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FRISCO, Texas -- The organized team activities portion of any NFL team's offseason program is voluntary, according to the league's collective bargaining agreement.

The CBA says teams "may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity, or 'OTAs.' No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permitted."  

For a Dallas Cowboys squad that is installing a different defensive scheme under new coordinator Mike Zimmer, attendance would certainly seem to be paramount in order to get everyone on the same page. However, Cowboys three-time All-Pro edge rusher Micah Parsons, who led the NFL with 103 quarterback pressures in 2023, missed OTAs for the second week in a row. Dallas coach Mike McCarthy described Parsons' absence as "an opportunity that's been missed" for him as both a leader and to learn Zimmer's defense in-person with his teammates. 

"I think anytime you have a chance to be together, it's an opportunity to improve, whether it's in the mental realm, the physical realm, which is limited obviously at this time of year, and the emotional connection and so forth," McCarthy said when asked about Parsons' attendance at OTAs on Thursday. "It's a long year. Training camp is really the heightened focus for all of that. But yeah, it's definitely an opportunity that's been missed [for Parsons]."

"What do voluntary mean?" McCarty continued with a smile, referencing when former Cowboys linebacker Darren Hambrick uttered the exact same phrase when asked why he didn't attend OTAs back in 2001. 

McCarthy made a point to highlight that 98% of his roster has had perfect attendance for the Cowboys' offseason program up to this point. 

"At the end of the day, everybody has a responsibility and this is our job," McCarthy said. "Obviously we have this period of time to do football activity that's regulated [and] 98% of our football team's been here 100% of the time. So we've accomplished a lot frankly. Yesterday's practice was a barnburner as far as the energy that the receivers and the skill guys were getting into it. Cutting back today. Everybody has a responsibility whether they're here or not here to get what they need because when we hit Oxnard [for training camp] that's our one opportunity for real football and that's the way we approach it. I have confidence that everybody's going to be ready to go when we get there."  

Parsons was at The Star -- the Cowboys' team headquarters in Frisco, Texas -- on Wednesday for the team's media day where they have the players take individual pictures and tape other broadcast elements for the jumbotron at home games as well as for the league's television partners. He did not appear on the field at The Ford Center, the team's indoor practice field, on Thursday for practice. Parsons, who has been a regular at Dallas Mavericks playoff games during their run to the Western Conference Finals, actually tweeted during Thursday's OTAs practice, commenting on a video of him getting basketball hall of famer Dirk Nowitzki's autograph while sitting courtside on Tuesday night.  

"I'm not doing attendance," McCarthy said when asked if Parsons was in the building on Thursday. "We try to have some lightness to it. I'm not going to come up here and talk about one player, especially there's 98% of the guys are here."

The edge rusher missed the earlier portion of offseason workouts because he was in Tokyo with Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud serving as an ambassador to grow the game of football worldwide. They took part in trying out sumo wrestling when abroad among other activities. Parsons spent last week, the first week of OTAs, opting to use boxing training to prepare his body for the 2024 season instead of attending the voluntary practices. 

McCarthy did concede Parsons "looks to be in really good shape" after seeing the edge rusher at the facility during other points during the offseason. He also made sure to say "we have work to do" in regards to learning Zimmer's new scheme. 

"I think like anything, he's engaged, and he'll be ready when it's time," McCarthy said of Parsons. "I have confidence in that."

Parsons' teammates voiced contrasting opinions to his own regarding OTAs after practice, highlighting critical components they receive by working out with the team during these weeks in the spring. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks couldn't recall ever skipping out on any part of OTAs throughout his 10-year NFL career that he has spent with five different teams (Saints, Patriots, Rams, Texans and Cowboys), excluding the COVID-19 pandemic when NFL offseason programs became virtual. 

"I think it's important for me -- being in my second year here -- being a vet and being here for the young guys to lead," Cooks said after practice on Thursday. "Also at the same time, better my game and have that chemistry with our quarterback [Dak Prescott]. I've always thought it's [showing up to OTAs] important. I love the process. I'm a process type of person. As long as I'm playing this game, I'm going to respect it in that aspect."

Pro Bowl left guard Tyler Smith, who went from one of the Cowboys' youngest starters along Dallas' offensive line to one of its more experienced vets after the departures of left tackle Tyron Smith and center Tyler Biadasz this offseason, had clear takeaways from OTAs: improving upon fundamentals and technique as well as bonding with teammates. 

"Right now is a huge time for us to work on the techniques and fundamentals. Just bring the younger guys along with learning the playbook, just jelling well together," Smith said after practice Thursday. "We can't really do the maximum when it comes to physical activity, but the mental aspect of it and the technical aspects of it are really important in this phase."

Quarterback Dak Prescott's OTAs attendance has been perfect this offseason despite being the middle of contract negotiations with the front office. He led the NFL with 36 touchdown passes in 2023, and the three-time Pro Bowler enters 2024 in the last year of his current contract. 

"Business, business is business. I'll leave it where it gets handled," Prescott said on May 23 at Cowboys OTAs. "Right now, it's about being my best for this team right now in this moment. OTAs is helping these guys out and just focused on that and I know my business will take care of itself. Been in it before, experienced [in talks with Jerry and Stephen Jones] and just controlling what I can right now."  

The Cowboys' next part of their offseason business, mandatory minicamp, runs next week from June 4-6. Parsons can get fined for a no-show should he skip out on practice again then.