The Cowboys are in similar flux at outside linebacker with Spencer still unsigned and Greg Ellis limited in his first practice back from last year's torn Achilles' tendon. The Cowboys rotated a trio of lesser-known linebackers - Junior Glymph, John Saldi and rookie free agent Alex Obomese - opposite DeMarcus Ware during 7-on-7 drills.
Height/Weight: 6-1, 175
NFL Exp: R
How Acquired: D7b-'07 (237th overall)
Fitting In: Ball is working at cornerback with the third-team defense and the third-team punt squad. He has a long list of veterans in front of him at cornerback, so special teams will need to be his initial niche if he's going to make this team.
So Far: Ball was thrown into the mix with the third-team defense during Wednesday's practice, but there was a good amount of shuffling the veterans and rookies. He at least impressed the coaching staff during the off-season workouts at Valley Ranch, and a couple of times during the mini-camp practice, he got a few second-team reps.
Best Asset: The guy evidently can cover. He finished third in the Big Ten Conference by averaging 1.1 passes defensed against conference opponents in 2006. Plus, he played at a high level in the Big Ten.
You Should Know: Ball is a bit of a renaissance man off the field. His talents include playing the piano, jump roping and the ability to hold his breath "for a really long time."
A Mouthful: "That 53-man roster is what I'm shooting for, to end up on that game roster. That's my goal. Wherever I have to be, whether it's special teams, kickoff, punt, however I can fit in. I just want to be on that game roster."
An Old Bum
Three generations of the Phillips family were in attendance Wednesday, all of them coaches, though only two of them will have any real input in this team.
Wade's the head coach, Wes runs offensive quality control duties and Bum? Well, maybe Wade said it best.
"We talk a little football. Mostly it's family, but he retired in '84," Wade Phillips said after he was asked how much he would listen to Bum's thought on strategy
"He told me today he was glad he was out of it. It's always special when he's there. He always observes something that you have to take notice of. He'll say something if he sees something."
Bum Phillips coached the 'love-ya blue' Houston Oilers from 1975-80 before taking over in New Orleans in 1981.
A few more old faces were in attendance Wednesday afternoon as well. Former Cowboys Pro Bowl guard Nate Newton was there for "Talking Cowboys" on DallasCowboys.com Radio, and two former Cowboys scouting directors took in the practice - Gil Brandt, working for Sirius Radio, and Larry Lacewell, who will be at camp for a few days as an extra set of eyes for the scouting department.
Feeling Vick's Pain
Newton's appearance at practice Wednesday inevitably led to comparisons between the recent indictment of Michael Vick for dog fighting and the 2001 federal indictment of Newton for marijuana possession. Newton also had a brush with illegal dog fighting charges earlier in his Cowboys career.
"What really matters is that he get a chance to have his day in court and do whatever he can do to protect himself so if this shadow ever gets off him, he can try to be a better person," Newton said.
Newton said he regrets his actions which led to a two-year prison sentence and the actions of others that have slowly turned the NFL into a legal circus.
"That's what we were slowly doing with the things I've done over the years, the things Pacman (Jones) has been a part of," Newton said. "We started to turn the league into a joke."
Newton has recently started a broadcasting career with ESPN Radio and will be included in training camp broadcasts on DallasCowboys.com.
Don't Blame Tony
In his afternoon press conference, Phillips was asked if the Saints showed the rest of the league how to beat Tony Romo, since it seemed the quarterback was markedly better before that December loss to the NFC South champs. Phillips' answer seemed to suggest Bill Parcells and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer may have been exposed more than Romo, considering the Cowboys were beaten, 42-17.
"I thought the Saints' offense kind of sent a blueprint out there how to beat the defense, it looked like to me," Phillips said. "I don't get into last year too much, as far as how it went or how it didn't go. I think Tony's a talented player and we've got to utilize him. We've got to get him the best he can be."
The fans weren't the only unusual addition to practice on Wednesday. The Cowboys had to deal with an unexpected number of pests. And no, that doesn't mean media.
"There's a lot of crickets here," Newman pointed out. "I mean the crickets are jumping us. We had a cricket fight in the locker room earlier today."
Crickets are just one of the differences between practicing in Oxnard, Calif., and being inside the Alamodome. Although the players are protected from the rain and the heat, adjusting to screeching insects and screaming fans is enough to handle.
At least the players find these particular distractions entertaining.
Practice ended after Romo connected with Owens on a fly pattern for a 60-yard touchdown, the receiver beating cornerback Anthony Henry deep, causing Phillips the head coach to end practice prematurely on an offensive high note to the dismay of the defense . . . Incumbent starter Oliver Hoyte ran with the first team at fullback throughout practice. Lousaka Polite backed him up while rookie Deon Anderson worked with the third team . . . Both Martin Gramatica and Nick Folk were 6-for-6 on field goals, all of which were from 30 yards and in . . . As of Wednesday evening, the Cowboys had credentialed 245 media members for training camp.