Postcard from camp: Cowboys
While in San Antonio for Cowboys camp, I decided to visit my father's grave at a cemetery not far outside of town. After cleaning up the plot and placing flowers, I noticed on the adjoining plot that a headstone had a Dallas Cowboys star engraved on the back.
When I looked at the front of the gravestone, there was a picture of the departed, wearing a Cowboys polo shirt and a Cowboys cap. On each side of the picture were full-color engravings of a Cowboys helmet. Flowers had been placed in a 64-ounce Cowboys beer mug next to the stone.
As I walked back to my truck, I noticed another headstone on another plot. It, too, had a Cowboys star engraving.
Such is the depth of Cowboys loyalty in San Antonio. They not only are lifelong Cowboys fans in San Antonio. They are eternal.
Buildings are decorated with Cowboys logos. The Cowboys' open house at the Alamodome before camp drew more than 30,000 fans. At least 15,000 fans show up for practices everyday, including during two-a-days. Fans line up hours before the doors open on weekends and sprint to the prime sideline seats.
Welcome to San Antonio, where living and dying with the Cowboys takes on a whole new meaning.
Nevertheless, even my Aggie math can figure out that two plus two equals four. Or in this case, Romo minus two equals a quarterback who is sharper, more confident and looks more focused than he's ever been. Romo has been on-target and impressive in drill after drill, scrimmage after scrimmage.
The only ominous thing: While it is true Romo no longer has all the annoying TMZ-fodder distractions, neither does he have anymore excuses if the Cowboys fail to advance in the playoffs.
But while it is not exactly "Camp Cupcake" as in 2008, Phillips remains a gentlemanly sort who doesn't figure to change after 30 years in the game. Cowboys camp can be called crisper and sharper, not necessarily fire and brimstone.
The more significant changes figure to be Phillips' taking over the Cowboys defense and hiring respected special teams coach
Bennett has been working overtime throughout camp because of his blocking skills on rush ends. He has taken many more snaps with the first team than anyone expected and is taking every snap with the second-teamers. Phillips noted recently that everyday in camp, Bennett has done something "spectacular."
Williams may be T.O.'s replacement and
Olshansky signed a four-year free-agent contract worth $18 million in the offseason and has been strong and difficult to block throughout camp.
The Cowboys are going to need every bit of Olshanky's experience and strength in the rough-and-tumble NFC East. He will team with
As big as he is (6-foot-6, 309 pounds) and known more as a run-stopper, Olshansky has looked quick and could thrive putting more pressure on offenses behind the line of scrimmage, given that Phillips knows Olshansky well from their days together with the San Diego Chargers.
It didn't matter. In a season in which the Cowboys need lots of help on the depth chart behind
One reason he has picked things up quickly is he's smart. Another: He's got a big family.
When Butler realized he couldn't practice with the Cowboys in the early summer, he solicited the help of his seven brothers and sisters. He often took them to a local high school and had them all, including his mother, play various positions, so he could practice.
The 6-2, 248-pound Butler has earned a place in the linebacking rotation in camp. He has been physical, smooth and instinctive.
Martellus Bennett was standing there in the middle of the Alamodome, drenched in sweat after the second session of a two-a-day practice. He was tired and, by Bennett standards, even a little reluctant to talk. He was THAT tired.
But then the topic of
"LeBron, I saw that dunk," Bennett said. "It wasn't that bad. Nike did not have to hide the tape.
"I've never been dunked on. I've been dunked-by, but never been dunked on. I've dunked on more people than anyone. I've dunked on
• What do the Cowboys have over the New York Yankees? No problem selling tickets. Nearly every seat (95 percent, the team reports) of the new $1.15 billion Cowboys Stadium already is sold out.
• If Martellus Bennett isn't the player primed to have a breakout year, then
• The scene is the same, day-after-day. Romo is one of the last players to jog onto the turf at the Alamodome and always receives the loudest cheers and ovations. There's been a Jessica Simpson-effect, too. Lots of women offer marriage proposals, now that Romo's a free man.
• The Cowboys say they are going to find a way to make up for Owens' absence.
• Wade Phillips clearly is having an impact on the defensive side of the ball. He is much more involved in practice, running every defensive meeting, and has gained the players' confidence. If it doesn't take away from Phillips' head-coaching duties, the Cowboys should be better.