I'm sure you've seen the old military movie scenes showing a parade of bright, shiny, smiling soldiers marching down Main Street lined with cheering crowds, ready to ship out for battle. Beautiful women throwing garlands, bands playing, and the troops confident in a triumph that they knew would be theirs.
That was last year's camp.
That camp, highlighted by Hard Knocks, gave the impression that the Cowboys were Super Bowl bound and everybody just needed to "..come on in for the big win." (To borrow a line from another military movie). Apparently the other teams in the league didn't get the memo. The Cowboys were bloodied and beaten during the regular season, at times appearing shell-shocked, before the eventual December collapse.
Did that early swagger contribute in some way to the swoon in December?
This year's camp reminds me of a scene from another military movie scene - the paratroopers in the plane, flying into D-Day. Serious faces, each man more introspective, thinking about his role when he hits the ground..
The current camp doesn't have the glitz and the showmanship that we saw last year. It's more like boot camp. You're there to learn your job, perfect your skills, and learn how to cover your buddies six-o'clock when the bullets are flying. Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett seem to be slugging it out with their best tactics, trying out what works and simultaneously preparing each others troops for the rigors of what will come.
The interviews are more subdued, the players and coaches seem more humble this year. I saw the usually boisterous Patrick Crayton being asked about his goals for this year in T.O.'s absence.
He said, (i'm paraphrasing) "we just need to win games. If we win enough games in the regular season we get to the playoffs. Then we need to win games there".
No personal goals. No talking smack. He boiled the attitude of this camp down to its most elemental form. Just win games.
There seems to be a sense of quiet determination on this team. I can't say if this will carry over to the regular season and result in more wins. I can't even accurately describe what I'm seeing and hearing. It just feels different this year.