It’s Monday afternoon, the next-to-last day of training camp for the Dallas Cowboys.
Tuesday, they leave for Denver where they will practice with the Broncos for the rest of the week. There is packing to be done.
Yet since practice ended, Jerry Jones has spoken to the mayor of Oxnard, Calif. for 10 minutes, huddled with reporters for another 10, signed autographs as he walked and smiled, and spoken in conspiratorial tones with Cowboy turned sports anchor Babe Laufenberg for what seemed an eternity.
Now, my turn. Jones is hotfooting it toward the townhouses at the Residence Inn Oxnard where the Cowboys have been housed for the past three weeks. We're walking side-by-side on the narrow cement and my tape recorder's under his chin, but he keeps glad-handing. Hey, there's Greg Ellis, Cowboys linebacker! Who would have thought we'd see him here at training camp (eye roll). Another minute of yuk, yuks.
I’m screwed. He’s talked out. Go for the throat.
"What if I were to say this is all too much – too many personalities, too much hoopla, too much TV around – if you want a team to be single-minded as they approach the season and attack it?"
Jones slows, backs off the cement walk and squares his shoulders to the question.
"A tradition of the Cowboys is for all this visibility to be here," he begins. "When we've had our greatest teams, when we've had our most successes, that was said in spades. 'We were too visible, there were too many characters, too much attention.' I know first hand, it doesn't impact the play of the players in a negative way. I would almost go as far as to say that it's a positive thing."
Go big or go home. That's Jones' approach to things. Unfortunately, his Cowboys have tweaked that to "go big and go home."
Arguably, the most talented team in the NFC, they've blown their first playoff game each of the past two seasons. Dallas hasn't won a playoff game since Dec. 28, 1996.
Those details haven't cowed Jones into toning it down. The Cowboys already had the bombastic and flamboyant wide receiver and the celebrity quarterback. This offseason, they added the recidivist cornerback, Adam "Pacman" Jones and the stalwart veteran linebacker, Zach Thomas. Jones then agreed to let HBO come in and film its NFL reality show, "Hard Knocks, Training Camp With the Dallas Cowboys."
Hello, pot? It's kettle.
It all begs the question of whether the Cowboys are performers or football players. Jones seems to believe they aren't mutually exclusive.
"I know when I was in college, we would have drills and there would be – two or three feet away – a few hundred people watching those drills. And there's no question I did mine with more intensity because those people were sitting there watching," he recalls.
"Bill Parcells. When he came in to interview with me for the head coaching job. I asked him why he wanted to coach the Dallas Cowboys and he said, quote, 'Picture going to Las Vegas. Over there is the lounge. That's where the people coming up to be stars and the people going down that were stars (are playing). That's not where I want to be. The big showroom is where the Sinatras and Elvis Presleys play. That’s the Dallas Cowboys. That’s why I’m here.'"
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