NFL training camp is a time for two-a-days, non-contact drills and overly optimistic articles in local publications about how good your favorite NFL team is going to be this season. In August, every team is bound for the playoffs and each player has rededicated himself to football in a positive way. There's rarely any dissension in the coaching staff or on the team, and every player went to the weight room instead of the club in the offseason.
The puff pieces often read something like, "[Player X] is poised to have a career year because he's getting over [ailment/personal tragedy/weight issues/immaturity]. He will have a key role in [Team Y] making [playoffs/Super Bowl] after last season's [surprise/disappointment]." It's the same every year. That's not necessarily the fault of the writer, nobody in Cleveland wants to read in August about how awful the Browns are going to be again this year. There will be plenty of time to realize that in October.
To celebrate the brimming positivity being felt by each of the NFL's 32 fanbases, this month Shutdown Corner will take a team-by-team look at the flowery and buoyant prose being written by local columnists and writers and the hopeful quotes of players and coaches. We'll start with the NFC East and begin, alphabetically, with the Dallas Cowboys.
It's going to be different this year, honest!
The Cowboys are more comfortable in their own skin than they were at this time last year. That goes for Phillips – we're not just talking about the 30 pounds he dropped on the Nutrisystem diet – and the players.
Think back to last year's camp. Doubts persisted about the team's ability to replace receiver Terrell Owens(notes) and linebacker Greg Ellis(notes). The trade of Anthony Henry(notes) left a void at cornerback.
The emergence of Miles Austin(notes) , Anthony Spencer(notes) and Mike Jenkins(notes) erased those concerns. Their success made it easier to turn to Doug Free(notes) at left tackle and Alan Ball(notes) at free safety to replace Flozell Adams(notes) and Ken Hamlin(notes).
"It is healthy when you've got some talent to improve from within," Jones said. "That's almost trite to say, but it means you have some guys who can come along and do it.
"From within is the best way to go."
Yes, there is a different feel entering this season's camp.
"I think," Jones said, "everybody out there knows more about who we are and what we need to do."
Player seeing the light: Roy Williams
Through 14 training camp practices, Cowboys wide receiver Roy Williams has yet to make one memorable leaping, twisting, diving and sprawling catch. His plays are met with yawns.
That is how it should be.
The Cowboys' lightning rod, after more false starts than a Flozell Adams game, could finally be headed in the correct direction.
"Football is fun for me again," Williams said Sunday.
Overly optimistic quote (player edition)
"We want to get about 22 [interceptions] this year."
— Mike Jenkins, CB. As Gerry Fraley points out, that would be the same amount the Cowboys defense had in the past two seasons combined.
Overly optimistic quote (coach edition)
— Head coach Wade Phillips, on backup quarterback Jon Kitna
The party pooper:
If the Cowboys end up in the Super Bowl, there won't be a fifth season for Jason Garrett. And he won't be Phillips' successor, either.
If the Cowboys aren't playing in JerryWorld in February, I wouldn't guarantee that anyone [on the coaching staff] makes it back.