IRVING, Texas — Mike Jenkins is trying to keep things simple in his first practices with the Dallas Cowboys.
Jenkins, a cornerback from South Florida who was the second of Dallas’ two first-round draft picks, said Saturday he just wants to fit in on a team that went 13-3 last season.
“I’m just trying to get in and help the team the best I can,” Jenkins said on the second day of the Cowboys’ rookie minicamp. “I’m trying to learn the playbook. If it’s meant for me to get on the field early, I can do that. But right now I’m just trying to get in there and learn behind the guys that they have here.”
Jenkins began that learning process this weekend. The 25th overall pick is among 19 rookies and eight first-year players taking part in the three-day minicamp.
Among those Jenkins can ask for help in becoming an elite cornerback was one of the best to ever to play the position — Deion Sanders. The former Cowboys star was a teammate of Jenkins’ uncle, Tracy Sanders, at Florida State.
“(Deion Sanders) is a Florida guy, I’m a Florida guy,” Jenkins said. “He likes helping out the Florida kids. He’s been a great mentor through this whole process.”
Another Florida guy and former Cowboys great, Emmitt Smith, made a surprise visit to the minicamp Saturday. The NFL’s career rushing leader gave a few coaching tips to Dallas’ other first-round draft choice, Arkansas running back Felix Jones.
“It’s good to have people like that to help you out,” Jones said. “With him being the leading rusher in the history of the NFL, it’s a blessing to have that opportunity.”
Owner Jerry Jones said after the draft that Felix Jones and Jenkins are expected to contribute right away.
Jenkins has an opportunity to make an impact in the secondary after cornerbacks Jacques Reeves signed with Houston and Nate Jones left for Miami.
The Cowboys traded for suspended cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones, but its unsure whether NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will reinstate Pacman this season.
“We’re going to throw him right in there and start right away coaching him,” said defensive backs coach Dave Campo, who is also the Cowboys’ former head coach. “Where he finishes, time will tell. I think he’s capable of playing either corner. He just has got to fine tune a lot of stuff and we’ll just see what happens.”
The Cowboys traded up three spots in the first round to take Jenkins, who intercepted three passes his senior year with the Bulls. The Bradenton, Fla., native added to his draft stock by returning a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown against Cincinnati.
“I just want to come in here and work hard,” Jenkins said. “I have a chip on my shoulder, a lot of motivation just to come in and prove that I was the best corner in the draft.”
Jenkins will compete for playing time against Anthony Henry, another product of South Florida.
Henry was slowed by ankle injuries last season. The seven-year veteran has intercepted 11 passes in three seasons with Dallas.
Jenkins said he has a good relationship with Henry.
“Anthony has been here a long time,” Jenkins said. “We all know that. If I do beat him out, he is going to understand. He’s still going to help me out. I don’t think he’s going to stop helping me out. I’m still going to work hard to try to get that spot.”
Smith has some advice for suspended cornerback Jones: Stay out of trouble.
“As long as you’re not killing anybody, getting anybody shot at and going to jail, then I don’t have any issues,” said Smith, NFL career rushing leader.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Jones last year for repeatedly violating the league’s personal conduct rules. He’s been arrested six times and has been involved in 12 matters requiring police intervention.
“Your personal life is your personal life,” Smith added. “Some of the choices you make are not some of the choices I would make. As long as you’re out here on the practice field performing like you’re supposed to and not getting into any trouble. I’m not going to tell you what you should be doing.”
The Cowboys acquired Jones from the Tennessee Titans last week, and Smith said he thought it was a good trade to bolster the Dallas secondary.
“Pacman is a grown man,” Smith said. “He understands the do’s and don’ts, the rights and wrongs. He has choices to make. Hopefully he starts making better choices.”