answers will vary.

Quarterback Dak Prescott is a natural choice, both through leadership skills
he demonstrated before replacing Tony Romo and the fact that the 25-year-old is
already going into this third season as the starter.

Lee, now Dallas’ only offensive or defensive player in his 30s (he’s 31),
always used to wait until the end of the week to address reporters in the locker
room during the season. There’s talk of him moving that up to be more visible,
and the 2016 All-Pro has left no doubt he knows things are different without

Center Travis Frederick and Zack Martin, who just signed a contract making
him the highest-paid guard in the NFL Royce
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, come up as well. But Frederick stops short of the
idea of leadership by committee.

”Committee makes it sound like it’s a huge group of guys,” said Frederick,
who started all 80 games in his first five seasons. ”Traditionally in a team
like this, you have a group of captains that are a strong group of leaders,
maybe five, six guys. I think you’re going to find that here.

”But there’s been a lot of guys in training. I think that Dak is one of the
guys that’s most naturally a leader that I’ve ever been around in my life.”

Bryant shockingly called Lee a “snake” on Twitter while suggesting the
ninth-year linebacker had a hand in the club’s decision to move on from its
career leader in touchdown receptions.

Equally shocking was Lee’s response, acknowledging that he and Bryant had
been at odds over Lee’s feeling that Bryant wasn’t always accountable. Lee even
suggested Bryant still wasn’t holding himself accountable. It was the first time
Lee had been forced to defend himself on such terms, and he left no doubt how he

”I’ve been in a leadership role for a long time now and I need to take it to
that next level,” Lee said. ”But there’s also, we have a core group of guys. We
have a lot of guys where it’s easy to be a leader on this football team because
of how many great leaders we have, all the way through, from the top to

Crawford, a seventh-year player who has been growing into a leadership role
over several seasons, wasn’t happy that the team found itself in the middle of
an unexpected tiff.

”When it comes to things like that and getting focused, I get angry and I say
what I want to say and that’s what it is Ryan
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,” Crawford said. ”I feel like I need to say the right
things at the right time and I do and that’s it.”

When Prescott became the starter because of a preseason back injury sustained
by Romo two years ago, he spent half that season repeating that it was Romo’s
team. Somewhere in the middle of an 11-game winning streak, though, the
conversation changed. The qualities to lead were already there.

”It’s just about finding new ways to lead and it’s going to continue to
evolve each and every year – every year that I get more experience and I get
older,” Prescott said. ”New ways I can come in contact with my teammates,
motivate them or do whatever I have to do to get the best out of them.”

Asked specifically about what Witten’s departure meant for Lee’s leadership
role, coach Jason Garrett almost cut off the question.

”Witt was the guy who was out in front, the most veteran guy, incredibly
well-respected guy,” Garrett said. ”But all these guys have been grasping that
mantle for a long time. There’s no one guy that can lead as a player. It just
doesn’t happen that way. You have to have it throughout your team.”

The Cowboys had some tangible proof during the first week of training

NOTES: Dallas placed rookie WR Cedrick Wilson, a sixth-round pick, on injured
reserve with a shoulder injury and signed rookie Ricky Jeune out of Georgia

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