What has been a yearly tradition for the Dallas Cowboys turned suddenly tragic as the pre-training camp bus trip, which stops along the way as a treat for the widespread fan base, was involved in a fatal accident. None of the Cowboys employees on the bus, including Mickey Spagnola, were injured, but four people in the other vehicle lost their lives. Jerry Jones issued a statement.
"An accident involving loss of life is tragic," Jones said in a statement. "We as an organization are deeply saddened, and our thoughts, prayers and concerns at this time are with the family members and loved ones of all who were lost."
Reports from the Arizona Department of Public Safety indicate that the other vehicle turned in front of the bus, which had the right of way.
Mike Fisher notes that it has been a rough few days for the Cowboys, with the bus tragedy coming on the heels of the allegations of domestic violence against first round draft pick Ezekiel Elliott.
And just as the Cowboys were working their way through that potential crisis (again, I choose my words carefully and "crisis'' is the right word when police, the NFL and the Cowboys themselves are all involved in investigating the matter) along comes an undeniable and inarguable tragedy: The traffic accident involving a Cowboys luxury bus and four lives lost when another vehicle crashed.
At times it seems like Jason Witten is timeless, remaining a very productive member of the offense after 13 seasons. When he starts working in camp, he will approach it like it is the first day. Not of camp. Of his career.
"I've never seen a guy who emulates the practice-how-you-play more than him," said wide receiver Cole Beasley, who moved into the locker next to Witten this spring. "It looks just like Sunday out there when he's practicing. It's insane. There's other guys that do it, but I've never seen it like that consistent."
The staff at the mothership is unanimous in expecting a big bounce-back from Dez Bryant. Nick Eatman's take:
Without a doubt, I think Dez Bryant will return to Dez-form once again. Even last year, he wasn't 100 percent when he returned and still had some moments of greatness. I go back to the time Julio Jones and Roddy White questioned if Dez would be the same because his foot injury was similar to what Jones had in 2014. Turns out, they were right on. Dez wasn't the same at all. However, that being said, Jones was dynamic last year for the Falcons, even torching the Cowboys along the way in Week 3. So knowing that all injuries are different, if Dez can at least come back the way Jones did last year, then yes, he should be just fine for the Cowboys in 2016. Having a healthy Romo on his side certainly won't hurt either.
The starting QB job is set in Dallas with Tony Romo, but there is a lot of uneasiness about going into the season with Kellen Moore as his backup. While Dak Prescott is certain to make the roster as a drafted developmental quarterback, Moore is the presumptive number two. A lot of fans would like to see Jameill Showers challenge him, but that is going to be a real struggle.
With the addition of Prescott, the Cowboys almost assuredly will keep three quarterbacks coming out of training camp for the first time since 2011. Given Moore's relative inexperience it is possible the Cowboys will keep an eye on veterans that could become available later in the summer. Showers has some ability, but will be fighting an uphill battle because of Prescott's pedigree as a draft pick.
We tend to think of the special teams as being in really good shape, mostly because of Dan Bailey, the most accurate placekicker in the NFL. However, the return game, especially on punts, needs to be much better.
The Cowboys averaged just 5.5 yards per punt return last season, with a long of 28 yards from Lucky Whitehead. Field position is a major stat in the NFL. The shorter the field, the better the percentage an offensive drive will end in points. Last season the Cowboys had just nine drives start in their opponents' territory; they had 106 drives start at the Dallas 20-yard line or worse. Not all of this was the fault of the punt-return unit -- or kickoff-return unit -- but the Cowboys must do a better job flipping the field in 2016 to make life easier for the offense.
The Cowboys undoubtedly have one of the most vaunted offensive lines in the NFL, boasting three Pro Bowlers: left tackle Tyron Smith, right guard Zack Martin and center Travis Frederick.
It should come as no surprise that when EA Sports recently released their Madden NFL 2017 Top-10 offensive player ratings, the Cowboys occupied three of those spots.
Although the Cowboys are starting camp in Oxnard, as has been their way in recent years, they will split camp between there and the shiny new practice facility, The Star in Frisco.
The break between Oxnard and Texas should allow the Cowboys to regroup and refocus. There will be plenty to discuss, as the team has plenty of question marks they need answered before moving forward with some personnel decisions.
Despite some indications in the past that the Cowboys may want to continue holding part of training camp in Oxnard, partly because it allows them to practice outdoors without enduring the north Texas heat, many still wonder if they may choose to move the entire camp to Frisco to take full advantage of the $1.5 billion project.
In 2010, the Cowboys split their camp between the Alamodome in San Antonio and Oxnard, so there's a real possibility that could happen in the future but why would they leave behind their brand new $1.5 billion facility? If that is the case, the start of summers at the Ford Center at The Star will mean the end of the summers in Oxnard, CA.
Report: Cowboys are signing OL Cameron Bradfield. He's played in 41 career games making 27 starts.— Parisa Michelle (@ParisaMichelle) July 25, 2016
Last season, there was apparently a serious and troubling disregard of the NFL's concussion protocol by the St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams, when they failed to pull Case Keenum after evident visual evidence he had likely received a concussion. Now the league is ramping up punishment for such transgressions, including very hefty fines and the potential loss of draft picks if the policy is disregarded to gain "competitive advantage"..