'The Long, Hot Schedule'

IRVING, Tex. -- In the old Paul Newman movie, "The Long, Hot Summer,'' his character, Ben Quick, expresses amazement that a family has lived in one place for so long, and is asked whether he "don't believe in living in one place.''

Replies Newman: "Well, my family moved. Not that they wanted to. They was encouraged by the local citizens.''

Welcome to the Cowboys version of the story: "The Short, Air-Conditioned Summer.'' We now know the itinerary of your 2007 Cowboys -- all of which will commence quickly after what I believe will be the shortest training camp in NFL history. From what I understand, the Cowboys will report to San Antonio on July 24, will begin practice on July 25, and will shut it down on either August 8 or 9, with much of the time spent inside the Alamodome. That's 15 days of practice. ... which proceeds what looks to me like an extremely challenging ensuing 16 weeks of regular-season labor.

A look at the just-announced schedule -- with quickie reactions:

Sept. 9, (h) NY Giants (NBC), 7:15 p.m. - The Cowboys start the season in prime time, as the star and host of Sunday Night Football.

Sept. 16, at Miami (FOX), 3:05 p.m. - Look for another heart-tugging pregame interview between Miami homeboy Jimmy Johnson and 'Boys owner Jerry Jones.

Sept. 23, at Chicago (NBC), 7:15 p.m. - NBC prime time again. But this time, the defending NFC champs get top billing - and Dallas gets a major challenge.

Sept. 30, (h) St Louis (FOX), Noon - If you never liked Julius Jones, you get a chance to see Stephen Jackson up close and personal.

Oct. 8, at Buffalo (ESPN), 7:30 p.m. - A Monday nighter, Wade's old stomping grounds, and that's three prime-times in five weeks.

Oct. 14, (h) New England (CBS), 3:15 p.m. - They haven't played since Belichick and Parcells actually liked each other.

Oct. 21, (h) Minnesota (FOX), Noon - A team that traditionally challenges the Cowboys, but these Vikings plus a bye week makes for a rare soft spot.

Oct. 28, BYE - Too early for a bye? There is an edge in having it late; but there's also an edge in getting an extra week to gear up for a visit to Philly.

Nov. 4, at Philadelphia (NBC), 7:15 p.m. - Nine weeks in, and just the second divisional game. And geez, the Cowboys are on TV more than "Law & Order.''

Nov. 11, at NY Giants (FOX), 3:15 p.m. - A second straight road trip back East, a quirk in scheduling that can mean some jet-jagging wear and tear.

Nov. 18, (h) Washington (FOX), Noon - The third leg on a back-to-back-to-back NFL East stool. We learn in November whether Dallas can hang in the division.

Nov. 22, (h) NY Jets (CBS) 3:15 pm - Thanksgiving, and a real psychological test because of a potential Redskins hangover.

Nov. 29, (h) Green Bay (NFLN) 7:15 p.m. - Another weird quirk: Following up a Turkey Day game not with a usual 11-day rest, but with another Thursday.

Dec. 9, at Detroit, (FOX) Noon - The Winter of Dallas' Discontent under Parcells, against a Lions team used to entire decades of discontent.

Dec. 16, (h) Philadelphia, (FOX) 3:15 p.m. - The end to a favorable stretch of four-of-five at home, with the crappy Lions tucked in.

Dec. 22, at Carolina, (NFLN) 7:15 p.m. - A matchup edge for the Cowboys? They played last year in Carolina, the 'Boys winning easily, 35-14.

Dec. 30, at Washington, (FOX), Noon - New Year's Eve weekend. Does Dallas strut into 2008 with a playoff-ready football team?

Want more quick thoughts?
* It's already been suggested by Cowboys whiners that there "are too many road games to start the season.'' Um. ... You get eight on the road and eight at home. So it's fairly equitable. Besides, in the first seven games, Dallas is at Texas Stadium four times. How is that too few?

* Erasing that 11-day rest period after Thanksgiving actually makes some "fairness'' sense -- and no complaints there, either, because it means a lengthy rest after that Thursday, Dec. 9 game until the next outing on the 16th.

* Proving that the schedule is what you make it: three of the four December games are on the road. Which means. ... nothing, since last year, three of the last four were at home and that didn't work out too well.

* Terrell Owens against the Eagles will grab the headlines. But How about Jason Garrett opening against the Giants and the Dolphins -- thw two teams he knows best -- in Weeks 1 and 2? How about Tony Romo getting to oppose the Wisconsin Idol that is Brett Favre? How about the Jones Gang, Julius vs. Thomas, in the Cowboys-Jets match on Turkey Day? And certainly, when we visit Buffalo, Wade Phillips will know where to go for beer and wings.

* The Cowboys have an NFL-high seven nationally-televised games. Which means they will spend almost as much time on national TV as they'll spend at their entire training camp!

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