OXNARD, Calif. — With Hollywood just down the highway from the host city of Dallas Cowboys training camp, it seems appropriate that the opening of the proceedings here have the flavor of a tripleheader at the Cineplex.
It’s part “Armageddon.” It’s part “Napoleon Dynamite.” And it’s part a blockbuster conquistadors film waiting to be made.
The word “Armageddon” comes up because of the status of coach Jason Garrett, owner of a 21-19 record in his two-and-a-half seasons in charge but also absent from the playoffs with back-to-back 8-8 seasons. The perception from the outside is that Garrett is seat-belted into a “hot seat” and is coaching for his job.
“It’s a mistake. That’s not right,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said during the team’s opening press conference on Saturday. “Everything I’m thinking … about what our future is in a plus manner or in a positive way with Jason. … It is not what is implied when you say, ‘Well, this is an Armageddon year for him.’ It is not that with me.”
The Cowboys will be positioned to avoid a football disaster if quarterback Tony Romo excels. But following surgery to remove a cyst from his back, he’s been held out of offseason workouts. Jones said Romo reported to California early because, “He’s uniquely out running mountains right now in the West, so he’s getting himself physically in shape. He feels good. He looks good.”
Romo might be running them mountains, but he won’t be throwing the football over them mountains, ala Uncle Rico in “Napoleon Dynamite,” due to a “pitch-count” policy of sorts.
“One of the challenges for Tony, when you have a back injury, is it’s hard for you to actually to stay in the kind of shape you want to be in,” Garrett said. “I’m really proud of how he’s worked since he’s been able to get back and running and doing the things he needs to do. He looks great. He looks lean to me. We do have to monitor his throwing. I don’t think it’ll be significant.”
Garrett says the coaches will highlight communication with Romo as he ramps up to full speed.
“It’s ‘How you feeling?,’ and also, you look at the ball,” Garrett said. “Does the ball look a little dead or tired? But mostly, it’s communication with him and how he’s feeling. We’ll all get a sense for that.”
The Cowboys opened Sunday with some injury issues. Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff and guard Mackenzy Bernadeau are now on the active/PUP list with hamstring injuries. Offensive linemen Nate Livings, Ronald Leary, Demetress Bell, Ryan Cook and L.P. Ladouceur are also on the active/non-football injury list, is are newly signed tackle and wide receiver Lavasier Tuinei.
Jones and Garrett both alluded to the franchise’s Super Bowl wishes, even while tiptoeing around the actual words. For the owner, the stated commitment to excellence was delivered in the form of a rather obscure history lesson starring Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortez.
“We burned the ships,” Jones said.
“Burn the ships” comes from Cortez’ 1519 conquest of the Aztecs, when he motivated his soldiers by removing the option of failure. Cortez ordered them to destroy their own ships, rallying them to know they would either conquer the Aztecs and return home about the enemy’s vessels … or die.
Until it’s made into a major motion picture — The conquistadors have been the subject of films like the 1970’s “Aguirre: The Wrath of God” and the animated “The Road to El Dorado,” but “blockbusters” those are not — I’m not sure Cowboys players will grasp the rather obscure “Burn the ships” reference. It’s more likely they’ll fully understand Garrett’s more straight-forward approach.
“I think every coach and player in the National Football League is excited about going to training camp,” Garrett said. “(The Super Bowl) is the goal for all of us. We’re excited to get there. There’s a lot of work to do, and what we try to do is focus each and every day and get on that path and do things the right way. We feel like we have the right kind of guys on our staff; we feel like we have the right kind of guys on our football team. It’s time to go to work.”