OXNARD, California — If you're a fan of the Dallas Cowboys who has been dying since January for the return of football, you officially have permission to let out a gleeful squeal that will likely startle your dog, cat or pet raccoon (don't keep raccoons as pets, by the way).
Why the cause of a summer celebration, you ask? Well, it's because the Cowboys have arrived in Southern California for the start of training camp, where they'll fully ramp up their preparation for what they hope will be the most special season of this generation.
A return to the playoffs for a third straight year?
A postseason run to the Super Bowl??
A sixth franchise championship???
You could argue the first step in that journey of 1,000 miles begins right now.
"First couple of weeks in camp — that's what you're [waiting] on," said Michael Gallup in his first Q&A of training camp, a former 1,000-yard receiver looking to regain prime form after suffering a torn ACL that impacted his return to the field in 2023. "You finally get to get back in pads and get a flow going. … You always want to come in here [with high expectations]. Nobody ever wants to come in here low.
"We have a great group."
There's no two ways about it: this is one of the most pivotal seasons in recent Cowboys history when considering all of the variables.
As Mike McCarthy enters his fourth year with the club, he does so having parted ways with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore — replacing him with Brian Schottenheimer while he commandeers play-calling duties himself.
And that was only one of many changes in the assistant coaching staff, e.g., running backs coach Skip Peete now residing in Tampa, and the roster itself saw three headline changes in the spring. From the release of Ezekiel Elliott to the trades for Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks, the message emanating from within the organization doesn't require a military codebreaker.
Get over the hump, and do it now.
"I'm just ready to be back out here with the guys, to put some work in and start getting ready for this season," said veteran safety Jayron Kearse as the Cowboys exited their buses in Oxnard. "We need to go out there and make it a great one. … We need to continue to grind and to build on what we've built these last two years. The confidence level is definitely high — when you've got a lot of guys returning and then add a great player like Gilmore.
"We're ready to get this thing going and see where we are."
That said, all eyes turn to Oxnard to watch how it will all unfold, and that includes the Cowboys taking on the daunting task of seeing which players deserve to survive roster cuts in late August as well as which players will make a sizable leap in Year 2 (Damone Clark? Sam Williams?).
There will be no shortage of action in practice to watch and read about, or of storylines pertaining to explosive positional matchups to glue yourself to so, yes, go ahead and squeal.
No one will judge you for it.