OXNARD, Calif. – At long last, the Dallas Cowboys deplaned in Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu and began the run-up to the 2014 season.
The Cowboys haven't played a game in almost seven months, but their offseason has seen no shortage of excitement. There was the swapping of Pro Bowl caliber players at the offset of free agency, the team's consideration of Johnny Manziel before eventually selecting Zack Martin in the NFL draft and the loss of Sean Lee to a torn ACL on the first day of Organized Team Activities.
That doesn't even include the summer storyline of Kyle Orton's participation – or lack thereof – in offseason workouts before his eventual release last week.
None of that was able to sidetrack what was a highly-participated offseason program, and it certainly didn't dampen any enthusiasm on the flight from Dallas to the West Coast on Tuesday afternoon.
At long last, the Dallas Cowboys deplaned in Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu and began the run-up to the 2014 season.
"I can tell – there's a certain energy on the plane. Guys are here and they're ready to go. You can feel it," Frederick said. "As you're walking by, guys are talking about where they think we're going and guys are ready to work, excited to show off what they've done and the hard work they've put in."
The Cowboys arrived at Point Mugu, minutes away from their training camp headquarters at the River Ridge Residence Inn in Oxnard. Before departing to begin camp, the team met and signed autographs for military personnel and their families at the base.
"It's so cool that they let us do this. Coming in here last year, I had no idea this is how it was going to work. They said something about landing on a military base, and I said 'How does that work,'" Frederick said. "The opportunity that we get to come and land here, we're just minutes away from the facility, which is really nice, instead of having to land at LAX or Burbank – one of those places where it's going to take us a really long time to get out here.
"It's not very easy to get to Oxnard from an airplane, so the opportunity they give us to do that – we're very grateful for that. Going out and meeting and talking to those people, the stories that they have, it's really an inspiration for us."
The work begins in earnest, with physicals, press conferences and meetings slated to begin Wednesday, with the first practices of the season on Thursday. To hear it from Frederick, that workload is something the team is ready for and something it has embraced from the early stages of the offseason.
"It's purely work – we're out here to work, we're out here to make our team better," he said. "Our team has done a really good job of doing things in the [embedded_ad]
offseason, and I can speak especially for the offensive line and tell you that our group has put in the work and we're ready to go – and I know that we've seen that throughout the others."
There won't be any shortage of facets to work on. Oxnard will be the site for Tony Romo's first true work of the offseason, as he limited himself during OTAs and minicamp. The same should go for Henry Melton, who was still rehabbing a torn ACL during the spring. The Pro Bowl defensive tackle will hope to spark a unit that not only finished last in the league last season, but lost playmakers and longtime veterans in DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher – not to mention Lee.
"Even though we lost a couple of great players, I feel like that just forced everybody else to step up and know that their role's going to become a lot more important because of the people that we lost," said Barry Church. "I feel like that's making everybody study the playbook a lot more and knowing the defense front and back going into this season, and that should help us play a lot faster."
Plenty of eyes will be on Church and the defense, as the need for defensive improvement has been one of the dominant storylines of the offseason. But as the Cowboys made their way to the autograph signing, one thing was abundantly clear – the offseason storylines of Valley Ranch are gone, and the season has begun in Oxnard.
"The weather's a lot better than it is back in Texas," Church said. "I feel great. I feel like this is going to be a great camp for us."