Herring Adjusts To Life As Cowboy

FAYETTEVILLE — Reggie Herring doesn't yell that much anymore, and he has made a conscious effort to cut curse words out of his vocabulary.

This is a quieter version of the outspoken coach.

In his three seasons as Arkansas' defensive coordinator, it wasn't uncommon to see Herring get on a player who had made a mistake in practice. But his new job as the Dallas Cowboys linebackers coach has brought about some changes.

Herring is still an intense personality, but he doesn't need to holler as much as he did over the past few years at Arkansas. After all, NFL players who don't listen can simply be cut or traded.

"What you find out when you get in the NFL, if you came and watched us practice, you won't hear me as much," Herring said.

Herring admits there is a part of him that misses being a college coach. And though nearly seven months have past since he coached his final game with the Razorbacks, he still feels a need to apologize for what happened in the Cotton Bowl.

But for now, Herring is back in the NFL, learning a new system with the Cowboys, working with an experienced linebacker corps and dealing with the expectations that come with being on a Super Bowl contender.

"Right now, I can honestly tell you that I'm enjoying coaching for the Cowboys," said Herring, who will open his first training camp with Dallas on Friday. "But I do and will always miss coaching in college."

In an usual twist, Herring has returned to the same city where he coached his last game with the Razorbacks. However, Arkansas' 38-7 loss to Missouri in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1 remains an embarrassing moment that he hasn't forgotten.

"I feel like I need to apologize to Arkansas people for that Cotton Bowl. That was probably the most humiliating experience for me," Herring said. "I felt bad for our kids, I felt bad for Arkansas. That was a bad way to go out."

Herring took over as Arkansas' interim coach in late November after Houston Nutt left for Ole Miss. And while Bobby Petrino had already been hired as Nutt's replacement, Herring agreed to stay on and coach the Razorbacks in the Cotton Bowl.

But Herring's debut as a head coach didn't go as he'd hoped, and he admits he's still bothered by how lopsided the loss to Missouri got.

"I still think about it and still wish it could have went the other way, even though I knew I wasn't going to be there (at Arkansas)," Herring said. "We've only got so many snaps in our lives. I wanted to be a part of the healing process for everyone."

Herring's focus has since shifted to winning a Super Bowl ring with the Cowboys. In Dallas, he inherits one of the NFL's best linebacker corps.

Greg Ellis is coming off his first Pro Bowl berth. DeMarcus Ware is among the preseason favorites to win the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award. And Zach Thomas, a seven-time Pro Bowler who has battled concussion problems, was added in the offseason.

For Herring, the situation is a stark contrast from his only other NFL job, as the linebackers coach for the expansion Houston Texans in 2002-03.

"When I got with the Houston Texans, we had Jamie Sharper and that was about it," Herring said. "... So it was quite different than my transition to the Cowboys."

Herring has spent all but two of his 27 years as a coach in the college ranks. He said he wanted to remain at Arkansas and was considered a candidate to replace Nutt. But when it became apparent that there wasn't a place for him with the Razorbacks, Herring left in early January to be Texas A&M's defensive coordinator.

The chance to be the Cowboys' linebackers coach came open soon afterward, however, and the job was too good for him to turn down.

"I didn't know if I'd ever get the opportunity again to coach on an NFL team that had a chance to win a Super Bowl," Herring said.

He admits he's not sure how long he'll be in Dallas. He still hopes to be a head coach someday, and in the NFL, there isn't much job security beyond one year.

"If I'm coaching with the Cowboys next year," Herring said, "then that means everything's well."

And quieter.

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