This year’s edition of the Cowboys’ “State of the Team Address” will forever be remembered for an off-color remark inadvertently made by owner Jerry Jones.
In the annual media sit-down on the eve of training camp Sunday in Oxnard, Calif., Jones and head coach Jason Garrett addressed a wide range of issues, as usual.
The Cowboys’ handling of troubled receiver Dez Bryant and disgruntled cornerback Mike Jenkins were the meat of the session.
But when Jones talked about younger players gaining perspective from the Cowboys’ veterans, Jones’ typically meandering speech pattern took a sharp turn into off-color territory.
“I too have been here 23 years. I’ve been here when it was glory hole days and I’ve been here when it wasn’t,” Jones said. “Having said that, I want me some glory hole.”
The statement drew both gasps and laughter from the gathered media. Later, a Cowboys spokesman interjected that “glory hole” is a commonly used term in the oil and gas exploration business, where Jones first made his fortune.
While the media laughed in response, Jones shot back, “And that’s news to me!”
When the laughter subsided, Jones and Garrett spent most of their time talking about serious issues, such as dealing with Bryant’s arrest earlier this month for allegedly hitting his mother.
“We take it very seriously,” Jones said. “We’re very supportive of [Dez], his mother, his family. The issue is very serious. I haven’t spoken directly to Dez. But I do take it very seriously.”
When asked why he hasn’t spoken to Bryant, Jones didn’t have an answer.
“I just haven’t sat down and talked with him,” Jones said. “I don’t know why. I don’t know why I didn’t get here until 10:30 last night.”
As to whether the Cowboys would discipline Bryant ahead of any league-issued punishment, Jones said the team does not have all the facts yet. He did address whether Bryant, who has had a number of off-field entanglements, is maturing as a person despite a rough upbringing.
“We all know it’s no excuse, you guys who are sitting there, you didn’t exactly have the silver spoon in your mouth, either, when you started out. I didn’t either. But for a guy to have a hard row to hoe and still have challenges is not an excuse, but it’s a fact,” Jones said.
“Having said that, he’s made a lot of progress. But he’s got a lot more to go.”
When reporters continued to press Jones on Bryant, Garrett cut them off.
“We’re not going to spend the rest of this time talking about Dez Bryant,” Garrett said. “We’re going to talk about the 2012 Dallas Cowboys and Dez is a part of that. He’s here and he’s ready to go.”
Jenkins is also in Oxnard, but not ready to go. He is still slowed by a shoulder that required surgery.
After the Cowboys signed high-priced free agent cornerback Brandon Carr and drafted another corner, Morris Claiborne, with their top pick, Jenkins did not show up for voluntary workouts in the offseason.
Garrett said that Jenkins’ shoulder is healing such that he hopes to play him in one of the final preseason games.
As for Jenkins’ feelings, Jones says those are healing, too. Jones said Jenkins is buying into the idea of a cornerback rotation. And if Jenkins is looking for a big contract, “We will write a check for a good football player.”
The Cowboys have written a lot of checks since the Super Bowls of the 1990s with not much to show for it.
Jones said the team is already “much improved” by holding its training camp entirely in Oxnard. There won’t be the distractions caused by last year’s labor impasse, or in previous years when the Cowboys split camp between Oxnard and San Antonio and spent much of their time crisscrossing the country.
The Cowboys’ first two preseason games are in California, at Oakland and San Diego.
Garrett said the Cowboys’ mental toughness should be improved by the personnel moves made in the offseason. By bolstering the running game with new offensive linemen and shoring up the pass defense, Garrett believes the Cowboys can win more games in the fourth quarter.
“There is a mental toughness that we have to continue to develop on this football team,” Garrett said. “My experience as a player and a coach in this league tells me that the teams that win are the teams that are mentally toughest.”