Same Ol' Questions?

OXNARD, Calif. -- The definition of "crazy'': Doing the same thing, over and over, hoping for a different result. The definition of "slightly unsettled,'' at least as it applies to the training camp-entering Cowboys: Beginning a summer with too many of the same roster questions unanswered.

"Every year is different,'' coach Bill Parcells said at Friday's Welcome-to-Oxnard press conference. "It always unfolds. You don't know what is going to happen through the course of camp that is going to cause you problems."

Different? Really?

A year ago, what were you worried about? Maybe, oh, the offensive line not being talented enough and cohesive enough? And whether Parcells is a long-termer? And a hole at safety? A lack of a backup QB?

Here we are, a year removed from voicing concerns about those issues, and -- while Dallas is understandably touted as a Super Bowl contender -- those alleged ailments have gone untreated, un-medicated and un-mended. So here we go again: The Final Four of Reluctance, the quartet of reasons a Cowboys fan should watch this training camp while clapping wildly with one hand and crossing his fingers on the other:

1) Can You Lose The Best Cowboys Offensive Lineman Ever And Still Be Improved?
LA is off to the Bay, and not even the most optimistic Cowboys follower can assume that Kyle Kosier represents a true upgrade. But the return of Flozell Adams at left tackle does represent a step back up toward legitimacy in the line. A healthy Marco Rivera will hopefully bounce back from a mediocre '05 at right guard. Veteran Jason Fabini and young Rob Petitti should be a battle to watch daily at right tackle. And at center, Al Johnson and Andre Gurode continue waging a competition that, it seems, no one really wants to win.

In terms of continuity -- and coaches preach that an O-Line's bond can be a great attribute -- the Cowboys should be better. In terms of talent, it could be a push.

2: Is There 'Safety' In Safety Numbers?
There's an old chestnut about quarterbacks in the NFL: "If you have two QBs who might be able to play, you have NO QBs worthy of playing.'' Translated, that means somebody ought to be truly good enough to bust out. What Dallas has done at free safety is throw quantity at the void. So returning starter Keith Davis is the incumbent. ... but is apparently somebody's idea of a clay pigeon. Ex-Texan Marcus Coleman is with Dallas now, and is a quality guy, but is truly a corner by trade. Pat Watkins has an interestingly long frame, but he's a rookie. Justin Beriault is a staff favorite, but he's more suited to SS and, because of injuries, has yet to actually accomplish anything.

This is a problem area. Having a bunch of free safeties isn't the same as having a free safety who can play at a high level, record takeaways, work in coverage to free Roy Williams to do his thing. I'd trade the four or five bodies in competition here for one guy who could walk away with the job.

"Maybe one position in particular in the secondary'' is a concern, Parcells conceded.

3: Is Bill Parcells In This For The Long Haul?
Conventional wisdom says that "will-our-coach-be-back?'' issues generally serve as a distraction. (It might have even done so at the end of the last season.) Parcells is bright enough to turn this negative into a positive: "Win One For The Tuna!'' might be his December-and-beyond battlecry. It will be a test of these players' loyalty to Parcells -- and in my experience, the important people on this roster love the guy, and that even goes for the players who don't especially LIKE him -- and I believe all involved will pass the test.

For the time being, though, Jerry Jones' "fired-up-ness'' will have to suffice.

"I'm excited about Bill and his energy,'' Jones said. "I'm uniquely excited to be here.''

4: Is One QB Ever Enough?
It certainly has been in Dallas, where, during Parcells' complete tenure, he's neglected/refused/forgotten to add a backup quarterback to the roster.

Oh, I don't mean any disrespect to Tony Romo, or even to Drew Henson. But simply put: Never in the modern history of the NFL has a team allowed itself to "hang out'' so long with so little at the position. You know what you're getting with Drew Bledsoe, and it's plenty good. With the backups employed by much of the rest of the NFL's contenders, you know what you're getting, and it's satisfactory.

If Bledsoe goes down -- and any accurate Cowboys preview should mention the possibility that he seems due to do so -- the Cowboys have no idea what they're getting. It's an indefensible approach taken by the coach, for reasons I (and he) simply cannot explain.

I keep looking for a change at backup QB. … and I guess this is all I get: Romo now has a buzzcut.

So at least they've changed backup QB hair. And a bonus. ...

5: Is The T.O. Thing Going To Work?
There's a reason I don't list this as part of The Final Four of Reluctance, as do most other media observers: Simply put, Terrell Owens does not represent a problem entering camp. Quite the opposite, actually; he enters Oxnard as the best player on the team, more accomplished that Jason Witten and Roy Williams and anyone else in blue and silver. He also has as much to prove as anyone in football, and seems intent on taking out his wrath on his perceived enemies. None of those enemies are, at this time, part of the Cowboys family.

Parcells talked at some length about Owens' presence as a part of the assembled "firepower,'' and didn't seem at all flustered by off-the-field stuff. So T.O. should not be on anybody's "Problems Entering 2006'' List.

"Problems Entering 2007,'' maybe. But not this year at this camp.

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