The only people who should be crying
at the start of a football training camp are the players. Even then the only players who should be crying are the guys with triple digit numbers who have almost no chance to make the team. Yet, this year at the start of Cowboys training camp there I was balling like a baby.
By now you have all seen or heard about the “arm in arm” start to the season when the Cowboys players and coaches locked arms with those who had lost loved ones in the ambush in Dallas in July. As they walked onto the field they honored the lives of those who gave their lives protecting each and every one of us. It was literally the best Cowboys moment since they won Super Bowl XXX.
Not surprisingly, this moment was the brainchild of Jason Witten. He and the Cowboys had hoped the memory of the slain officers could last all season, but the league denied the team’s request to wear “arm in arm” decals on the back of the helmets. For Witten, this was not a publicity stunt or an attempt to cultivate an image. Witten was a victim of domestic abuse as a child. He does not talk about it often, but he is consistent in his support of the causes that help those who sometimes cannot help themselves.
Logic dictates that none of what happened on the first day of camp will have any effect on the record or even the performance of the team. I beg to differ. Each of the NFL’s 53-man rosters is littered with guys who were the best athlete in their city, county even state. The difference in talent level on most teams is minute. What separates the good teams from the great teams is chemistry. By locking arms as they did on July 30 in Oxnard California, the players said, “We support our police officers, we support their families and we support each other.” Those 15 minutes of good karma may have more impact on the Cowboys’ record than everything else they did during a training camp that seems way too long.
As we embark on the regular season,
there are lots of question marks about the 2016 version of the Cowboys. Most of the questions are on the defensive side of the ball. But defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has done some of his best work when scheme is emphasized over talent. Expect the defense to be better than expected, if that makes sense.
Expect the offense to be awesome! Like every team, the players on that side of the ball must stay healthy, but, if they do, the offense will be this team’s best defense. Two years ago the offense did a great job controlling the ball and time of possession. With Tony Romo upright, Demarco Murray plowed behind a huge offensive line and lead the league in rushing in 2014. This limited the defense’s exposure, and when it did get on the field it felt somewhat rested rather than gassed.
When the Cowboys come home to Arlington this month, (I know they have a new practice field elsewhere, but their home field is in Arlington), the blueprint will be exactly the same as 2014. Romo is healthy; so is Dez Bryant; and with newcomer Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys have a chance to be everything the 2014 team was and more. Remember that a bad call in Green Bay is all the separated the Cowboys from a trip to the 2014 NFC Championship game, which would have been in Seattle, where the Cowboys had already won a game that year.
If it sounds like I am predicting a trip to the Super Bowl or even the NFC Championship game, I am not. What I am predicting is a team with great leadership and vision, a team that will represent the city of Arlington and the fans with effort and enthusiasm, a team that has already made me proud by honoring the families of the brave men who died protecting us. Arm in Arm!