Countdown to Camp

Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones enjoys many things in life, and one of the favorites is having his Dallas Cowboys talked about by the masses. Make no mistake about it, the masses are talking. Rumblings started when Jones made the bold decision to hire Bill Parcells to coach this team.

The overall results have been mediocre by Jones' standards, but the NFL world knows the Cowboys are starting a slow ascent up the ladder of progress. Those rumblings have increased with two, solid, back-to-back years of collegiate drafting and free agency participation. Now the anticipation has become outright calamity with the arrival of hotly contested, mercurial wider receiver Terrell Owens.

NFL scribes and prognosticators have christened the Cowboys serious 2006 playoff contenders with the extreme insight coming from Sports Illustrated's own, and Parcells' confidant, Peter King. He's boldly predicting the Cowboys to win this year's Super Bowl. Yes, that's Jerry Jones grinning from ear to ear as the propaganda machine shifts into overdrive. Newspapers, magazines, television and the Internet continually utilize "shock value" as a means to capture attention and promote sales. Thus, media outlet pronouncements, like King's, must be tempered with the understanding of big business. Plain and simple, the Cowboys sell.

NFL insiders will continue predictions throughout training camps, but the actions of Las Vegas should not go unnoticed. Actually strong attention should be paid with key emphasis on the word "paid." Vegas is in the business of being right and being right the majority of time. Those Strip lights don't stay illuminated if the sports books are taking a continual beating. Their mere existence is dependent on winning, and don't for one minute think the sporting world doesn't watch the Nevada desert closely at all times. Vegas trends and weather forecasting are direct polar opposites.

According to VegasInsiders.com, an Internet source for capturing all the casino sports books odds, the Dallas Cowboys opened Super Bowl betting between 12 to 1 and 15 to 1 depending on the specific book. The current odds, averaged across all boards, sits at 7 to 1 odds. While not the hands down favorite, these odds are worth noting and keeping a close eye on. Simply put, it means those in the business of being right like the Dallas Cowboys. Teams with massive shortcomings or glaring deficiencies rarely duck under the 25 to 1 benchmark. While many factors feed and set the odds, nothing has driven the Cowboys favorable figures like the acquisition of Terrell Owens. Subtract Owens from the equation, and what do the odds say?

The Owens' tenure is a mere 30 days away, and everyone is poised to watch the theatre unfold. Putting all prior incidents and potential discrepancies aside, Terrell Owens could not reside in a better locale. This statement pertains to him personally because the Cowboys faithful will continue to debate the presence of the flamboyant receiver throughout his Dallas stay. The hope is Owens realizes what this opportunity could ultimately mean with a simple injection of humility and compliance. A tall order? Does he have it in him? Only time will tell if the previous behaviors have been, or can be, curtailed.

It'll never be said publicly or proven, but Owens relishes the opportunity to darn the famed blue star. In his own words, "A star amongst stars. A match made in heaven." This particular stage was tailor-made for Owens' game. How it all shakes out is pure speculation at this point, but one thing is for sure. The Cowboys possess the best, all-around (as it relates to talent and physical ability), wide receiver to ever wear the uniform. Absolutely no disrespect to the most productive receiver in organizational history, but even Michael Irvin would say his "total package" does not quite measure up with the overall abilities of Terrell Owens.

Bill Parcells doesn't do anything in life without checking with sources and doing his homework. The man is calculating and odds-centered. He knows trends. He studies habits. He absorbs situational success and failure rates. This is not to say he won't take an occasional risk, but be sure the potential "down side" has been rehearsed many times over and reviewed abundantly before venturing in. With this backdrop, what is Big Bill's read on Virginia linebacker Ahmad Brooks?

One thing is for sure. He has a read. Al Groh has provided Parcells everything he needs to assess the super-talented, yet troubled-thinking 3-4 prototype. Thirty-one of 32 teams were on hand to view Brooks' Supplemental Draft workout. The overall results, as expected, were mixed. Substantial weight was lost, and speed is apparently there. However, strength and power is suspect with only 19 pushes on the bar during the bench press. All are factors teams will consider before jumping into the consideration fray, but there were no tests and results for the biggest, looming Ahmad Brooks question. Where is his head, and does it have the ability to remain focused and disciplined? A huge risk for a huge talent. Do the Cowboys have the appetite?

Speaking of appetites, how about the soap opera and broken record update? Greg Ellis cannot be thought of without Don Henley connotations. Whichever side of the dispute fence you reside, Greg Ellis made a critical and tactical error. You do not air grievances and disputes through media channels. It's no win. Those that chose to do so clearly show the world their #1 priority. That being the desire to be jettisoned out of town. In the world of pursuing championship jewelry, this particular prioritization is highly flawed thinking. It will be most interesting to watch this saga unfold, and while Greg Ellis can't be faulted for trying to protect personal and financial interests, the chosen venue will only generate negative repercussions. As Henley crones:

I make my living off the evening news

Just give me something – something I can use

People love it when you lose

They love dirty laundry

You don't really need to find out what's going on

You don't really want to know just how far it's gone

Just leave well enough alone

Eat your dirty laundry


There was a clear choice when it came to a cleansing, but instead of utilizing the dry cleaner, Ellis drove straight to the public laundromat. This matter has more than a little starch to it.

Finally, welcome to Barometers ‘R Us. There will be many indicators to gauge the success or failure of the 2006 Cowboys, but one of the biggest measuring sticks will be the status of cornerback Anthony Henry. Arguably the team MVP of the first half of the 2005 season, his injury departure was as impactful on the defensive side of the ball as was the loss of Flozell Adams on offense. He brought a physicality and game-altering presence of which the position has not seen in years. He also brought a pretty hefty price tag to the payroll department. While the return on investment had early returns, the long-term earnings remain unknown.

The certainty resides in the fact the organization needs him to perform at a very high level in 2006. The wide out contingency facing the Cowboys from the opposition sideline in nothing shy of "stout" this year. Yes, having Terence Newman manning the opposite corner helps, but Henry has to shine in order for the Cowboys defense to shut down opponents. The secondary has tremendous potential, and adding coverage capabilities to the free safety position, this group will be intriguing to watch. However, the spotlight will be squarely on #42 as he attempts to duplicate his first half, 2005, efforts over the entire course of the 2006 slate.

In the least active portion of the entire off-season, the Dallas Cowboys are making headlines and ripples in the NFL waters of ponderence. The organizational waves are churning, and skipper Jerry Jones has the steely smile of Captain Hook as he sets sail to encounter the 2006 high seas. The head of the ship continues to keep his powder dry with an eye on the prize. First stop…..Oxnard.

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