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Camp Tranquility

So far, so good for Camp 2005.

Sure, there have been injuries, with Dan Campbell's touchy appendix being the worst. The tight end position surely has the coaches watching Campbell's rehab with equal parts anticipation and nervousness.

On the whole, however, the Cowboys and their fans can't complain. Stephen Jones got all the draftees in camp in a reasonable amount of time. Chris Canty is only days from full workouts and took part in one-on-one drills today. Larry Allen's lost days of cardio will quickly be forgotten.

When the worst thing is the status of your team's blocking tight end, consider yourself lucky. Yours could be one of the may teams still waiting for their top picks to sign. Look at Cincinnati, Minnesota and St. Louis. On draft day the Cowboys tried desperately to move up with these teams, in an attempt to draft Marcus Spears. They all turned Dallas down, in order to draft David Pollack, Erasmus James and Alex Barron, respectively. Spears fell to the Cowboys at pick 20. Despite the good fortune, the Cowboys got some good economics from the event; dropping those last spots made Spears easier to sign. Those three players taken ahead of him are among the nine first rounders still waiting for deals.

If Larry Allen's shenanigans miffed you, be happy he's not bellyaching over money, like Hines Ward, Antonio Gates, John Abraham and Bubba Franks are. These guys are holding out, and have some leverage to exercise. What, for example, would the Steelers passing game look like without Ward, with veteran Plaxico Burress in New York? What would his absence do to Ben Roethlisberger's developmental curve? How far would the Chargers offense regress without Gates to complement LaDainian Tomlinson?

And if you're still smarting over last year's 6-10 atrocity, think back to how unpredictable -- in a bad way -- camps used to be back in the '90s, when the Cowboys were good. Ever get nostalgic for the drug suspension rumors, or the pouting by role players who felt underpaid? I'd rather be coming off 10-6 myself, but losing does have one advantage at camp time. No one at Oxnard could sanely consider acting, like, say, an Eagles' player.

Dallas is unlikely to catch the NFC Champs unless they provide some help. It's early, but they appear to be complying. Terrell Owens has reported to camp, in a way that would make old Michael Irvin shake his head. T.O. and his agent are still convinced they can squeeze some concessions from the Eagles front office. In the meantime, veterans Brian Westbrook and Corey Simon are doing Owens one better by actually holding out.

If that were not enough, the fates cast a hard eye on the champs this week when second year DE Jerome McDougle was shot in a failed carjacking in Miami. McDougle was fortunate to escape life threatening injuries and may be back on the field at some point this year. Still, this is the type of wrong-place/wrong-time event that used to befall the Cowboys not too long ago.

So take heart. The news from California may be filtered and fluffy, but most of it has been good. Not enough other teams can say the same.

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