I spent three years watching the Patriots begin training camp… and it was nothing like how the Cowboys do it. Out here in Oxnard, Calif., was an opening ceremony featuring three(!) skydivers, a marching band, and cheerleaders. Owner Jerry Jones asked fans to help him kick the Giants butt, and Oxnard Mayor Dr. Thomas E. Holden was on hand. So were 5,266 fans.
What else happened today? A quick run-through… after you watch my hit from NFL Network’s Total Access.
— First, three players failed the Cowboys conditioning test, including RB Felix Jones. Just an inexcusable thing. Jones missed mini-camp with a shoulder injury, and coach Jason Garrett was essentially asked if that made it OK. “We would anticipate all of our players being able to pass the conditioning test,” Garrett said, adding that the players who failed would be doing “remedial running.” Great phrase. Oh, the others were WR Andre Holmes and S Brodney Pool.
— Very interesting media session with CB Mike Jenkins today, who spoke for the first time since requesting a trade. Only… he says he never requested a trade. “It never came out of my mouth,” he said. That’s not true, I’m told, but I think Jenkins’ point is that he’s trying to put it behind him. He admitted that the Cowboys trading up to grab Morris Claiborne stung, and anyone can understand that. “But it’s not for me to get mad at,” he said. If he is traded, by the way, Jenkins said he’ll be ready to help that team out. Interestingly, if the Cowboys are trying to trade Jenkins, they are searching for a player, not a draft pick, I’m told. Oh, one more thing: Jenkins visits Dr. James Andrews later this week, and he’ll know more about his injured shoulder afterward.
— Big day for rookie CB Morris Claiborne, who is back from a wrist injury and was quickly installed as the starter. As Garrett said, “He certainly has the capability physically to do that and we’re going to try to give him as many opportunities to go against the best competition as early as we can to get him ready to play for this season.” Claiborne seemed to appreciate the opportunity. “Yeah, it was very excited to be out with the guys, guys you’ve been watching for a while now, and you actually going up against them and playing alongside them,” the No. 6 pick said. “I know they came up and got me for a reason, and I knew they were going to put me under fire early, and I’m just trying to get better and take on that challenge.”
— Speaking of Claiborne… he looked like he had a decent day, but it’s clearly a work in progress. Dez Bryant burned him once to the inside, causing Claiborne to get a little instruction from Jerome Henderson, the Cowboys DBs coach. But Bryant is really a tough matchup for anyone. Of course, we all know about the off-the-field trouble he had. But I came away really impressed watching Bryant on the field. I don’t know quite what leads athletes to be able to make ridiculous catches while falling but then hold their feet and keep running. Whatever that skill is, Bryant is great at it. I can understand why the Cowboys are standing behind him. Will be fun this camp watching him rumble with CB Brandon Carr, the free-agent pickup.
— Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was mildly hilarious today, as you’d expect. He made sure to thank the tremendous Dallas media for always pointing out that the defense was to blame for the team’s failings last year. “We were the reason we didn’t get to the playoffs, you guys did a great job documenting that, and that’s fine. We’re looking forward to changing that,” Ryan cracked. In fact, Ryan made sure we knew he didn’t mind the criticism (even if I know he doesn’t love it). No, he says, he’s not running scared. “That’s why I came to Dallas,” Ryan said. “I might not have known it was going to be this much scrutiny in the media. Believe me, I wanted to be here with the Cowboys, America’s Team. It’s about time America likes a Ryan.” He did talk business, comparing signal-caller Sean Lee to Tedy Bruschi because, “Tedy didn’t have to say anything. Everybody followed him.” Great comparison.
— Finally, QB Tony Romo spoke for the first time in camp (duh, it was his first day), and we’ll have a little more on this tomorrow. But one thing that stood out to me is how he looked back on himself as a younger player. He couldn’t believe it has been 10 years, and said his first camp at the Alamodome was spent being focusing on the small things. “All I knew was I had to make this throw on this play to try and make the team. At that time, it was all about trying to digest the information, trying to learn the offense, trying to do what the coaches wanted you to do. Get yelled at, yelled at some more. And try and just get better,” Romo said. What was he like as a player then? Not very good, he said.