OXNARD, Calif. – Football will finally take center stage on Thursday afternoon, but until then, there isn't much better entertainment than a camp-opening press conference from Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett.
Jones and Garrett addressed the media for upward of 40 minutes on Wednesday afternoon to open the Cowboys' 2014 training camp. Among the topics discussed were Jason Garrett's job security, the decision-making process of releasing Kyle Orton a week before training camp and the risk vs. reward of signing Rolando McClain. Between those big points, the pair touched on numerous other bits of news.
Here are some quick notes from the proceedings:
- One of the more noteworthy developments of the press conference came at the very end, when Jones was asked about the possibility of bringing back Josh Brent, who was released from prison last month – a possibility Jones said he'd consider.
"Basically, I do believe in paying your debt, paying the price," Jones said. "I don't have the information that you would need to have to make that consideration, but as far as Josh Brent is concerned, we have stood with Josh Brent from the very beginning and will continue."
Jones said he knows for a fact, having spoken with Brent within the last month, that the former Cowboy is contrite and deserving of an opportunity.
- Much has been made of Garrett's decision not to hold the usual conditioning test prior to training camp, and the team's subsequent response to hold one of their own. Garrett mentioned that a foundation for a strong team had been laid by a high attendance in the offseason program, and the decision to go through with the test was something Jones said he found encouraging.
"Jason decided not to have the qualifying running that we've normally done for all the years that I've been involved, and he decided not to do that," Jones said. "They took it upon themselves and decided they wanted to do it with the leadership of the team and the participation of, for the most part, of the team. I like that."
- In an effort to further spell his team, Garrett said the first two practices of training camp won't have the offense and defense compete against each other directly. The full team will work together during morning walkthroughs and a short afternoon walkthrough on Thursday and Friday, but the competitive portions of practice will be separated until Saturday.
- The vast majority of the roster will be available for practice when the Cowboys report Thursday. Garrett specifically listed Anthony Spencer and Amobi Okoye as two who would be sitting for at least the early portion of camp, and he said the team would take a wait-and-see approach with Ronald Leary.
- Two of the biggest injury concerns from the spring, Tony Romo and Henry Melton, are expected to be fully-available from the outset. Garrett said the team would be sure to keep close watch on both Pro Bowlers, but that they are fully cleared after being limited in the spring.
"He has been working hard on his conditioning, on his throwing and we do anticipate him being ready to go for all aspects," Garrett said of Romo. "Like with anyone else coming off an injury, we evaluate him on a day by day basis and see how he is doing."
Garrett added that the Cowboys are "very optimistic" about what Melton will be able to do in his first practice.
- "I look at we had just had our team meeting a couple hours ago, and Coach Garrett led our, if you will, our goals and led what we're going to be trying to accomplish beginning right today. But when I looked at that room, there are 90 players in there, and I think I counted 47 that hadn't been in the room, and I may have it missed by one or two, but hadn't been in that room, hadn't been in a team room to start a training camp. We've never had more new faces, yet have the optimism that I have for those new faces, many of them are experienced veterans to some degree. Certainly, we've got our share of rookies and rookie free agents, but still, I'm very optimistic that we have a team that can come together "I'm not going to use that word you just used, just because I'm superstitious. Just in terms of the record, this is not a make-or-break situation for Jason or members of this staff. …"
- Jones opened the press conference by offering his condolences following the death of former Cowboys running back Robert Newhouse. Jones recalled that Newhouse was the first former Cowboys player he invited to join the team's staff after he purchased the team. "He was outstanding, he was about football – you couldn't look at that guy and not think about our game that we play, and he played it with every ounce of his heart," Jones said.
- The Cowboys' owner also touched on the decision by Pat Bowlen to step down as the owner of the Denver Broncos on Wednesday. "He lived and breathed his job as a Denver Bronco … this is a sad day," Jones said.
- Both Garrett and Jones touched on the decision to release Kyle Orton from the roster just prior to the beginning of training camp. Having rationalized the decision to cut him, Jones had some interesting comments about what the Cowboys could do with the roughly $3 million in salary cap space freed up by the release – whether that goes toward longterm deals for Dez Bryant and Tyron Smith or acquiring a free agent.
"It will go to that and other things. A dollar that you're not paying to a player or under one contract does not have a single place to go or a single goal – we know how that works," Jones said. "Certainly, to the extent that we can do some things with some key players, such as Dez Bryant, we can do some things with Tyron, we will do that. But it also keeps your powder dry to do something if you get an opportunity as you go into the season. I wouldn't preclude that at all. We're in the business of using those resources."