The Cowboys have been in the headlines for many of the wrong reasons this summer. While meeting with the media on Sunday, Stephen Jones made it clear that “accountability” is seen throughout the organization.
“There is accountability. There is accountability to the senior leadership on this team. The leadership committee. There is accountability to the coaching staff. There is accountability to the organization and to the Jonses. They understand that. We have high expectations and we’re certainly disappointed when someone makes a bad decision. At the same time, nobody is perfect...”
The staff over at dallascowboys.com put together a camp blog as the team leaves for Oxnard for training camp. The Cowboys departed for California on Saturday afternoon and Jason Witten is ready for the practices that are ahead.
(July 22; 5 p.m.) The Cowboys are back in Oxnard, Calif., for training camp -- their 12th extended stay on the West Coast since 2001.
The team arrived late Saturday afternoon as scheduled with its first practice set for Monday. Camp in Oxnard breaks Aug. 18 and will continue at The Star in Frisco with six practices open to the public.
For tight end Jason Witten, the excitement of his 15th camp with the Cowboys feels similar to his first camp back in 2003.
“That stomach always is turning the last couple nights (before camp),” Witten said. “I love this part of it. I’ve talked to you guys before about the offseason and going through that process. To me, this is one of the best parts about the season is getting the team together and going back to training camp.”
As you all know, this offseason has been quite eventful for the Dallas Cowboys, to say the least. Between the announced suspension of David Irving, the rollercoaster offseason for Ezekiel Elliott, and Jourdan Lewis’ trial, there has been no shortage of off-field news surrounding the defending NFC East champs. The team hopes training camp will allow everyone to re-focus.
Tight end Jason Witten, the Cowboys' soul in a lot of ways, said the issues have been addressed by all involved.
"First off, as a leader of the team and the other leaders, we have to do a better job," Witten said about the Cowboys' off-the-field woes. "We have great guys. The core is really strong with this football team. Everybody inside that building has worked really hard to get the right type of guys together. I believe that. We have to work through situations, but certainly we have to be better there.
"We have to understand our platform, and what we have to do is eliminate those distractions so we can go out and play football. All those guys are a huge part of our team. They're good football players and good people and good friends and brothers of mine that I've had a lot of success and adversity with them. They'll work through it. We're there to support them, but certainly the standard stays really high and we have to understand that and we have to embrace it and we have to handle it."
Football is back! The equipment will be handed out, shoulder pads will be strapped on, and the team will be finally be back together. The Dallas Cowboys held a live press conference prior to training camp.
Jason Garrett believes in the character of his team; says it's as good as he's been around. "Accountability does not mean infallibility."— Rob Phillips (@robphillips3) July 23, 2017
Garrett reiterates his point from earlier last week: "we believe very strongly in Zeke Elliott ... Having said that, he's not perfect."— David Helman (@HelmanDC) July 23, 2017
Stephen Jones says the Cowboys will be "hard at it" trying to get Zack Martin a deal this summer. But there's no big sense of urgency.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) July 23, 2017
Jaylon is one of the injured/recovering players that'll be monitored closely, along with Lawrence, Mayowa, Tapper, Looney, Hanna & Swaim.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) July 23, 2017
First day in Oxnard, Jerry Jones says he's seen absolutely nothing that points to domestic violence involving Ezekiel Elliott and his past.— Nick Eatman (@nickeatman) July 23, 2017
Perhaps the biggest storyline heading into Oxnard is the availability of Ezekiel Elliott. With rumors speculating that Zeke may be disciplined by the NFL, Jerry Jones says that the NFL has no case against the star Cowboys tail back.
“I found nothing since we were standing here at this time last year,” Jones said. “I knew everything in that report. I knew that this time last year.”
A recent ESPN report said the league wanted “to pin something on Elliott” and that he should brace for one- or two-game suspension.
The Columbus (Ohio) attorney’s office dropped the case because of inconsistent information. Elliott has long maintained his innocence all along.
Last year, Tony Romo entered training camp looking to repeat the success he and the Cowboys had during the 2014 season. After an injury filled 2015, Romo was prepared to show he can still play and remain healthy for 16 games. This time, though, the kid Dak Prescott leads the Cowboys into Oxnard while Romo prepares to be in the booth for CBS. Jerry Jones is handling the situation even better than he thought he would.
Team owner Jerry Jones admitted he's handling Romo’s absence much better than he ever imagined.
“I’m a lot more comfortable than I ever thought I’d be,” Jones said. “This time last year and beyond, not having Romo … that has everything to do with the year Dak had. More importantly, the way Dak is approaching this year. We have a really good feeling about Dak. All of that makes this a lot more palatable and comfortable than I ever thought I’d be not having Romo on the team.”
Garrett said his expectations for Dak have not changed from his rookie year. The day-to-day improvement is what the coach asks from all players at all stages in their careers. And with Prescott, his approach this year has been to Garrett’s liking.
“He too has done an amazing job right from the start,” Garrett said. “The endorsement we got from him at Mississippi State was overwhelming.
If the Cowboys want to see Dak continue to progress behind center, locking up one of the best lineman in the game of football is vital. The two parties are expected to talk about a deal during camp.
This past spring the Cowboys picked up the fifth-year option on Martin’s rookie contract, meaning he’s currently signed through 2018. Jones repeatedly has said completing a long-term deal for the 26-year-old Martin is a top priority for the organization, though there’s not necessarily an urgent timetable.
“I think he’s an important part of our future,” Jones said. “He represents everything we want our players to be about. He’s not only a great player on the field, he’s a great person off the field. We’ll be hard at it trying to do it.
Another huge story heading into training camp is the topic of Jaylon Smith. Smith was a projected top five pick by many in 2016, but an injury in the Fiesta Bowl saw his fate change. How is the talented linebacker progressing?
Jones pointed out again Sunday that he believes he took a player who could have been at the top of the draft.
"To me he's just like looking at a No. 1 draft pick coming out here for the first time," Jones said during the annual State of the Cowboys news conference. "We all know his circumstances and what he needs to overcome. He looks really good - all testing, all feeling looks as good as I could hope that it would look. We'll see."
Jones said that Smith's damaged nerve continues to regenerate. Smith is expected to continue to wear a brace on his ankle and foot.
"The biggest thing for us is we're going to take it day by day," Garrett said. "He's made great progress because his approach, it's a laser-like focus on what he needs to do each day. The strides he's made has been fantastic. And one of the reasons we as an organization took a risk on Jaylon is because of the kind of young man he is. He had a very serious injury but we bet on him because of the kind of guy he is and he hasn't disappointed.
"He's been so much better than any of our expectations could have imagined about how to handle this. His demeanor, his work ethic, all of that. So rather than saying he's going to come back here, he's going to do this then, all that stuff is arbitrary. Keep doing what you're doing each and every day. Get better and better and better. He's going to come out to practice [Monday] and we'll see how he does. We anticipate him doing well. If it follows with what he did in the spring, we'll make our decisions going forward."
The BTB teams gives their thoughts on each position battle entering training camp.
The starting right defensive end
The Cowboys have a lot of questions along the defensive end. There is not a single starting spot that is locked down right now. While some of the specific spots can be limited to a 50/50 guess, the right side is wide open. Taco Charlton was drafted to handle this spot, but will he be ready as a rookie? Then you have a couple free agent flyers in Benson Mayowa and Damontre Moore who have some upside appeal, but are they reliable enough? And let’s not forget the debut of Charles Tapper who is a complete mystery. As Dr. Grant said in the movie Jurassic Park after learning that humans and dinosaurs would suddenly be thrown in the mix together, “How can we possibly have the slightest idea what to expect?”
Ryle: Damontre Moore
Moore will edge out Lawrence for the starting job, but they will be close to co-starters at the beginning of the season - which will make David Irving's return from suspension really interesting. As a bonus, I see Mayowa starting at LDE with Charlton his rotational mate, and the team will have to go a bit light at DT to keep Tapper on the roster. And I may be foolishly optimistic, but I think the pass rush is going to surprise most by being much better this year
On the actual game field, the Dallas Cowboys are expected to have another impressive season. Pro Football Talk ranks the Cowboys just outside of the top five heading into training camp.
However, because of their talent on offense, the Cowboys head into 2017 as Super Bowl contenders.
Prescott won offensive rookie of the year honors with 23 touchdowns and four interceptions; Ezekiel Elliott led the league in rushing as a rookie with 1,631 yards, earning him six MVP votes; Dez Bryant remains a big-play threat; and the Cowboys have three All-Pro offensive linemen.
Biggest negative change: The Cowboys offensive line has earned the right to call itself the NFL’s best. Three linemen made first-team All-Pro honors last season. However, while center Travis Frederick, left tackle Tyron Smith and right guard Zack Martin return, the Cowboys lost the other two starters with whom they ended last season. Left guard Ron Leary signed with Denver in free agency, and right tackle Doug Free retired.
Stephen Jones supports his father’s decision to have Jerry’s wife present him for the Hall of Fame.
"I think it was the perfect choice," Stephen Jones said Sunday. "At the end of the day we all know how important our family has been to support Jerry and what he's doing in the Hall of Fame and I think our mother represents all of us, the rest of us other than Jerry, as well as anybody and somebody I love and respect and my brother and sister do as well. We talked through it all and I just think it's the perfect selection for her to be the one who represents him because she can represent me, she can represent my brother and sister. It's just the right choice.
"One thing Jerry is big on and we certainly feel great about is it took a lot of people and he rode a lot of shoulders to get into the Hall of Fame, especially his family. If he had his way we would all have a little something to say, but when you only get one person she represents myself, my sister, my brother. No one can do that better than her. I think it was an incredible choice and it will be an amazing night."
In the light of training camp getting underway, a funny story unfolded. Jerry described “pillow talk” with his wife and Jimmy Johnson’s name was brought up. David Helman tweeted about the story:
Talking about selecting his wife Gene to present him for the HOF, Jerry tells a story about how she chewed him out for parting ways w/ Jimmy— David Helman (@HelmanDC) July 23, 2017
It wasn't me, but someone asked "what did you tell her?" To which he had no answer https://t.co/AzlixChkhN— David Helman (@HelmanDC) July 23, 2017
"I'll never forget pillow talk," Jones said of his wife, Gene. "Came home, [she] didn't even look at me. 'You just can't, you just can't leave it alone, can you? Just when it gets really comfortable, you've got to shake it up. How in the world is Jimmy not our coach? You just can't leave it alone.' So, she's had some days."
Fox 4 reporter Mike Doocy: "What was your answer, Jerry?"
After a long pause, Stephen Jones jumped in.
Stephen: "You're speechless."