Massive OTA Notebook

IRVING, Tex. - Assorted musings from the midway point of this week's Cowboys OTA.

QUICK-START AWARD GOES TO: Zach Thomas. The Dolphin-turned-Cowboy veteran linebacker wasted no time in demonstrating that when it comes to instinct, smarts and quickness to the ball, he's still got it.

"You just don't see that from an inside linebacker," coach Wade Phillips raved after Thomas anticipated one play for a two-yard loss. "He recognizes plays as fast as anybody as I've coached. As fast as guys like Seth Joyner and Karl Mecklenburg."

That's high praise. So was an ensuing offensive play-call, when Dallas ran a fake reverse, seemingly in part to test Thomas.

"He's too good,'' Phillips said. "He didn't bite on it."

And Zach's evaluation of his start as a Cowboy: "My very best years have been in the 3-4. So I feel like this system is the best fit for me.''


T-NEW IS NEWLY RICH: Terence Newman gets his $50-mil deal and shows up smiling at the Cowboys' OTA workouts on Wednesday.

"It wasn't about me being rich,'' said the affable T-New. "It was about me being recognized as a top cornerback in the league.''

Well, OK. But it sure is nice when something can work out that makes a guy feel respected AND rich, eh?

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN: And by "coin,'' we mean lots of it. But Success Hasn't Spoiled Marion Barber – he's still the same rock-hard sourpuss as always. On Wednesday, the PR staff guided him to a meet-the-media session; hey, he's gonna be the starter and he's got a seven-year contract, so we might as well get used to each other, right?

Mini-preMB3 bounced between uncomfortably funny, painfully irritated, slightly boring and noticeably shy as he stood there for 20 minutes.

"You've got to stay focused with this business,'' he said at one point. "I'm just focused on helping the team any way I can.'' And later: "It's bad, man,'' he said, with a hint of sarcasm. "I'm sweating bullets.'' Here's hoping MB3 punishes tacklers the way he punishes questioners!

NO SAFTIES: Receiver Terry Glenn isn't quite ready to go, but otherwise, the only veterans not in attendance at the OTA were the starting – and Pro Bowl -- safeties. Ken Hamlin is unsigned. That's his excuse. Roy Williams was excused as well, due to a family vacation.

No problem, except that over the weekend, Roy went waaaay overboard trying to explain to the media that fans shouldn't get upset when they realize he's absent.

"It's excused, OK? Excused. It's excused,'' Roy said.

Williams' plan to "not worry about what fans think'' isn't coming together just yet.

JENKINS VS. CRAYTON: The Dallas media loves Patrick Crayton. He's a good quote, he's a good kid, he's local, and well, one area columnist seems to have a thing for giving him "dap,'' which is nice and all.

Dallas will eventually love first-round pick Mike Jenkins, the S. Florida rookie who has the size and athleticism to eventually be a unique impact guy.

But at this early stage: Advantage Crayton (as you might expect in non-contact Underwear Olympics). Crayton is demonstrating the hands that betrayed him in the playoffs; Jenkins is demonstrating the inexperience that will be his hopefully temporary albatross.

ABOUT GLENN: Jerry Jones has suggested that it's a 50-50 proposition as to whether the veteran wideout will return to form. Romo pretty much just winks confidently when making his prediction.

"If he's healthy,'' Romo says, "we'll have one of the best groups of receivers in all of football. … He's going to surprise you guys with his level of play.''

IS OWENS OK? T.O. enters this season without a contract beyond this year. A potential problem?

"It's not a big deal,'' he said. "I don't even feel comfortable talking about it. It's not a big deal right now.''

Somebody mentioned another flashy receiver, Chad Johnson, and his disgruntlement in Cincy.

Responded Owens: "Chad is unhappy where he is. That's not the case for me. I'm happy to be here."

SWINGIN' ROMO: Tony Romo swings in a lot of ways. He is laughing off questions about Romessica, he is teasing listeners about the improved fundamentals he's developed, and while golf is important to him, he canceled a Pro-Am tee time with comedian George Lopez out at Colonial to take part in the workout.

"Obviously I love golf," said Romo, "but this is more fun."

Phillips noted that Romo hadn't missed a workout in two years, though the Colonial thing was a close call. It was a charity deal, and someone was to bid $9000 to play with Romo. The Star-Telegram reports that Romo, upon learning of the lost charity opportunity, personally wrote out the check for nine grand.

PACMAN CATCHING PASSES? Jerry is throwing it out there – Pacman Jones as a slot receiver. Makes a lot of sense, with one hesitation: 1) When Deion did it, is was largely a failed experiment, largely because he didn't learn enough and work enough at the craft. This isn't middle school, where you just tell some fast guy to line up and run fast. If Pacman takes it seriously, he's a serious threat.

‘SACRIFICING MONEY': We've been trying to clear this up since the practice began in 1993, and we're happy to provide this public service again. When the Cowboys re-upped Newman and Barber, they had to juggle money from somewhere. The first place you go? As it was with Troy Aikman almost annually, where you go is the highly-paid QB. Dallas "juggled'' Tony Romo's money, but Romo didn't "sacrifice'' anything. It's simply a matter of a few million dollars being shifted from his left pocket to his right. Aikman did plenty for that team. Romo does plenty for this team. But "giving up money''? No, no. They don't do that.

COOKIN' COWBOYS: "Last Cowboy without a TV show is a rotten egg!''

Add Cowboys tight end Jason Witten has to the list of Dallas footballers who crave more camera time. T.O. is Flava Flav's long-lost brother on the sitcom "Under One Roof" and is also talking to E! Network about a reality show. HBO's "Hard Knocks" is coming to town. Tony Romo is on the cover of People magazine. And now Witten? The concept: a reality cooking show featuring current and former players called "Cooking with the All-Pros.''

Any problem with that? Well, besides the name of the show (that's the best we can do?), no. First, because Witten's intention is to use the show to raise money for his charity, the S.C.O.R.E. Foundation, which helps children and families who are victims of domestic abuse. And second, because today's "being on TV'' is like yesteryear's "being interviewed in the newspaper.''

Newspapers are dead. TV lives. And why should an athlete deal with the middleman (i.e., the reporter) when he can deliver his message directly into the camera, maybe complete with script approval or his own production company?

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