Season is finally here for Cowboys

The season is finally here for the Cowboys following the embarrassing and tumultuous end to 2008.

The Cowboys are bent on atoning for last year, which began with Super Bowl talk and ended with them not making the playoffs. But they also head to Tampa Bay on Sunday with a great deal of pressure.

It's the start of a make or break year for coach Wade Phillips. If the Cowboys don't make a serious postseason run, he could be out as head coach.

For quarterback Tony Romo, it's a season in which he needs to prove he can win the big game and not just pile up hollow stats.

The genius label is on the line for offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, who could go from head coach in waiting to the unemployment line if the Cowboys don't get it turned around.

And then there's owner Jerry Jones, who built a $1.5 billion new stadium fit for a king, but has a team that hasn't won a playoff game in 12 years. Jones is desperate to field a winner again.

"There is pressure on all of us," vice president Stephen Jones said. "When you have what happened to us last year. We all feel it from the front office on down."

But again the pressure is offset by the excitement of the new season and the momentum built in the offseason.

Thanks to the departures of divisive players like Terrell Owens, Tank Johnson and Pacman Jones, a business-like and team oriented approach and the emergence of new stars like running back Felix Jones and tight end Martellus Bennett to go along with Tony Romo, Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware, the Cowboys believe this can truly be their championship season.

"I believe we have the team we thought we had last year," owner Jerry Jones said.

It all starts Sunday on the road against a Tampa Bay team with a rookie head coach, Raheem Morris, and a new quarterback, Byron Leftwich.

"All that work you put in, it's here. Every play matters, every snap," tight end Jason Witten said. "More than pressure or anything I think everybody's just excited that the season is here and the huge challenge ahead of us - 16 weeks, just to get a chance to play."

"You don't want to make it bigger than what it is," linebacker Keith Brooking said. "You've got to stay grounded and level-headed. You don't want to peak too soon. This is one game. We don't have to start fast because of last year, what happened. Don't worry about any of that. Worry about beating Tampa Bay and being 1-0."

SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. Cowboys lead the series 8-3. Dallas has won the last two, including 13-9 last season. Only three of the 12 meetings between the teams have taken place in Tampa, with the Bucs holding a 2-1 record when hosting the Cowboys. The last game in Tampa was in 2003.

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