The first actual practice of the 2015 Dallas Cowboys training camp in Oxnard will not take place until Thursday, but the team is scheduled to arrive today. The long drought of news is over. There will be opening ceremonies and the always entertaining press conference on Wednesday. But today is the real start of football season for diehards. And if you are reading this, you are probably among that number.
But lots of news is already happening, including a report of a couple of surprise cuts.
Ryan Williams and Cam Lawrence both cut from the #Cowboys today...definitely a bit shocked. Gotta trust the plan though!— Cami Griffin (@CamiAnnG) July 27, 2015
There has been no official word on this, but Bob Sturm has put out some tweets that indicate he is aware of at least the Williams cut. He also indicated that official word could come after the team arrives in Oxnard, possibly during the press conference. It looks like Williams' knee problems have been too much to overcome. Lawrence may have lost his spot to Andrew Gachkar, who is also a strong special teams contributor with more to offer as a backup linebacker. No word on who the team is looking at to replace them, although the Ray Rice and Chris Johnson speculation is now rampant, although not necessarily credible. Another name that has surfaced is current unsigned rookie Gus Johnson out of Stephen F. Austin University, who was picked up and then waived by the Oakland Raiders. And this tweet was the first word that he had signed with the team.
New #Cowboys RB Gus Johnson had 1683 rushing yards, 6.6 YPC & 23 rushing TD's in his senior year at Stephen F. Austin.— Jordan Ross (@TheJordanRoss) July 28, 2015
This was also announced on KLTV 7 news out of Tyler. Gilmer is a small town in East Texas, and Stephen F. Austin is a university in the area.
And there's this:
For quick reference, here are a couple of summaries of the major camp stories from some guy writing at About.com. You can find all these stories here at BTB, but this condenses them down.
Todd Archer muses about the backup situation throughout the roster. Given that most of the starting positions are reasonably stable, this is where the most interesting stories may happen during camp. One player he considered is free agent linebacker signee Keith Rivers, who may be favorably impacted if Lawrence was indeed cut.
But after doing some poking around before camp, I wonder if I have undersold Rivers to a degree. Not that he would be a lock, but he is a guy who should be better with the pads on than in the spring. He might even have some position flexibility (strong-side and middle linebacker). The Cowboys have bet on former first-round talents in the past and squeezed what they could from them for a year or two. Could Rivers do what Ernie Sims did a couple years ago?
Something that stood out during the offseason was the large number of linebackers that the team had on the 90 man roster. The situation with Rolando McClain was a driving factor there.
"As you all know, we went through the offseason, we were aware there may be something there," (Stephen) Jones said recently of the 26-year-old Alabama product. "We signed some linebackers in free agency, drafted a linebacker. So, similar, not unlike (with Greg) Hardy, we knew something might happen and we prepared for it."
One of the things that Jason Garrett had to do when he took over as head coach was eradicate a culture of entitlement that had become a poison in the locker room. Now that the Cowboys are seen as one of the favorites to get back in the playoffs this year after their 12-4 regular season, he is making sure it does not rear its ugly head again.
"I think any coach or player or staff member in the National Football League, if you don't have your goal of winning the Super Bowl, you're really in the wrong profession," he said. "So everyone has that goal. I go back to we define ourselves by what we do. We did that last year. We have to do that again this year. I think everybody will understand that really well."
"Or else" is implied.
It is hard to overstate how important getting Dez Bryant signed to a long term deal is for the atmosphere at camp, as Jason Garrett observed.
"To get him signed and ready to go to start camp is exciting," Garrett said in his first comments since the signing. "He is a great football player, but more important he is a great teammate. He is passionate about the game."
Over at Bleacher Report, Jason Cole has been making a big deal of off-field issues for Bryant and how they may have affected the contract negotiations. But the real story behind some of them, courtesy of Brandon George, puts things into perspective.
Cole writes that Bryant was lined up to be the athlete featured in Pizza Hut's TV commercial shoot in February and was on his way until he canceled at the last minute. Ultimately, it cost Bryant at least $80,000 for about 45 minutes of work. Tony Romo stepped in to shoot the commercial and accept the paycheck.
But Bryant was told to cancel on Pizza Hut, sources said. Bryant's Roc Nation representatives didn't sign off on the commercial for Pizza Hut because they weren't involved in the deal and not made aware of it until hours before the scheduled shoot, sources said.
Again, this isn't a big deal to the Cowboys.
Well, I don't see any reference to Dawn Macelli's recent series on the rest of the division, so I'll take that headline with a sizable grain of salt.
Mr. Archer looks at the offense, and one of his three keys should not be taken for granted.
The Romo plan: Last summer Romo did not practice more than two straight days as he looked to preserve his surgically-repaired back. It took some time to find the right balance in the regular season to find a plan that worked for Romo, and resting and rehabbing on Wednesdays helped the quarterback have his best season. Romo did everything during the offseason program, not missing a day. But that doesn't mean he will get on some sort of Cal Ripken streak in Oxnard. As much as the Cowboys want Romo to get all the work, they still need to avoid overworking him
Mickey Spagnola and company had quite the odyssey getting to Oxnard in the Cowboys bus, ending at the Pacific Ocean. His last anecdote is fun.
And wouldn't you know it, made one last acquaintance, a couple living in Moorpark, just up the road some, out for a Sunday afternoon. We chatted. They snapped a few pictures for us. Rowdy posed for a few more pictures with curious beachgoers. Jacob recorded our final videos, Emory chatted up about the bus and I did one last standup.
As we stood just staring out into the rough waters, Bobbi, the lady we met, who had just moved here a few years ago from Pennsylvania with her husband, remarked her brother, "Wouldn't believe this."
"And why would that be?" I asked.
"He's the biggest Cowboys fan I know," she said.
Amazing coincidence, time after time after time on this trip?
I think not.
This was kept nicely under wraps. It looks like the players aren't the only ones who will push through some pain in Oxnard.
Jerry Jones has undergone hip replacement surgery but it won't keep the Cowboys owner away from training camp.
Jones will speak at the club's state of the union address Wednesday afternoon eight days after having his left hip replaced. Jones has told friends and associates he feels great and the surgery shouldn't hinder his routine during camp.