Many happy returns

Kevin Ogletree

With the release earlier this season of Bryan McCann and earlier this week of rookie Dwayne Harris (who then was re-signed Wednesday … to the team's practice squad), the Dallas Cowboys find themselves in the market for a new primary punt returner.

Veteran cornerback Terence Newman and receivers Dez Bryant and Kevin Ogletree all have returned punts before, and Dallas head coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday that all three fielded punts in practice. True to form, Garrett was non-committal, saying the situation was one the team would "evaluate going forward."

But when asked if the fact that Newman and Bryant are starters for the Cowboys' defense and offense, respectively, would convince the coaches to lean toward Ogletree as the top punt returner, Garrett acknowledged — again, without making any definitive statements on his punt return depth chart — that the theory made sense.

Ogletree said Wednesday that he isn't so sure he was in the lead for the job.

"We have got a guy there already (Bryant) who has a couple of those (returns) for touchdowns (last season)," Ogletree said. "The coaches haven't said anything (about who will return punts in Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams), but I would think (Bryant) is in front."

Maybe so … but maybe not. Ogletree was the primary kickoff returner and did some punt returns at the University of Virginia before signing with the Cowboys in TKTKTK as an undrafted free agent. Although he arrived in the NFL with more experience returning kickoffs than punts, he said he might be better suited to fielding punts.

"Punt returns are a little easier, I think, than kickoff returns," Ogletree said. "The first thing — the most important thing — is make the catch. That always has to be the first thing. If I show I can do that, hopefully I can gain some trust from the coaches, and I'll get a chance to show what I can do."

Ogletree acknowledged that the scheme of returning punts should be the most hazardous to the returner's health — the ball travels higher and spends more time in the air than kickoffs, thereby allowing more time for opposining players to race downfield toward a return specialist whose eyes are trained on the sky — he said his running style allows him to succeed in a job that is hazardous to the health of those who perform it.

"There's an advantage for a guy like me, who's a little quicker," Ogletree said. "Pure speed is important, but the ability to make someone miss and get through a hole is important, too."

Ogletree said he didn't have a feel for who would end up returning kicks this weekend against the Rams, echoing his coach by saying that is something that would be determined this week in practice. Whether the job ends up with him, or with Bryant or Newsome or some combination of the three, Ogletree said the Cowboys' return games is in good hands.

"It really doesn't matter which one of us does it," he said. "We're all equipped with the necessary skills, the quickness and the decision-making ability to do the job."

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