Falling Stars

Who let the air out of the Cowboys? Jerry, Dave, Tony, the heat--you name it. A preview of Dallas' dying days.

No doubt, it works both ways, and the players are likely as skeptical of the game plan as the coaches are in those implementing it.

"It can't be like that," counters linebacker Dexter Coakley, wiping sweat from an oily brow. "We have to trust the coaches just like they have to trust us. I mean, when we're out on the field, we're a reflection of them. What we do is a reflection on them, so we want to do the best we can for the coaches, just like they want to do the best they can for us. That, or we'll all be out on the street."

Anyone have the Help Wanted ads?

Darren Hambrick--the same Darren Hambrick who bitched about not making enough money and didn't show up for "voluntary" minicamp--is getting a good earful during 7-on-7 drills, but not without reason. He not only missed a tackle on running back John Avery in the flat but failed to strip the ball and ended up on his face. Punked.

Now, this is only camp, and there's time yet before everything starts to matter, but miscues abound here. Not just with the rookies--the unnamed ones J.J. was so sure would become stars--but with all of them. They drop balls or miss blocks or short-arm tackles. They look tight. They look ugly.

They press because they know. If they can't make it in Dallas, where the reality of the matter--despite what Jones is dishing--is rebuilding, then how are they going to stay in a league where more is being demanded in other outposts?

"There is no tomorrow for a lot of us," says tight end Jackie Harris, who, at the advanced age of 33, is nearing the end of his career but has a shot to be a starter because of a depleted and unproven roster. "And I'm not just talking about us older guys. I'm talking about the younger guys, too. Because they have work to do, and if they don't, if they miss that train, the train may never come around again."

The other day, the man with the most to prove, the guy who has to watch the train coming before it's left the station--Tony Banks--begged out of practice. He had a pulled groin. But that's not the interesting part. Apparently, the injury, according to your "leader," stemmed from the new system he's learning, which caused his footwork to be out of whack when dropping back and resulted in that special pain. That was a new one to Campo. To the rest of us, too.

It's early. It's August. It's starting already.

Think it's too late to get Trent Dilfer to change his mind about Seattle?

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