Don't Ever Look Back

have escaped the weighty expectations of 2007.

And that is why Romo should have been applauded last week for his response after basically being told that winning in the first three months of the 2009 season really won't matter, that only what the Cowboys do in December and January matters.

Romo bowed up just a bit, acting the part of the good leader everyone wants him to be.

"No, that's not the case for us," said the young quarterback going through just his third NFL training camp as the starter. "I think this team has recognized before the pitfalls of thinking about December and January, and things of that nature. I think that when you do that you realize real fast there are no promises in this league. We had a bunch of injuries last year, and things crept up and all of a sudden you have a different team, and before you know it you have a different team in a lot of areas. It's part of the game, but you just can't look that far ahead.

"Practice tomorrow is going to be important. The first preseason game is going to be important. Is the December game going to be important? Darn right it is, but the approach needs to be about tomorrow's practice, and that's when you play good in December and January, when you continue that approach every day, every week.

"We're doing things we like to refer to as * the Dallas Cowboys way* and for us that's taking each day and stacking them together, stack all those together and at the end we'll see what happens."

Why repeat after me: Hal . . . LE . . . LU . . . jah!

That's what I'm talkin' about. That is exactly the approach this team needs to take. They don't need to be haunted by what didn't happened last year. This is not last year. This is not the same team as last year.

Don't look now, but there will be five new starters on defense this year. There will be at least five new players on the nickel defense. If you count Kosier, who played what, all of three games last year, and if the Cowboys stick to this two-tight end offense, there will be three new starters on offense. And guarantee you, not only will there be a new special teams coach, but a host of new contributors on some of those struggling units from last year.

Now this in no way is trying to absolve these Cowboys from any failure they might experience this season. They still should be pretty good, and better in a much different way than last year's disappointing team. And disappointing is relative since the Cowboys have stacked up three consecutive winning seasons now, something they have not done since 1994-96.

And don't think the owner isn't expecting big things from this team. He is. And he's already told the guys as much, as he said, "in no uncertain terms . . . in no uncertain terms."

Jones would say, "We've got one of the more talented teams I've ever been associated with here. We had it last year and we know that alone doesn't get it. But you can't just keep it in the system we're in, you can't keep it together all the time, so I'm afraid if we don't accomplish that - we all have expectations for that - I'm afraid the time passes us by, and I think there is a lot of that on this team."

Sure there is, otherwise ESPN's Chris Mortensen doesn't come through here at the start of camp telling me how he's picking the Cowboys to go to the playoffs, nor does Gil Brandt of NFL.com and Sirius Radio put his reputation on the line telling me in an interview this Cowboys team will be better than last year's version just because he used to run this team's scouting department back in the day.

There are reasons, but even with all those reasons, there are no shortcuts to the playoffs, as the Cowboys discovered last year. You got to play it out, practice by practice, preseason game by preseason game, play by play, quarter by quarter, game by game. Just grind it out . . . .

Day by day.

"It's the process," Romo insists, "it's just about continuing, and I can't harp on it enough - figuring out why you did something wrong and not doing it the next time. It's the experience - the more times you go through them the better the team will be

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