EXCLUSIVE: Insider Training Camp Notes

SAN ANTONIO – ESPN is lurking, vulture-like, waiting. … for Terrell Owens to do something wrong. The network's NFL coverage in recent days hasn't included much training-camp preview stuff. But it made certain it mentioned the Cowboys, and T.O.

"If we don't,'' ESPN on-site reporter Ed Werder told me, laughing, "it's a fire-able offense.''

Problem is, Terrell hadn't done anything yet. Oh, he arrived at camp on Tuesday wearing a Barry Bonds jersey. And given his penchant for attention-getting, I won't be surprised if he's got the whole week's wardrobe planned, all as an homage to beleaguered celebs:

Thursday – A Michael Vick jersey?

Friday – A Tim Donaghy T-shirt?

Saturday – A Lindsay Lohan ankle monitor?

Seriously, like I say, Owens had been getting attention prematurely. But that changed on Wednesday's initial camp workout, the two-hour session inside the Alamodome serving as a showcase for his talent. … and his personality.

He opened the practice by running a reverse.

On his first reception opportunity, he caught the ball one-handed, just for fun.

He ended the 7-on-7 work by hauling in a deep TD on a 9-route.

And throughout, he played to the first-day crowd, which filled half the lower bowl of the joint and seemed delighted with his performance.

So, by the way, did his QB, Tony Romo.

"I think the problems with him and Bill (Parcells) were blown out of proportion last year,'' Romo said. "We never really got him healthy to the point where things were natural. But so far, he looks great.We're on the same page.And I expect big things from him.''

WHO'S HOT: Why not Tony Romo? Asked by Jerry Jones a few months ago to cool it with the off-the-field goofiness, Romo was near perfect in the first day of what is truly The Tony Romo Era. He threw 14 passes in the 7-on-7 drill and was always on the mark. And then after the practice, he signed endless autographs for squealing Cowboys fans who treated him like a rock star.

"These fans make every pass feel like it's happening in a real game,'' Romo said. "They make it exciting.''

WHO'S NOT: Greg Ellis. Apparently he's not "100-percent recovered'' from the Achilles problem after all, because he felt "a twinge'' and pulled out of the workout. The Cowboys are not saying anything official yet, but this cannot be good.

OFFBEAT BEAT: Let me tell you something about Emmitt Smith. It's something I've told you before in this space.

He is not lacking in intelligence. He is lacking in eloquence.

The former Cowboys great was performing in his new role as an ESPN commentator when he was asked about the Michael Vick dog-fighting thing. And Emmitt's answer wasn't so much stupid as it was clumsy.

"He's the biggest fish in the whole doggone pond right now, so they're putting the squeeze on him to get everybody else. Now granted he might have been to a dogfight a time or two, maybe five times, maybe 20 times, may have been some money. But he's not the one you're after. He's just the one who's going to take the fall.''

Does Emmitt mean to support Vick? Does he mean to support dog-fighting? Does he mean to profess an understanding of jurisprudence?

After listening to him on ESPN, and after reading it again…. I dunno.

What I do know: Charisma, yardage and dancing ability are not enough.

Emmitt should've been smarter. I've known him for 17 years, and he is capable of being smarter.

Emmitt should've been more eloquent. I've known him for 17 years, and, well….

QUOTABLE: Jerry Jones explains his optimistic nature: "I can't be anything other than optimistic. I think optimism can intangibly make things happen. There have been times when I was lower than a crippled cricket's butt. … but my optimism is something I work on. It doesn't come by accident. I do it to move things along.'' A crippled cricket's butt?

FISHELLANEOUS: We poke a lot of fun at the mainstream media for its lack of creativity and innovation, so kudos to Todd Archer of the Dallas Morning News for his ride-along-with-the-Cowboys feature story. … O-lineman Marc Colombo may end up missing all of this 16-day camp while rehabbing his knee. As expected, the other tackle, Flozell Adams (knee), also sat out. … Reserve running back Alonzo Coleman (ankle) missed the practice, as did promising rookie receiver Isaiah Stanback (foot, shin) . … There is talk about the Cowboys continuing to conduct camp here for the next decade. … The team practiced in shells but will crank it up Thursday with two-a-days. … Neither Nick Folk or Martin Gramatica were impressively long on their kickoffs. … Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised that the Cowboys logo at midfield was so faded. The Alamodome demonstrated a bigger problem on Wednesday: The roof leaks. So it was raining a little bit inside, too.

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