Sparano's Nature Changing Culture

them what the perception was out there," said Sparano candidly, so imagine what he had to tell all those big guys when he took over the room.

Especially since Sparano isn't a big chi-chatter, and the guy who coached the offensive line in Cleveland for one season (2000) and was the New Haven head coach for five seasons (1994-98) probably doesn't mince many words anyway.

Now the Cowboys haven't played a game yet, and for that matter, have only gone through eight practices so far. But it appears as if some people are noticing the offensive line.

"The thing I've noticed is there has been very few mental mistakes," quarterback Drew Bledsoe said when asked his impressions of the offensive line. "I think that is due to Tony Sparano."

Or this from one player, saying he was just saying to another player Wednesday, "The running game looks awfully good.

"You think that has something to do with the offensive line coach?"

Maybe the worm is turning on this offensive line, where, manufactured or not, there is some competition going on for starting jobs. We all know about the three-way battle for the starting right tackle job between Jacob Rogers, Kurt Vollers and Torrin Tucker, and have discovered the Cowboys will allow Andre Gurode to challenge Al Johnson for the starting center job.

And with the likes of Stephen Peterman, Ben Noll, Rob Petittie and Matt Tarullo around, a whole bunch of those big 'uns up front probably have discovered they are also competing for a spot on the roster.

Plus, the addition of the hard-nosed, hard-working Marco Rivera seems to have made an impression on a bunch of the younger players, and just may have stuck a needle into the backsides of Adams and Allen, who despite quitting on his conditioning test, seems to be taking these training camp practices far more seriously.

Oh, and need I mention Parcells making an example out of Allen for that conditioning test transgression?

This all has seemed to create some toughness up front.

"I really do think the offensive line is a group of people that transcends the personality to the whole team," Parcells said. "And if you have a group, nucleus of hard-working, tough, and in some cases, overachieving smart guys at those positions, chances are the rest of your team is going to be that kind of way. They can control the tempo of practice, they can put the pressure on the defense, which they are doing now, and that forces the defense to respond more and it creates a whole momentum unto itself.

"And when I had good teams, that's the way it was."

That's obviously what Parcells is trying to create in Dallas, and it appears he's going about it now two-fold:

First, he promoted the no-nonsense Sparano, a "stickler for technique," says Rivera, who maintains offensive lines "shouldn't make any mistakes" when told the mistakes of last year seem to have been minimized so far in training camp.

Second, don't know if you can tell, but the Cowboys have now completed eight camp practices as of Wednesday night. And all eight have been in full pads. None of this shell stuff, as they would for most of the second of two practices last year when they were going two-a-days on consecutive days.

Full pads. Full contact - at least for the guys up front - and this is by no quirk in scheduling.

"That's part of changing the culture," Sparano succinctly said, his economy of words further emphasizing the point.

And that particular culture on this team has been in need of change for quite some time. Maybe even, if I may be so blunt, a, uh, culture shock.

MICK SHOTS

Seems as though the Cowboys still are keeping their eyes on free safeties, and one who might be peaking their interest is Cleveland's Chris Crocker, a third-year player who also plays special teams. Parcells has said the team still is talking to teams around the league, and even vice president Stephen Jones said, "You're always looking, and if we could get somebody today to improve that position, we would do it," when asked

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