FRISCO, Texas – Twelve days until the start of training camp.
Here is why:
Tuesday morning, around 8:30, as we were heading toward our 18th consecutive 100-degree day, got the itch. Asked Alexa, "Alexa, what's the temperature in Oxnard, Calif.?"
"The current temperature in Oxnard, Calif., is 58 degrees. The high today is 68."
Well, she was a tad off. It ended up being 69. You feel me?
And if you ever wondered why the Cowboys are heading west a 43rd time for training camp, 27 years in Thousand Oaks and now uprooting the franchise for the 16th time to Oxnard, wonder no more.
Swear getting out of the summer heat here in North Texas for right at about a month each year adds a year to our lives. No kidding.
Now, don't ask about gas prices. Actually paid $3.89/gallon at Sam's the other day. But at Fred's in Oxnard, well, according to GasBuddy.com, it was $5.93 a gallon, a sure shot in the ol' pocketbook.
Come on, let's not sweat the small stuff.
- To Or Not To: That is the question the Cowboys must answer by 3 p.m. Friday, the deadline to potentially sign or not sign franchised tight end Dalton Schultz to a long-term contract. Otherwise, both sides must rest in peace with the one-year, guaranteed $10.93 million tag he previously signed through the end of the 2022 season. Doesn't sound as if any action is going on, but as we know with the Cowboys, deadlines make deals. Only takes one phone call. Question is, who picks up the phone first. Long time ago former Cowboys player personnel director Bob Ackles taught me this negotiation lesson. Can't remember the Cowboys player they couldn't agree on a contract with, and back in those late 1980s-early 1990s there were a bunch, but one day I asked Bob when's the last time he had picked up the phone to try to bat out a deal. The late Ackles, the generally understated gentlemen from Canada, informed me, "Every time I pick up the phone to make a call, I'm spending money." Meaning if he's calling, then chances are he's upping the Cowboys offer during the stalemate. With the current franchise deadline on signing a long-term deal just two days away, not sure if either side will pick up the phone. If the Cowboys indeed have made a long-term offer to Schultz, then evidently the package is not what Schultz is looking for. And if Schultz' agent, Steve Caric, has made an offer to the team, for sure the Cowboys figure it's too rich for their future salary cap blood. Projections suggest Schultz' worth at four years, $58 million, or averaging $14.5 million a year, which would make him the second-highest paid tight end in the NFL to only San Francisco tight end George Kittle's $15 million average. Would imagine that's Caric's starting point, but the Cowboys obviously aren't buying. So, the clock is ticking. Here is the deal: Upside to a long-term contract means Schultz immediately receives a signing bonus and guarantees beyond one year. For the Cowboys, a long-term deal means by paying said signing bonus, they can prorate that charge over the length of the deal to lower Schultz' 2022 cap hit that stands at $10.93 million. The downside for Schultz not getting that long-term contract becomes playing on a one-year deal with no future guarantees, meaning risking an injury that could impact his market value in next year's free agency. (See Dak Prescott's gamble 2020). For the Cowboys, assuming Schultz repeats his 2021 production, 78 catches, 808 yards and six touchdowns, the price only goes up next year. (See Dak 2021). Thus, the conundrum for both sides. Stay tuned.
- Not Again: This is a heartbreaker. Another one in a seven-month period of far too many. The nicest, subtly funniest, unanimously best and hardest working radio engineer Ted Nichols-Payne passed away Sunday at the age of 56. Seems like I've known Ted Nichols Payne for at least a quarter century, and few, if any, ever called him Ted, or Nichols-Payne. It's always been "Ted Nichols-Payne." Not only has he been the best radio engineer in the state of Texas, working for the Cowboys flagship radio station 105.3 The Fan, he was the guy setting up and running the equipment for the Cowboys radio broadcasts, but also seemingly all the weekly radio shows the Cowboys have been producing, including a bunch of my own since 2000. He also was the lead engineer for the Texas Rangers baseball radio broadcasts. I will miss Ted Nichols-Payne endlessly telling me to move my headset mic up closer to my mouth. Will miss Ted Nichols-Payne ability to solve any and all problems, never saying even once, "I can't." Will miss him setting up the radio equipment at training camp for my daily reports when no one else would be around to help, always telling me to call him if something goes wrong. And something usually did since I'm all thumbs when it comes to working this transmission stuff. Maybe the most fitting tribute I've heard so far comes from Corby Davidson, a show co-host on 96.7 The Ticket, the competing sports talk radio station here in Dallas-Fort Worth. Corby recounts the day at training camp one year when Cowboys public relations brought DeMarcus Lawrence over for an interview. He was the only one in The Ticket tent. No one to help record the interview. No problem, Ted Nichols-Payne says, come over to our tent. I'll record the interview and email you the sound. That's TNP. You've heard of me nominating a Cowboys player almost every year before camp as Mr. Indispensable, right, which is coming soon. Well, The Fan, the Cowboys and the Rangers, too, are about to find out how indispensable Ted Nichols-Payne has been. That goes for all of us as well who had the pleasure of not only his company but his ability.
- No Way: So, the Collin County Medical Examiner office's report is out on Marion Barber's cause of death, ruling the former Cowboys running back died at the age of 38 of accidental heat stroke. Say what? According to the autopsy report, Barber, during a welfare check, was found unresponsive in the bathtub of his apartment with the water still running, spilling over into the residence below. The report says the thermostat in his residence was set to 91 degrees and the heat was turned on. "Mr. Barber was known to exercise in sauna-like conditions," the coroner wrote in his report first released by USA Today, also pointing out he had struggled with mental health issues. Truly a tragedy.
- Stat Of The Week: Came across this interesting stat in the Cowboys' 2021 Season In Review: Most Explosive Plays, 10-plus yards running and passing in the NFL. The 2021 Cowboys finished No. 1, with 254 total, 200 of those pass plays and 54 run plays, all one more than the runner-up Los Angeles Chargers (45 runs, 208 passing). Next came Kansas City (249), then Tampa Bay (247). Buffalo rounds out the top five at 242. Also, the Cowboys 200, 10-plus pass plays came in second overall to the 208 of the Chargers and Buccaneers. And when it came to converting those explosive plays into touchdowns among the top-10 finishers, the Cowboys finished tied for fourth with Buffalo at 23, the Chargers leading with 25, then Tampa Bay and Arizona next at 24. Overall, Seattle led with 29 TDs of 10-plus yards, followed by Cincinnati's 28. All pretty impressive, yet there are those who want Dak Prescott running the ball more. Please.
- Hot Off The Presses: Speaking of training camp, the annual Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine Training Camp Previewis out, 80 pages strong. This year wide receiver CeeDee Lamb is the cover boy, the story documenting his rise to becoming the team's No. 1 receiver. Also, a camp preview, going deep into how so many of the Cowboys' young players must take on bigger roles this year if this team is to improve on the 2021 season. Not only does the preview magazine also profile first-round draft choice Tyler Smith, but the issue includes player-by-player analysis and the highly popular two-page centerfold pullout of the 2022 schedule. A print copy of the magazine can be purchased by clicking HERE.
Last word this week returns to Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, clearly very complimentary of his 2022 rookie class, which includes nine draft choices, and knowing full-well he is going to need some of those top picks to step up immediately if this team is to improve over last season.
"Clearly the most mature group that we've had," McCarthy said when last speaking at the end of the team's minicamp. "I'm very, very, very impressed with the extra time these young men (spend) here. They are here throughout the afternoon, the extra meetings, the Zoon meetings. They are here on the weekends. … That's what you are looking for.
"Everybody talks about work ethic, everybody talks about the ability to have a high workload capacity. At the end of the day, I think you have to emphasize it, but you have to create the opportunity. I think our rookie class has done a tremendous job of getting themselves ready for training camp. And at the end of the day, that's what the offseason program is. It's about getting ready for a great training camp."
And don't look now, camp already is just around the corner but thankfully not located just around the block.