Mini-Camp Notebook: Romo on Fire

IRVING, Tex. – The Wade Phillips Influence was official on Saturday with the beginning of the Cowboys' three-day minicamp at Valley Ranch. But it was launched in spirit a few days ago, when the new coach met the old superstar.

A chance meeting at team headquarters between Phillips and Hall-of-Famer Troy Aikman resulted in Phillips noting that his company car happens to be from Troy Aikman Ford.

"And Troy ,'' Phillips drawled, "I gotta little problem with my left-turn blinker. …''

Aikman was flummoxed. Was Wade Phillips actually expecting Troy to pull out a monkey wrench? Or, maybe Aikman SHOULD fix the thing; this is, after all, the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys! A second later, Phillips winked at Aikman. He was just funnin' him.

Yes, it would be easy to cite the failures of the other DFW sports teams as the reason there was overflow media attendance at the Cowboys' opening of minicamp. The Mavericks, Stars and even the just-starting Rangers have done their best to turn Big D into a ghost town.

But maybe the christening of The Wade Phillips Era is lure enough.

The morning practice ended at about 12:30, with Phillips scheduled to meet the media an hour after that. But he's already "putting his stamp on'' things, to use his words. When players were leaving the field, Phillips encountered seventh-round rookie Courtney Brown.

"How'd it feel out there, Courtney?'' said Phillips, whose question must've made the kid feel like a million bucks.

The day before, reporters who wanted to know the difference between his style and that of his predecessor were answered by Phillips when he spat out keywords like "Family'' and "Trust'' and "Truth.''

"Family'' and "Trust'' and "Truth.'' Who is this guy, Spider-Man's Uncle Ben?

Yes, he is. He's Uncle Ben. With a hand-slap for a low-pick rookie, a knee-slap for a quarterbacking legend, and a morning of his "Era'' under his belt.

WHO'S HOT: Tony Romo. Distracted by the Brady Quinn thing or the Carrie Underwood thing or the U.S. Open gold thing? Nah. The Cowboys QB was just shy of perfect in his 7-on-7 work, completing his first 10 passes (including a lovely deep throw to Terrell Owens) before tossing a subpar toss.

WHO'S NOT: Mat McBriar. Don't expect this to last – McBriar was often Dallas' game MVP last season, and should be special again in '07 – but he was not at his best during punt-team work. The guys who worked at fielding punts (in order, Patrick Crayton, Jamaica Rector, Quincy Butler and Terence Newman) didn't have to do much backpedaling to track down Mat's boots, let's put it that way.

LINING UP: Not to make too much of it right now, but first-rounder Anthony Spencer did, as expected, line up with the first team at OLB. And last year's top pick, Bobby Carpenter, lined up with the second team as an inside linebacker.

WE'RE NOT IN MINNESOTA ANYMORE: Former Vikings QB Brad Johnson apparently didn't get the memo that it's 86 degrees and up around these parts. He opted to dress out for the morning session in sweatpants, the only Cowboy who didn't opt for shorts.

Oh, and by the way: Remember when Johnson balked at the notion that he was coming here to "tutor'' Tony Romo? When he was walking off the field, he was indeed "tutoring'' rookie backup QB prospect Matt Moore.

QUOTABLE: "It would be the Drew Henson thing all over again.'' Tony Romo, on the eve of camp, talking about how his life would've been affected had Dallas acquired "pedigreed'' competition Brady Quinn.

FISHELLANEOUS: The Cowboys' 10:30 a.m. workout is to be followed by an open locker-room period for media, and then a 3 p.m. workout. Sunday features a shorter day (locker room at 12:30, a single practice session at 3) and Monday's final day of this minicamp includes the morning and afternoon sessions. … Kevin Burnett and safety Jasper Johnson recorded interceptions in the 7-on-7 work. … Greg Ellis and rookie Isaiah Stanback did strength-and-conditioning work on the sideline. Ellis looked especially fit. … Seniority has it's privileges: Miles Austin is wearing No. 19 now that Brad Johnson is here and wanting No. 14. … Oh, and somebody named Jerard Rabb (he's a free-agent WR) is trying to wear No. 11. … Much ado about nothing? The mainstream media made quite a fuss of the possibility that Terrell Owens would sit out this weekend while still rehabbing from finger surgery. But there was T.O., doing all the regular work along with his position group.

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