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Cowboys’ Stephen Jones making lemonade for training camp

He, at least, sees Hard Knocks as a good thing for the team.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys-Training Camp
Mr. Optimism.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Training camp is almost here for the Dallas Cowboys, and their first round pick is pumped.

This year, the start of camp also means the start of the Cowboys’ latest appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks series. Many are not too pleased given how the team’s previous two stints on the popular feature led to unsuccessful seasons. But for key member of the Dallas brain-trust Stephen Jones, it is not a bad thing at all, as he related in an interview with Todd Archer of ESPN.

“All these things leading up to the season are huge, whether it’s minicamps and OTAs, whether it’s training camp, whether it’s ‘Hard Knocks,’ whether it’s preseason games, all the things that go with this, I think is a big part of our game,” Stephen Jones said. “It’s a natural buildup to get our fans fired up about going to our football games. Obviously our world has been through a lot with the pandemic. You can’t just assume you’re going to flip the switch and everything is going to be fine.

“We feel a lot of buildup, including ‘Hard Knocks,’ is a good thing to get people fired up about reconnecting and rolling.”

Yeah, that’s certainly throwing some sugar in the lemon juice. Jones reveals his bottom line thinking with his focus on firing up the fan base. That leads to more ticket sales, moves the merchandise, and gets those eyeballs glued to screens, all of which just coincidentally adds to the revenues.

Camp is supposed to be about getting the team ready and evaluating the players to construct the regular season roster. In Jones’ defense, those things are more the province of the coaching staff. And he did mention the likely approach they will take with Dak Prescott and all the other key players returning from injury.

“We are going to be careful,” Stephen Jones said. “We are going to ease into it with any one of them. If anybody who might need a little bit [of time], we are not going to rush into it because it’s a journey. We feel everybody will be ready to roll.”

There is another facet to things that shed a bit of a more favorable light on his take. This camp is also about getting the players fired up for the season. After the disappointment of last year, when the NFC East was a dumpster fire and should have been easy to win, but the Cowboys saw things absolutely ruined by the rash of serious injuries coupled with the failure to properly adjust for the restrictions caused by COVID, they need to get their heads in the game and ready to go.

That may be at least part of what Jones is trying to get rolling for the team. The Cowboys are arguably the most watched and scrutinized team in the NFL, and the added attention from Hard Knocks is just an extra measure of that. It makes sense to paint it in a positive light publicly. As he mentioned, the decision to feature Dallas was out of the team’s hands. It was a decision from NFL headquarters to maximize ratings. That is one area where the league is fully in accord with Jones’ view of exciting the fans. Now the team has to take it all in stride and try and find some extra motivation for themselves.

This is a major year for Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff, as well as for many players such as the ones who could really cash in on new contracts in 2022. Several others are trying to prove that last season was not a true representation of what they can bring to the field.

Besides, what else was he going to say? Complaining about having to deal with the cameras and the tendency to edit things for dramatic effect would just have encouraged similar grousing from the rest of the team. It may not fool anyone, but this is one case where it might be good that Jason Garrett wasn’t the only one who liked a good glass of lemonade at times.