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Sullivan: Farewell Camp Thoughts From the Bald Head
The author of America’s Team: The Official History of the Dallas Cowboys, Sullivan also writes a new column in each issue of Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine. For subscription information, please click here.
Some farewell camp thoughts that run through an oversized, bald head: Read
- For anyone still unclear on the 2014 Dallas Cowboys, we’re going to break it down real simple like: Is the offense better than the defense is not? That’s the whole deal. That’s the poker hand. Is a full house, queens over, a higher ceiling than jack high is a lower basement? It’s entirely conceivable that the Cowboys lead the NFL in points scored and finish dead last in points allowed? That’s doable, that’s on the table.
- Took a sip, more like a chug, of the Gatorade the players drink with the salt tablets. Not tasty in the least. Bitter is the best way to describe it. They take it for hydration purposes. I’d rather drink a few extra ounces of water. Not so good.
- Easily my favorite moment from the second practice with the Oakland Raiders was rookie wideout Devin Street offering criticism and advice to tight end Dallas Walker, who was released Thursday, after an incomplete pass. As they walked back to the huddle, a good 40 yards down field, Street ended up pausing at Oakland’s huddle, saying some words, and sure enough, a scuffle ensued. Just thought it showed a combination of this and that. Not sure it was leadership or toughness, or maybe just talking some trash. Didn’t hear a word Street said, just kind of appreciated the moxy.
- Overheard from a younger woman while en route to my room the other night: “I want to be a film director, or a writer, or maybe just walk dogs. Something like that.”
- Tony Romo is much healthier than anyone is giving him credit. Just saying.
- Rookie linebacker Anthony Hitchens has had a really nice camp. Completely under the radar. Which is confusing since at times there seemed to be more media covering a football practice than at the White House briefing room. Still, didn’t hear much about Hitchens. The fourth-round pick has been solid, can play multiple positions, too, as can Justin Durant, who was hands down the defensive MVP of camp. It wasn’t even close, either.
- Been two real surprises at camp for me, both on the defense, which is good news. Defensive end Kenneth Boatright and defensive tackle Davon Coleman. Now, there have always been players that practice better than they perform in games. That’s never going to change. That said, this duo has been explosive. Literally explosive. Can’t think of another word. And I know the front office brass has taken notice of both. Looking for sleepers to make the team? These are your two guys.
- Want to be excited about some guys making the leap on offense? Terrance Williams and Gavin Escobar. Know what else? That 2013 draft is going to look mighty fine in the near future. Travis Frederick is going to start making some Pro Bowls and he’s isn’t going to stop that trend for quite some time. It’s ridiculous how we grade drafts in the immediate aftermath or even after a season. Doesn’t happen overnight, rarely does.
- Dan Bailey has significantly increased his distance, blasting 56-, 58-yard field goals through the uprights with ease. It says so much about all of us that when a team has a shaky field-goal kicker we obsess with his every moment, his every practice kick. But when we have faith, when they are deemed reliable, no one speaks of the kicker. That has happened with Bailey.
- Few aspects of professional athletes, famous people in general, fascinate me more than how willing they are to sign autographs. Especially under the right circumstances. Dinner, meals with the family, interrupting is just plain selfish and rude. At training camp is another story entirely. And no day more so than autograph day for the hundreds of volunteers. Make no mistake, without volunteers, camp wouldn’t be possible.
- Heck, a volunteer has picked me up at the airport each of the last two years. Both weren’t Cowboys fans, which was befuddling to say the least, but regardless, nice men and I was appreciative of the ride.
- So this year, having the opportunity to watch the team sign, I stood right there. For about 30 minutes, until no one was left signing. Wanted to see who bailed early, and who went that something extra. It’s the little things so often in life. A few players tried to sneak off rather quickly, but Jason Garrett screamed (and I mean screamed) for their return. And return they did.
- After 20 minutes, 13 remained signing. Thing is, 10 minutes later, the same 13 were still signing and taking photos. And 10 minutes after that, until there was nothing left to sign. Everyone went home happy.
- Those 13 deserve kudos. They get it. It’s the volunteers and the fans that make camp, instead of what could be 24 days of hellacious, monotonous practice. So I wanted to call out the 13 here and now: Morris Claiborne, Cole Beasley, Terrance Mitchell, Brandon Carr, Will Smith, Martez Wilson, Terrance Williams, Jamar Newsome, Gavin Escobar, Tyrone Crawford, Jeremy Mincey and Dustin Vaughan. The 13th was Garrett, who went above and beyond all camp to accommodate each and every fan. This guy is the real deal in so many ways.
- Not sure where Joseph Randle went, maybe he had to use the bathroom or something, but no one signs more autographs on a daily basis, so he’s given a pass.
- Here’s something that stood out, and I’ve noticed here and there before, but not to this extent. The players, and the coaches to a lesser degree, refer to each other by number on the field.
- Obviously they know each other’s names. And I’m not talking about some guy they just signed. Teammates for five or six years are out here day-after-day. What do you say 36? We need better from you 91 (I’m grabbing random numbers here). You can’t stop me 50. All day, all day 44, going to be here all day. What’s the deal with that? Nine days with former scout and analyst extraordinaire Bryan Broaddus and I don’t think he mentioned anyone’s name the entire time. Always numbers. Must be an inside deal.
- Sean Lee, who of course is out for the year following ACL surgery, has been in every linebackers meeting of camp. Has been at every practice. Really think he’ll be a head coach in the NFL one day, could probably be a positions coach now. There’s really no way around this, so just going to say it. He looks sad. Have tried for 10 minutes to think of a better word and just can’t find one. Poor guy, playing football means so much to him. Life is grossly unfair at times. Still out here everyday helping his teammates, class act.
- Can go two ways right now on Morris Claiborne: 1) He’s playing physical, was the first to jump into an altercation against the Raiders, and when on the field, looks much more instinctive than the last two years; 2) he’s going to miss his second straight preseason game with a minor injury and few guys on the team need the reps more.
- Dez Bryant and Dwayne Harris can throw the football further than any of the quarterbacks. Football is a strange game, huh?
- Lance Dunbar is honestly Darren Sproles if he can stay healthy. Thing is, he just hasn’t proven the ability to stay upright. Just as quick, though. He could line up in five different positions this year, and Scott Linehan is still tinkering. This is going to be an offense like no one has seen if camp is any indication. Could see Dez in the backfield, with Escobar in the slot, Witten as the H-back and DeMarco Murray spread wide. Interchangeable parts galore. Fun to watch. Everyone seems to be buying in, too.
- One of my most endearing images of this camp was the legendary Monte Kiffin walking off the field with his arm draped around Rolando McClain. This was a random morning, and McClain wasn’t even in pads, but the dialogue between the two fascinated me. Each was as engaged as the other in the back-and-forth. And as confirmed later, McClain knew verbatim of Kiffin’s background. That’s cool stuff.
- Still not sure what the deal is with McClain. If he’s committed, this guy should be one of the top players on this defense. Physically speaking, he’s the most intimidating presence on the team. Last guy you want to meet in a dark alley? No debate. McClain.
- The team likes safety Jeff Heath a whole lot more than the fans realize. He’s also arguably the top special teams player on the team. The scouting department deserves a lot of credit for signing him as an undrafted free agent.
- Still a few weeks out from my final prediction on this team. Fascinating study. The offense is loaded, the special teams are solid and the defense, well, not so much. We all know that. Every team has a surprise; just don’t know what that is right now.
- Going to keep writing and saying it until it happens. Darren Woodson belongs in the Ring of Honor. Make this happen, Jerry. Like this year.