Julius Jones offered a pretty sensible explanation for why he decided to train on his own in Arizona this offseason rather than work with the fellas at Valley Ranch as part of the team. He didn't FEEL like a part of the team.
Jones kept hearing he was disliked by the old coach. And then he heard rumors he might be traded by the new coach.
JuJo seems like a trusted member of the family again – he was a centerpiece of much of what the Cowboys did in their non-contact work single session on Sunday –but in a way it's too bad he wasn't around more so he could feel the embrace of new coach Wade Phillips sooner.
A Cowboys staffer tells the story of Phillips recently gathering up his assistants so they could watch film together. Film of Julius "running like a robot''? Nah. Film of the defensive front "not being turned loose''? Nah.
It was a blooper reel, assembled by Wade, of his father, Bum. There was ol' Bum up on the screen, bumbling and mumbling his way through the ‘70's while miked up. And there was Wade, and the assistants, and anybody else who happened to be around, invited in to share a laugh.
Jones said "things seem not as tight'' and more "happy-go-lucky.'' At the same time, because he's in the final year of his contract, he knows this can be a make-or-break season for him in Dallas.
"I need to prove I can be the back they want me to be,'' he said. "They drafted me. They passed over a lot of good guys to get me. I want to prove that I was the right choice. I want to be a Cowboy for the rest of my life.''
Julius might've taken too long to get here. But under Wade Phillips, he's being embraced now – and maybe even allowed a laugh or two.
WHO'S HOT: Sam Hurd: The second-year former street-free-agent wide receiver might not represent the next generation of great Dallas wideouts when Owens and Glenn finally move on. But T.O.'s buddy –who copies Terrell's work ethic while avoiding the silliness – is doing all the right things in this camp. He made an assortment of acrobatic catches on Sunday, and even laid out for seemingly uncatchable balls.
WHO'S NOT: Brad Johnson. I hate to say I told you so about the new backup QB, but as evidenced week after week last year in Minnesota , he doesn't exactly have a lot of zip on the ol' fastball. After watching him throw the ball in 7-on-7 drills over the course of three practices, I can safety confirm that Dallas signed him instead of Kerry Collins and others because of his ability to mentor Tony Romo and to guide him in "managing a game,'' and not because the Cowboys think Brad is going to win games on the field.
QUOTABLE: "The perception is that Wade is so laid-back and a players' coach, but he's also very intense and very precise.'' – Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, who, it should be noted, was very much a "Parcells Guy.''
SAFETIES FIRST: With all due respect to my media colleagues, now is not the time to even begin to attempt to judge the work of Roy Williams or the influence on his play from being teamed with veteran newcomer Ken Hamblin.
Patrick Crayton rose above the duo to make a catch in traffic on Sunday, and a few observers mumbled derisive things about the safeties' impact on the play.
Fellas, Williams (and to a degree, Hamlin) are still going to be far more effective defenders in pads and going full-speed than they are while teammates play catch in their underwear. On Crayton's particular catch, for instance, both safeties had put themselves in perfect position to break the poor pass-catcher in half – had this been live-action.
So while the media will downgrade the safeties because the ball was caught, coaches reviewing film will in fact give good grades on the play to Williams and Hamlin.
T.O. WATCH: It may be the first acknowledgement of Terrell Owens' greatest to come out of the mouth of a Cowboys head coach. Phillips on T.O.: "We have some good players and we have some great players. He's important to me. What he does and doesn't do is important to me. We want our great players – Pro Bowlers or guys who should have been in the Pro Bowl – to be the best players on our team. You get better when your best players get better.'' Now, you tell me: Which approach is more likely to get the most out of Owens, refusing to actually ever mention his name, or referring to him as a "great player'' and a "Pro Bowler''?
Meanwhile, while I'm promising not to overkill this thing, I've got to note: ESPN has FOUR staffers at one practice this weekend, and when ESPN.com unveiled its grouping of NFL stories this weekend, two of them were about the Cowboys. And both of THEM were about. … Terrell Owens.
I'm sure ESPN will have a live report on this shortly, so I'll mention it here: Owens actually dropped a pass today.
FISHELLANEOUS: Anthony Spencer's form of self-expression? A sort of Mohawk, reminiscent of the mess Matt Barnes of the Golden State Warriors has made of his hair. … Fans want Roy Williams "moved closer to the line of scrimmage.'' They might get their wish if Williams takes over a linebacker-type role in the Nickel defense. … Demarcus Ware is officially a "weak-side linebacker.'' No more "right'' or "left''under Phillips, so Ware will go where the tight end isn't. … Monday marks the final day of this minicamp and includes morning and afternoon sessions. … Tony Romo on Owens: "Anytime you feel like you're going to be a big part of the offense, it's going to motivate anybody. We're going to try to get him the ball.'' … Unlike during the Parcells Regime, the top rookie isn't fetching the head coach a drink of water. And all the rookies are allowed to wear stars on their helmets. … Kevin Burnett is expressing concern about the abundance of high-pick linebackers on the roster. Truth is, if Burnett had stayed healthy and shown more during his time here, the Cowboys would've been less likely to continue gathering up prospects. … Johnson was nearly victimized by a few interception-minded DBs, Aaron Glenn did the honors the best, easily anticipating a throw, picking it off, and taking it the other way. … Cory Procter lined up at right guard on Sunday in place of Leonard Davis, who missed the session reportedly because of a family emergency.
Massive Sunday Insider Notebook
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