It’s Officially Football Season: And Your Cowboys Are Off to a Great Start

For $45 million, he'd better be able to fly.

I’m headed out this morning to Valley Ranch to watch some Cowboys' OTAs (that’s “organized team activities” for some of you that’ve been mired in hoops ‘n hockey), to see who Tony Romo is fixn' to shag now and to ask Marion Barber what it feels like to be filthy rich despite starting just one game in the NFL.

OTAs are not to be confused with minicamps, which are not to be confused with training camp, which is not be confused with the pre-season, which isn’t, of course, same as the regular season. But it’s important nonetheless. Most everyone will be there. Romo will be throwing to Terrell Owens and perhaps even Terry Glenn. Felix Jones will be learning plays. And Terence Newman will be flaunting his new contract as well.

Pacman Jones, still awaiting the green light from the commish, won’t be allowed to participate yet. But with yesterday’s signings, his arrival and their draft haul, the Cowboys should be a better team than the one that lost to the Giants back in January.

To the surprise of almost no one, Barber, who made underachiever Julius Jones expendable, inked a seven-year, $45 million deal, signaling his arrival among the NFL’s elite runners. We all know Barber is one of the toughest, most explosive backs in the league. By most unofficial counts, he led the NFL in broken tackles last season, including like 20 on this crazy-ass escape from the end zone against the Patriots.

Question is, can he maintain his productivity over a full game and over a full season?

I remember him running not quite so hard in the second half against the Giants. For sure, he’ll have to minimize all his hopping up and chest-bumping and sprinting down the field to celebrate six-yard runs in the first quarter. Remember, that crap wastes energy.

And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Right, NFL all-time leading rusher?

“I think he spends a lot of energy that may not be necessary,” Emmitt Smith said on a local radio show recently. “I’m all about putting your heart into it. But you’re doing a lot of kicking, running up, bucking and you’re exerting a lot of energy. If Marion has to carry the load for four quarters, there’s no way he can handle it.”

With Barber and Felix Jones the Cowboys have a dynamic 1-2 punch at running back. But in the secondary, they have a chance to field the best cornerback trio in the league.

Pacman’s arrival will help, as will yesterday’s signing of Newman to a six-year, $50 million extension. Add Anthony Henry as the nickel corner and, presto, the Cowboys are capable of handling any team’s three-receiver sets. And I haven’t even mentioned first-round pick Mike Jenkins.

Best of all, it will minimize the coverage responsibilities of this guy.

The regular season kicks off in only 115 days. -- Richie Whitt

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