Cowboys Items For 'Dear Readers'

One week at Camp Cowboys. Hundreds of opinions -- some of which I'll share here. But first, a note of explanation for the Dear Readers who wonder about any reporter (but in this case, especially me) harboring biases, pre-fabricated opinions, lack of actual football knowledge and laziness.

Fellas, I've been doing this for a living now since 1981. On the radio, on TV, in newspapers, and here on And I've always fought the aforementioned pitfalls by filtering my thoughts (reviews of a practice, judgements of a player or coach, predictions of outcomes) through the fertile minds of football people whom I trust, football people who possess more wisdom than I. Much of the time over my last three decades of covering the NFL, the review of a performance by a certain player or coach or unit or team was written by me ONLY AFTER I'VE CONSULTED WITH THAT PLAYER OR COACH or member of the unit or team.

And one other thing: Traditionally, a beat writer holding biased against a team (or to be rooting for one, for that matter) is unethical.

However, my position at affords me the opportunity to be all the things I truly am: A beat writer, yes. But also a commentator. An opinion-giver. An X-s-and-O's guy? Sure. A smart-ass? Sometimes. A consumer of the opinions offered by readers, viewers, listeners, fans, people with their own expertise? Absolutely.

A fan of the Dallas Cowboys?

Damn straight.

If possible, kindly keep that in mind as we march through a season in which the Cowboys seem like legit contenders for the first time in, respective to the franchise's history, forever. And now, on with assorted thoughts and items from Camp Cowboys:

ITEM: Department of Needless T.O. Bashing: And here we go again.

Terrell Owens is in the news again for -- as ESPN's Woody Paige reported -- "being in a club, being someplace he should not have been.''

T.O.'s crime? More than a month ago, well before training camp, Owens happened to be at a nightspot when a fight broke out. Now he's been named in a civil filing as a witness. Not as a participant, a WITNESS. Oh, and the "club'' he "shouldn't have been in''? It's a Dallas establishment called CandleRoom. It's trendy, high-priced, cool, rather urbane. ... NOT a stripclub. The worst thing about CandleRoom, for me? The drink prices are too high and the women's ages are too low.

I'm not saying it's bad to be Terrell Owens or anything; I am saying that celebrity life can be a bit of a pain in the butt when a guy gets chastised by the media for having simply been standing there when SOMEBODY ELSE got in a fight.

ITEM: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones isn't ALL smiles during this training camp; take it from me, the commissioner's search -- and the scheduling of meetings he finds non-coincidentally awkward -- can cause the occasional frown. But one of the reasons Jerry does feel on top of the world is his (and son Stephen's) mastery of this roster and its contract issues.

To have, in the span of a couple of weeks, sealed deals for young studs Jason Witten and Roy Williams -- two guys who figure to be among the faces of the franchises and the faces of the NFL for years to come -- is a coup.

What Jones did years ago with Aikman, Haley, Johnston, Novacek and others was to provide them fat contracts late in their careers, almost as rewards for what they HAD done. That strategy was good-hearted, but it hamstrung the franchise for years. The timing of doing things this way at this moment is ideal, because Witten and Williams are being compensated for what they are accomplishing and WILL accomplish.

And you deserve to be smiling about it, too.

ITEM: It occurs to me that Keith Davis (or whomever plays free safety) isn't truly a weak spot; he is just relatively so, because the other 10 spots appear to be loaded. Bill Parcells, Mike Zimmer and Jeff Ireland deserve as much credit as the law will allow for assembling a unit that is a) huge, b) young, c) fast, d) well-suited to the system, e) well-suited to one another, f) hungry to learn, g) hungry to succeed, h) suddenly experienced and i) all of the above.

If you are a Fantasy Football guy, I might advise you to let the dullards in your league go with the usual suspects (Steelers, Patriots, Ravens) and you wait a bit and snatch up the Cowboys. All that talent, in that system, married with Parcells' penchant for the 16-10 outcome, and you've got yourself a winner.

ITEM: It is just me, or is there a weird feeling of calm surrounding the Mike Vanderjagt situation?

He misses a practice to instead nurse some apparent flu-like ailment. He misses kicks, too, left and right and every which way but loose. He complains of a "heavy hold,'' goofs with the crown pretending he's a kick returner, watches as competition is brought into camp, dares QBs to throw him their fastballs, and jokes about his "idiot kicker'' status from his Indy days. And yet in my 16 years covering the Cowboys, I've never felt better about the team's kicking situation.


But I also repeat: At the present time, I can smell it from here.

So a couple of twists: While tackle Rob Petitti, a first-teamer for the initial week of camp, took some turns with the third team, Parcells says it's all part of a plan, and Lincoln Kennedy was allowed to trod off to Washington. He passed the Redskins' physical, unlike in Dallas, where the Cowboys told the two-years-retired blocker that he wasn't fit to return to the NFL. Stay tuned.

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