Thursday Insider Training Camp Notebook

SAN ANTONIO – Four vignettes that suggest that despite the full contact featured in some of Thursday's dual workouts, this is a kindler, gentler Cowboys training camp:

1) New head coach Wade Phillips, after having responded to a skillion media questions, patting a skillion Cowboys butts ("Good practice, Jason Witten!'') and signing a skillion fans' autographs, tried to finally escape the Alamodome field by breaking into a 60-year-old-man trot. Fans screamed for more as he headed toward the tunnel, but he didn't stop, instead waving politely. … Until some would-not-be-denied fan actually threw his souvenir football at Wade's backside.

"OK, throw me your pen, too,'' Phillips sighed, smiling.

2) Gene Jones, Jerry's former Arkansas-beauty-queen wife, was on the sidelines. I don't recall seeing her hanging out at practice in recent years.

3) A gentleman somehow made it onto the sideline without the usual appearance of the mainstream sportswriter. (Not fat enough, no dandruff, no complaining.) He did, however, have a camera. And asked Terence Newman if he'd pose for a photo. Newman instead grabbed the camera, hugged the guy, and pointed the camera back at the two of them.

4) You had to be up close and personal to get this nugget: O-coordinator Jason Garrett was supervising an offensive play when he noticed Terrell Owens had lined up in the wrong spot. Oh-oh. What would happen? Would Garrett begin to snidely refer to Owens as "The Player''? Would Drew Rosenhaus conduct an impromptu press conference? Would Owens attempt suicide?

"Hey, Terrell Owens!'' Garrett barked, calmly but firmly. "Let's pay attention.''

WHO'S HOT: T.O., and not just because of his noteworthy start. Owens is also showing signs of self-awareness.

"Last year was a lack of concentration on my part,'' Terrell said. "I can't really put my finger on it. I can only blame myself.''

Two reactions: One, that's a rather mature attitude, eh? And two. … Didn't he score 16 TDs last year? Is there really a "blame'' problem here?

WHO'S NOT: People who term the early-practice absences of draftees Anthony Spencer and James Marten as "holdouts.'' Folks, you're only a "holdout'' if you have a contract and refuse to adhere to it. If you're a "holdout,'' it's your fault – you are essentially violating a signed contract. There is no "fault'' in the cases of the two rookies. And therefore these are not "holdouts.''

Think of it like this: If you've agreed to a contract with a plumber and he doesn't show up to work on your toilet, he's a "holdout.'' If, however, you want him to come over but y'all haven't yet agreed on a price, he's still in the preparation stage of ripping you off.

See the difference?

OFFBEAT BEAT: There is another difference between Wade Phillips and Bill Parcells: With Parcells, his hearing problem caused him to struggle to hear you. With the avuncular Phillips, he talks so low and quietly (a grand trick of old people) that you struggle to hear him.

Still, Wade mixes in the occasional low-key zinger. Example from Thursday: He mentioned fines for overweight participants, and noted that despite his ample belly, he himself wouldn't be penalized.

"If Bill wasn't fined for that,'' Phillips mumbled, "I'm certainly not going to be.'' Zing.

QUOTABLE: If you read TheRanchReport.com, you know by know of our fondness and friendship with one Brian Stewart. You also know that the new defensive coordinator is an enthusiastic sort. That explains why Stewart said Thursday that he thinks Dallas could have the best defense in the NFL. When that quote was relayed to Phillips, the boss expressed disbelief. "I don't believe he said that,'' said Wade.

Once convinced by reporters that Stewart did indeed say such a thing, Phillips ping-ponged back, "Well, if he did, he shouldn't have.''

FISHELLANEOUS: We mentioned yesterday that QB Matt Baker was the third passer in the 7-on-7 work but that we didn't believe it to be significant. Well, the last two unsigned picks, linebacker Anthony Spencer and offensive lineman James Marten, are all signed up. To make room, the Cowboys released none other than QB Matt Baker. … Friday's practice will be a single 2:30 session. … The offense's first play in the afternoon workout? A reverse to T.O., which is the same way Wednesday's practice began. … Results on an MRI of Greg Ellis' Achilles were negative. Meaning good. Still, he did not participate again in the afternoon. … Early review on Leonard Davis: He moves awfully well for a 366-pound man. And once he gets to a defender, he is capable of burying him.

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