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Jones sees pep in step of his Cowboys

OXNARD, Calif. — Barely a week removed from hip replacement surgery, Jerry Jones eased into a chair for the training camp tradition he didn't want to miss: the Dallas owner's annual overview of the Cowboys.

Just a few minutes later on the eve of the first camp workout, Jones was going on about how the defending NFC East champions seem to have a little bounce in their step.

Coincidence? Maybe not, considering how eager Jones was to show reporters how close he is to walking without a limp eight days after the procedure on his left hip.

"I see more freshness, more bright-eyed, rookie attitude in the makeup of this team, for whatever the reason, than I did five years ago," Jones said Wednesday, referring to the previous time Dallas entered camp coming off a playoff victory.

"It just seems like there is a 'Send me in coach. I'm going to go through there one way or the other. Just tell me how to go.' I'm not going to call it naive. It's just an attitude of let's just get out here. Let's go to work. Good things can happen to us."

In the month between wrapping up offseason workouts and reporting to California, the Cowboys lost linebacker Rolando McClain to a four-game suspension for a violation of the NFL's substance-abuse policy. They also learned that defensive end Greg Hardy's suspension over a domestic violence case was reduced from 10 games to four.

But the biggest potential issue hanging over camp was settled with just hours to spare when All-Pro receiver Dez Bryant signed a five-year, $70 million contract after warning that he would stay away from California and might even miss games if he had to play with a one-year deal under the franchise tag.

"I think it's a big deal," said executive vice president Stephen Jones, who flew to New York with his dad/general manager the day before the July 15 deadline to work out a deal with Bryant's representatives.

"The Dez watch is something that wouldn't have been welcomed by coach (Jason) Garrett, his teammates, and certainly by Jerry and myself. We wanted to avoid that."

With a happy Bryant in camp, Dallas now has to figure out how to replace DeMarco Murray, the NFL rushing champion who signed with division rival Philadelphia in free agency.

Joseph Randle, Murray's backup for two seasons, is likely to start camp with the first team. But Darren McFadden, who had seven mostly disappointing seasons in Oakland after going fourth overall in the 2008 draft, will get a chance to show what he can do behind one of the NFL's best offensive lines.

"To some degree, that's the kind of back — if you add those two together — that we had in Murray," Jerry Jones said. "McFadden is an experienced back. Randle is not as experienced, but he's got a chance to get in and use some, I think, very instinctive, natural running back qualities to have the position give us everything it can give us."

The Cowboys are still optimistic on change-of-pace back Lance Dunbar, and believe they might have improved the blocking by getting La'el Collins as an undrafted free agent. He was projected as a first-round pick, but wasn't taken because of a police investigation into the death of a woman.

"Obviously, part of the recipe for our success last year was to be strong in the running game and our offensive line and you ask why we're a little bit optimistic about the running game, it starts up front with the offensive line," Stephen Jones said.

49ERS: Second-year 49ers running back Carlos Hyde has been elevated to the active roster less than 24 hours after the team announced he was on the active/non-football injury list.

Hyde will be counted upon to carry the load following franchise rushing leader Frank Gore's departure. He had been placed on the active/non-football injury list four days ahead of the start of training camp.

The team announced Wednesday that Hyde is now active. The only known injury for him during the offseason program was a muscle pull — not his hamstring — that coach Jim Tomsula didn't discuss in further detail.

Veterans report Friday to Santa Clara headquarters with the first practice Saturday night at Levi's Stadium.

PANTHERS: Carolina wide receiver Stephen Hill has been cited for knowingly possessing drug paraphernalia with intent to use.

Concord Police Department records indicate Hill was cited Tuesday — two days before players report to training camp — near Charlotte Motor Speedway for possessing two grinders with marijuana residue and a marijuana bowl used to process, prepare and store.

Hill, 24, spent last season on the Panthers practice squad. The former Georgia Tech standout was drafted in the second round in 2012 by the Jets, but quickly fizzled out in New York after dropping too many passes.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones fields questions from members of the media during the start of his team's NFL training camp Wednesday. AP PHOTO