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“We know that either way we’re going to get our work in in practice. Whether we practice for an hour or practice for three hours, the same result’s going to come out,” said tight end/defensive end Wilson Youman. “But we’re happy that we don’t have to go out there as long anymore.”

There’s no one Gundy points to as an example for what the Cowboys are doing now. He said his staff keeps track of practice lengths and even how many plays are run in each period of practice, so the whole process can be re-evaluated later. The path to this year’s practice regimen started with a change to shorter sessions for the 2009 season.

It’s no exact science, but there is some practical reasoning behind what he’s doing.

The team’s goal is now is to run a whopping 95 offensive plays in each game, but instead of using prolonged practices to build up endurance, the Cowboys try to save energy for Saturdays _ particularly as the season wears on.

“They only have so many plays in them, so if you’re going to average 90 plays a game, then your practice plays have to go down because you can’t practice all the time and then play 90 plays in a game,” Gundy said.

He has even incorporated music and occasionally humorous skits into practice to keep the atmosphere lively.

“We do the best we can to make sure our players are having fun, so their mental approach is they look forward to coming over and being in the offices with us, they look forward to being in meetings, they look forward to being in practice because they know they’re going to have fun,” Gundy said. “They don’t dread it all day. I don’t want them to feel like they’re going to the dentist’s office.”

There has been some sacrifice. With abbreviated practices, there’s only so much that can be done. The offensive playbook only has about 45 base plays, and offensive coordinator Todd Monken has to really choose what he wants to tinker with.

“It forces you to be a little bit more simple,” Monken said. “I like creating stuff and the more plays I have in practice, the more I can get in practice and the more I can do. Sometimes that becomes counterproductive.”

The limited practice time is a complete change in culture from a decade ago, when Les Miles was in charge, Gundy was the offensive coordinator and Monken was on the coaching staff.

“I’d like to practice like Les did. I’d like to be out there about five hours,” Monken said. “But that’s not realistic. I like being out there. That’s more my style. I wish we could coach them in the summer. I wish we could teach and coach and be around them a lot more, but there is a fine line between it.

“It doesn’t become fun anymore and it becomes a job out there.”

Gundy, who’s now in his seventh year, carried over those long practices at the start of his tenure before realizing there might be a point of diminishing returns.

“It would never get sloppy, but after about an hour and a half, you kind of want to go home,” Youman said. “That’s how it is now. We get in, get our work done, work really hard and get off the field.”