OXNARD, Calif. — The Dallas Cowboys opened their training camp with a series of outrageous pronouncements from owner Jerry Jones, who spent time referencing closing windows and little-known oil drilling terms.
But those statements may have been topped by something Jones said Monday, as the team actually began workouts, when he punctuated a circus-like ceremony proceeding the club’s afternoon workout by issuing an invitation to the Cowboys’ California-based fans.
“Y’all should come visit Cowboys Stadium,” Jones announced, “and watch us kick the Giants’ asses.”
Jones must really like what he sees in this current crop of Cowboys because his recent incarnations have done anything but dominate the Giants since Dallas moved into Cowboys Stadium, losing three straight at home to their NFC East rival. Their last win against New York in Dallas came on Dec. 14, 2008.
This offseason, Giants players have taken a series of verbal shots at Dallas – and as the Super Bowl champs, maybe they are the victor deserving of the spoils. In Jones’ case, his comments were issued well before the sports media had assembled on the team’s training camp field.
This was a “civic event,” complete with speeches from Oxnard dignitaries, a performance from the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, the National Anthem, and four skydivers landing on the 50-yard line carrying American flags and Cowboys banners.
Finally, the Cowboys got down to the business of football, part of the team’s attempted climb from last season’s 8-8 effort during which Dallas lost both meetings with the NFC East rival Giants – games that helped propel New York to a title.
The Cowboys opened with an hour-long non-contact walkthrough in the morning before a vigorous and lengthy but non-contact two-hour session in the afternoon.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett noted that he played for Dallas before the NFL’s installation of rules that demand a three-day acclimation period at the starting of camps.
“If you look back on the history of football, I think the guys who used to play and coach a long time ago probably think that everybody after them is really soft,” Garrett said.
In truth, the only Cowboys under that sort of fire are running back Felix Jones, safety Brodney Pool and receiver Andre Holmes, the three team members who failed their conditioning tests and were therefore unable to work out. Jones is recovering from surgery, and Pool experienced some back problems that limited him. Holmes, the 6-5 prospect who is given a chance to earn time as a third receiver, registers as a disappointment for failing to show up in proper shape.
Receiver Dez Bryant, in a legal entanglement due to charges of domestic conflict with his mother, was advised by the Cowboys not to visit with the media. So he was left to do his speaking on the field, and he was a Monday standout.
Quarterback Tony Romo, beginning his 10th NFL season, was also sharp.
“It’s more fun when you are a little bit better,” said Romo, reflecting on his early-career play. “Back then, I didn’t know what was going on. … My goal in the beginning was to be a part of the Dallas Cowboys … I was a really bad player.”
The Cowboys now believe they have matured beyond that point, at quarterback and team-wide. In fact, their owner believes it so strongly that he’s ready to “kick the asses” of the Super Bowl champs.