OXNARD, Calif. – The 'Boys are back in town. For a full month.
The Dallas Cowboys have returned to Oxnard for their 10th training camp on the West Coast since 2001 – the groundwork for what they hope will be a special season as defending NFC East champions.
"The offseason went by fast and we got a lot of good work done," guard Zack Martin said, "but actually to get on the plane and get here really brings out the reality that the season's coming and it's time to go to work."
Players, coaches and staff stepped off its charter flight Tuesday at approximately 4 p.m. Pacific Time at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu. The team will hold its camp-opening press conference Wednesday and conduct the first scheduled practice Thursday. Camp breaks Aug. 28.
In between is the annual Blue/White team scrimmage Aug. 9 and preseason games at San Diego Aug. 13 and at San Francisco Aug. 23.
Nearly seven months since their epic Divisional Round playoff loss to Green Bay Packers, the Cowboys have pointed toward camp as the start of a new challenge for a talented roster with new faces in the secondary (first-round cornerback/safety Byron Jones), at running back (veteran Darren McFadden) and on the defensive line (second-round pick Randy Gregory, veteran Greg Hardy).
"With the guys we've added on and going through OTAs and minicamp, it's been great for the guys to be together," defensive end Tyrone Crawford said. "This training camp is going to be great for us."
The primary goal over the next month is preparation for the Sept. 13 primetime regular-season opener against the New York Giants. The team will get its first practice time in pads since last season and spend two days practicing with the St. Louis Rams in Oxnard on Aug. 17 and 18 following its first preseason game.[embeddedad0]
Ninety players are on the roster for training camp, a number that must be trimmed to 75 on Sept. 1 and finalized at 53 on Sept. 5 at the end of preseason. The Cowboys made three tweaks to backup spots on Tuesday: They waived/injured running back Ryan Williams, offensive tackle Ryan Miller and linebacker Cam Lawrence, and signed running back Gus Johnson, linebacker Justin Anderson and center Ronald Patrick.
Expectations have risen since the Cowboys surprised most of the NFL with a 12-4 record and its first division title since 2009. Whether they're praised or criticized by observers, head coach Jason Garrett said the team must "define ourselves."
That all starts Thursday with the opening practice.
"One of the words that I think about maybe more than any other is 'build.' We want to build a team that we're all proud of," Garrett said Monday at AT&T Stadium. "We want to be part of an organization that we're all proud of, and you have to build it the right way. You build it with the right kind of people and the right kind of players, coaches and staff members.
"It's a grind. You have to be relentless in building the kind of team you want to be a part of, and that's something we take very seriously. We're exciting to get going on (Tuesday) because it's really, really important and we're privileged to be able to do it."