This Dallas Cowboys assistant is missing from OTAs. Here’s why the team is OK with that

Like receiver CeeDee Lamb and edge rusher Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys tight end coach Lunda Wells has been absent from OTA practices this week.

And just like Lamb, who seeking a new contract, and Parsons, who feels working out on his own is best for him, Wells’ absence is also about personal growth, though his comes with the complete blessing of the franchise.

Wells is one of the 28 assistant coaches participating in the NFL minority accelerator program during the spring league meetings in Nashville this week.

According to the NFL, the accelerator serves as a platform for clubs and owners to engage with qualified coaching candidates from diverse backgrounds. Candidates can build relationships with club owners and executives and further develop and hone their leadership skills.

In addition to networking and personal development programming, the league will provide coaches with insight into future initiatives, both on and off the field, to contextualize how the game will continue to develop and where the NFL is evolving.

“It’s a great opportunity to grow and learn from other people,” Wells said. “Any time you get a chance to get around other people in the profession, other owners and learn from them and hear their ideas in terms of how they think about things, not only within their organization, but throughout the organization, you have to take advantage of it.

“It’s always been inside my mind to be a head coach. It’s always been goal of mine to be a leader of men. This is an opportunity to be able to grow and know what they are looking for in a head coach.”

The accelerator program, the league’s fifth since 2022, is an extension of the Rooney Rule, originally created in 2003 in increase minority hiring in the NFL.

Simply put, it places minority candidates right in front of people who make the hiring decisions.

“Developing diverse coaching talent through the accelerator program is a key priority,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “In its fifth iteration, this program continues to be an effective avenue for club owners and executives to be exposed to the skill set and unique backgrounds of highly qualified coaching candidates, and for the program’s participants to network with one another and engage in professional development sessions.”

After four minority coaches were hired this offseason, the NFL has record number of nine coaches of color for the 2024 season, including six Black coaches.

Wells would like to one day be included in that number.

And he credits his time with the Cowboys with increasing his chances of living his dream.

After beginning his coaching career at a high school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Wells spent four seasons as assistant coach at LSU from 2008-11, including an internship with the Cowboys during training camp in 2010.

Wells received his first full-time NFL coaching position in 2012 as an offensive quality control coach for the New York Giants. Wells spent eight seasons with the Giants in several positions before joining the Cowboys as their tight ends coach in 2020

“It’s been an unbelievable opportunity to work with the coach on one of the most historic franchises in football and sports in general,” Wells said. “With the Cowboys’ rich tradition and rich history, it’s an unbelievable opportunity.”

Wells’ work with the Cowboys is also a key part of the equation.

His arrival in Dallas coincided with the retirement of legendary tight end Jason Witten, the team’s all-time leader in catches and a future Hall of Famer.

Wells oversaw the development of Dalton Schultz into one of quarterback Dak Prescott’s most trust pass catchers. After Schultz went to the Houston Texans in free agency after the 2022 season, Wells spearheaded the rise of Jason Ferguson into a Pro Bowl tight end in 2023.

“Jason Witten is a hard person to replace,” Wells said. “I don’t think he can ever be replaced. He did a phenomenal job setting the standard for the Cowboys tight ends. Our goal has been to continue to build on those standards and traditions that go back to the old school guys like Jay Novacek. I think our guys have done a nice job.”

Ferguson, who finished with 71 catches for 761 yards and five touchdowns in 2023, has the potential to be the next great Cowboys tight end.

After a season in which he recorded 11 games of at least four receptions, Ferguson was arguably the best player in the disappointing season-ending playoff loss to Green Bay Packers.

He caught 10 passes for 93 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the second player (Preston Pearson) in franchise history to have a three-TD game in the playoffs.

“The goal for him is to just to be consistent,” Wells said. “He’s one of those guys that he understands that you know, he got to continue to do it every year. We’re running back again this year. We got to put a little bit more into it. This offseason, a little more attention to detail, so when he gets on the field he can play consistent. I think he understands that.”

And while Wells’ goal is to be head coach, he understands his primary focus is to be where his feet are and continue to coach the tight ends to the best of his ability.

“I always talk about being the best I could possibly be in the moment, doing my job to the best of my ability and better than it’s done before,” Wells said. “At the end of the day, I’m paid to be the tight ends coach here and that’s what they have entrusted me to do. My focus is to try to do my job and do it well so those guys have the opportunity to be successful on the field.”