Focusing On No. 97: Counting Down Days To Training Camp

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IRVING, Texas – While the focus remains heavily on the draft and free agency, it won't be too long before the Cowboys report to training camp in Oxnard, Calif.

It'll be a longer camp and preseason this year with the Cowboys playing five exhibition games, including the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. That pushes up the start date to camp, meaning the pads will be coming on before too long.

So as we count down the days to camp, let's take a light-hearted look at the significance of each number as we stroll through the years of Cowboys football, continuing today with No. 97:

  • The Cowboys finished with a 6-10 record in 1997, missing the playoffs for the first time since 1990. Though the season might have been one to forget, Emmitt Smith still rushed for more than 1,000 yards and Michael Irvin broke the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the season.
  • In fact, the '97 season saw Irvin top the 10,000-yard receiving mark for his career on a 14-yard touchdown reception at Washington on Oct. 13. He became the 14th player in NFL history to reach the plateau, and he finished with 1,180 yards that season.
  • Smith finished with just four rushing touchdowns, despite rushing for 1,074 yards in '97. The team as a whole had only six rushing scores, which went a long way in explaining why the Cowboys' 38 field goals attempted that year were the second-most ever in a season, behind the 39 taken in 1991.
  • The Cowboys also finished the '97 season with just seven interceptions, tying the Cowboys' record from 1989 and last season for the fewest in a year.
  • Just like last year, the'97 draftalso had an LSU player as the Cowboys' top selection in the first round. The Cowboys hope Morris Claiborne will pan out more than tight end David LaFleur, who finished his four-year career with 85 catches for 729 yards and 12 touchdowns. Six years after selecting LaFleur, the Cowboys would draft a tight end from Tennessee who exceeded expectations and remains the team's top option. Dexter Coakley was selected with the next pick after LaFleur.
  • The No. 97 is currently worn by defensive lineman Jason Hatcher. He's worn it since 2006, making him the longest tenured Cowboys' player to ever wear the number. Among other notable linemen to don the No. 97 were La'Roi Glover, who wore it from 2002-05, and Kavika Pittman, who wore it from 1996-99.
  • Bryan McCann's punt return touchdown in 2010 for 97 yards is the longest punt return since Dennis Morgan ran back a punt 98 for a touchdown in 1974. Dwayne Harris returned a punt for a touchdown last season, but no punt return has reached 97 yards since McCann accomplished the feat.
  • Only one Cowboys player, George Andrie, recorded exactly 97 sacks in his career.  Four others – DeMarcus Ware, Ed Jones, Randy White and Harvey Martin – have at least 100.
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