Hanging with Jay Novacek

SAN ANTONIO – Cowboys training camp, in its first few days, is serving as a haven for assorted sports celebs. During a 24-hour window spanning Friday at Saturday, the Alomodome will have hosted the likes of Deion Sanders, Jay Novacek and Bruce Bowen.

"Bruce Bowen?'' Novacek told me last night. "Who the heck's that?''

Bowen, a prominent (and dirty, right Mavs fans?) member of the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, called the Cowboys and asked if he could attend the Friday full-pads workout. By the time the production was done, he was at the center of the pre-practice huddle alongside coach Wade Phillips.

Deion will be in town for the weekend on assignment with the NFL Network. The network plans on providing "game-like coverage'' of Dallas' Sunday practice, and Sanders will likely serve as a sideline reporter of sorts.

Old pal Novacek claimed "I just showed up,'' when in fact the former Super Bowl-winning tight end phoned close friend O-coordinator Jason Garrett to make arrangements for the visit. "I just came down to see what all the fuss is about. I'll probably have a beer. But remember, I went to Wyoming , where ‘one beer' means a six-pack.''

More weird Novacek facts I plied from him: He recently tried to play pro volleyball. "It lasted 20 minutes,'' he said.

While it seemed like he never got hurt, "I broke 17 bones in my career,'' he said, adding that he played at only 215 pounds.

"Once I stopped playing, my feet started growing again,'' he said, making absolutely no sense. Jerry Jones' late father's favorite Cowboy ever: Novacek.

I bet Novacek that, with all due respect to the man's greatness, there aren't 10 guys on this Cowboys roster who could ID him. "C'mon,'' he responded. "I bet at least half of ‘em know me.'' Just then, a player trotted up and extended a hand to Jay. "Good to see you, Coach (Wade) Wilson.''

Of course, Jason Witten can identify him. Witten , himself a three-time Pro Bowler, said he emulates many things about his great predecessor at the position.

"I'd like to be the same sort of weapon for Tony (Romo) that Jay was for Troy Aikman,'' Witten said.

Added Witten : "I wish I'd had some of what Jason has. Great feet. Great size. Great knowledge of the game.''

At that moment, the rest of the media converged on Novacek, and our old-days fun was over. He held court, at which point he purposely ceased saying anything interesting. (It's an old Nova trick to avoid the hassle of attention: Pretend to be boring.) Witten , trotting by and noticing that Novacek had been outfitted to look like a member of the coaching staff, noticed the mob, too.

"Hey, Novacek!'' Witten yelped. "Get out here and do some coaching!''

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