Opening camp press conference

Dallas head coach Wade Phillips talks with the media about the opening of training camp for the Dallas Cowboys.

PHILLIPS OPENING STATEMENT: "Going back to being with a great organization and it obviously is a great organization; Jerry certainly has been a big part of that by carrying on that tradition. But coaching wise, there was nothing more that could have helped me than to sign those rookies when we had an extra week to work with them. So I thought that was a tremendous step that Stephen and Jerry took. That really helps us coaching wise because that extra week, or extra ball game, is when you want to play those guys. And if they aren't there or aren't signed, which a lot of them aren't right now, that presents a problem in terms of evaluating them, but that was a big step from a coaching standpoint.

As far as our team is concerned, we will see what kind of shape they are in. We are weighing them in right now but I expect all of them to be in underweight. I know Romo said he was five pounds under. So I expect them to come in good shape, and when they left they were all pointing towards coming in the right weight but we also want them to be in good physical condition. So we will see tomorrow as far as the practice is concerned. Our team is confident but I also think we are realistic. You can talk a lot right now and say you are going to do all those things but really what were going to do is practice and try and get better every day. I think having the great tradition helps this football team because we want to draw from that. And I think the near past, as in last year, I think we made some strides and we are pointing in the right direction. But there are no guarantees in this league. We have seen teams come from last place and finish first place in their division. We've seen teams not make playoffs the year before and come back and win the Super Bowl. So we realize all of those things, and I think we have a lot of good things going for us.

I do think our players have progressed a lot further in the offseason because they know what is going on, they know the same calls and they know the same plays from when we implemented things in the spring. They went by a whole lot quicker, and we were able to do a lot of things more quickly. And I expect to do the same thing in training camp; I expect to have a lot of things in quickly before this first preseason game. I also expect us to have most of our offense and defense in, which is a big step for us in terms of our team and our whole season.

Every year I think coaches especially are optimistic, but I think we are also realistic in the way that we do have a lot of starters coming back and we have a lot of starters that played well last season and are coming into the primes of their careers. But we are happy to be here in San Antonio, the trip to Canton will consist of us playing on Sunday, which will be a lot like the Thanksgiving game in that we won't practice between Sunday and Thursday. So we are just coming back to Dallas to play a game and then go on to Oxnard. So it really works out well that way. It has been looked at a lot of different ways, and the people that are worried about it, besides the media people, are the equipment people. But they will do a good job of that. I think for our players it will serve them well." Q: On the excitement of going into a season expecting to win… Wade: "I think it's great for your football team. It puts their focus on what is expected and it's like being in school. What you're expected to do is come home with a good report card but it better be what you expected. So it's the same thing here. There is pressure to do well, and any time you have pressure to do well, I think you do better."

PHILLIPS ON HANDLING PLAYERS WHO WANT MORE PLAYING TIME
"I think the same way we handle it every year. In every position, you want players to be able to compete and feel like they have chance to play. I've said all along at any position we want to play the best players. And we want to play the players that can help, not just the best player all the time, but you can look back at Kevin Ogletree for example. If there are players that are good enough to play some, then we like to get them in the ball game. And that helps your team feeling or chemistry. But if a guy feels like he can play and gets to go in the ball game and do some things, then that helps your team overall. And that's what we expect out of all of our players. We expect them to contribute offensively or defensively and some of them its just special teams, which is a big thing for us as well. But we want them to try to be a starter, so we are all for that."

ON INSTALLING PLAYS BEFORE CAMP STARTS
"Well we have had some pretty good starts here but I think it does help you overall. It helps you know what to do throughout the whole season in being able to go into the detailed stuff a lot easier. First of all, they need to learn their assignments. In any system it is complicated, and we try to make it as ‘player friendly' as we can, but as soon as they learn that assignment, and they aren't going to make any assignment mistakes, then you can go into the detailed stuff, which I think makes a difference in the season and each ball game."

HOW HAS MANUEL JOHNSON PROGRESSED?
"Well all of our receivers, especially the guys that have been with us, we expect them to compete and Manny is one of those guys. He did a really nice job on the practice squad; I think he got one or two game balls last season for competing so well on the practice squad. I know he got one during the Philadelphia game because he did such a great job of being DeSean Jackson. I think we held him to one or two catches that ball game so we like Manny, we like the way he is playing and we like his future. But this year he needs to step forward and make the team rather than just the practice squad."

ON SCANDRICK AND AKWASI AND OTHER CAMP BATTLES
"Well Scandrick broke his finger but he should be able to go full contact. We have a couple of guys that we are looking at but those two guys won't be starting yet."

MESSAGE TO THE TEAM
"It will be tomorrow because we aren't officially in camp until tomorrow. But when we talk to the team we will address a lot of different things. A lot of things are procedural in where to be and what time to be there. But we have approached it in the way that it's not the Super Bowl at our place, that's the most important thing for us. So were going to take a ‘right now' approach, and we can look to our goals later. We don't even have a football team yet. We have 80 guys and a lot of guys that we think are going to make the football team and be the core players because they have done that previously. But they have to prove it again, so we picked this whole group and we will pick the 53 guys to go into the season with."

HOW MUCH HAS TONY ROMO PROGRESSED AND IS HE AN ELITE QUARTERBACK?
"I think Tony is there. One of the first stats you can look at is his average completion percentage and average per attempt. I think he has been at the top almost every year I have been here. So he can throw the football and for the yardage and those kinds of things. He also cut down on interceptions last year, but it wasn't all him. In a lot of ways we saw the bad things in the last game, but we had good protection and we ran the ball a lot better than the previous two years. I think Tony has matured, he took the reins last year, and yeah I think he is an elite quarterback."

HOW MANY PLAYERS HAVE TO PROVE THEMSELVES?
"Well you expect Jason Witten to do the same tings he has been doing. But the players still have to go out and prove themselves. And that's one of the great things about it as well as one of the tough things about it. You have to compete at a high level every year no matter who you are. And that's why I think Witten and people like him come back every year and take great pride in getting better every year and getting themselves ready to play. So I think we know, not positively on every player, but a lot of players are going to come back and play well for us."

WHAT ARE THE COWBOYS' DEFENSIVE GOALS THIS SEASON?
"Well our overall goal is to win the game we're playing. That's the goal of our team, of our offense, and our defense and special teams. But as far as overall season stats, we have some criteria that we will look at. Number one is always points given up. You want to give up the least points every single game. A lot of people talk about turnovers, and they are important, but the biggest single stat in winning and losing is points scored and points against, especially in that game. So we set up our goals that way. We look to be best in the league in a lot of categories, if we have been up there. If we haven't been up there, then we usually set the goal to be in the top five. We set some goals but we haven't given them to our players yet, because we haven't started yet, but once we get into it and we get more of our team settled, then we will go into specific goals. In setting those goals, we have to have criteria and things that we are going to work on in order to accomplish those things. Now some of them are the same as last year, because those were good things, but there are also some things that we changed. We make changes every year and that's what we do in the offseason."

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