Dallas Cowboys' Training Camp: Success Over Circus
No Terrell Owens. No Pacman Jones. No Michael Vick or Brett Favre or Michael Crabtree. No drama.
To which I say ... Yes!
Last summer the Dallas Cowboys broke camp fat 'n happy and consumed with personal agendas. After a successful training camp at San Antonio's Alamodome in which the focus was football over fireworks and even included a blessing by a Catholic priest (in light of Magic Johnson's pep talk failing last year in Oxnard), it's safe to say the 2009 version is leaner 'n meaner.
"Y'all can't blame Camp Cupcake anymore," linebacker Bradie James said during my two weeks in San Antonio, "because it doesn't exist."
The Cowboys entered camp with questions. After almost a month of no distractions and no major injuries, how do those answers look?
*Is Tony Romo ready to be a leader? Yes. Well, at least I think so. *Can Martellus Bennett mature? Definitely. The MVP of training camp. *Will Jason Garrett emphasize a running game based around Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice? Hard to tell, but it's clear that Choice is more third-string than part of a three-headed monster. *Was Roy Williams worth it? Maybe. His hands are incredible, but his lack of speed prohibits the vertical catches a lot of fans will expect. *Can Anthony Spencer take pressure off DeMarcus Ware? Iffy. If there was one disappointment at camp it was his uninspired play. *Bobby Carpenter's still here? Serioulsy? Unfortunately, yes. *Can any of their rookies actually contribute this year? Kicker David Buehler is for real. Linebacker Victor Butler will make plays on special teams. Um, that's about it. Ugh. *Orlando Scandrick or Mike Jenkins? To me, Scandrick is the faster, more physical and better player.
*Can a 62-year-old lame duck named Wade Phillips really changed his stripes into a more demanding, disciplined breed of cat? Ultimately, no. But give Wade credit for orchestrating a tougher camp complete with two-a-days in pads, accountability for in-practice mistakes and even a couple press conference points punctuated by fist pounding on table.
*Does reality-show 80th man Jesse Holley have a chance in hell? Nope.
Entering camp I had the Cowboys 9-7 and the third-best team in the NFC East. With the re-appearance of Felix Jones, the growth of Bennett and the development of Sam Hurd, no reason to think Dallas - barring injuries - isn't just as good as the Giants, if not the Eagles.
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