Teaming Together

here during OTAs. It's just - what's the word I want to use - it just seems that everybody is together around here. We all have the same goal. Everybody showed up for the weightlifting in the off-season.

"Just seems we're taking the proper steps to being a great team this year . . . Any time you can count on guys being here and working real hard, it always helps as far as the team bonding."

Team, he said, by golly.

There's another new guy in the locker room, this linebacker Keith Brooking, who has never played a down of football for a team outside the state of Georgia, and the past 15 years outside the Atlanta city limits, be that high school, college or NFL. He says there were only one or two places which could have coaxed him to leave the Falcons' offer on the table. Playing for the Cowboys was the one he chose.

"Zero regrets," Brooking said. "Everything I expected and more."

Because?

"Dedicated . . . committed - you can tell football is very high on their priority list, and when you have those ingredients, that's when you develop that team, that chemistry, and I think those are the major factors in making that run I was talking about," said Brooking, a guy you detect isn't in to a lot of BS this late in his career.

Uh, did you say team chemistry, that most highly debated element of last year?

"Oh yeah," the Brooking said, "I see it."

Maybe you did, too, if you had the chance to watch Friday night's final preseason game, a mostly meaningless exercise in Minneapolis, the Sub Bowl. The starters might not have been playing, but many were coaching on the sidelines, showing the young guys what to do and what they were doing wrong. Looked as if they cared.

Said Sensabaugh, "No one is trying to be stingy" with their information.

And then in the second half when the Cowboys Subs rallied from a 21-7 deficit to trail the Vikings Subs 31-28 with just 7:21 to play, the entire bench emptied. Everyone was up, pulling for the youngin's to hang in there.

That includes the quarterback, who was showing the young receivers when the defense was on the field what the quarterback is looking for when running routes. In fact, late in the meaningless fourth preseason game, he would only do a sideline interview with us on the Dallas Cowboys Television Network when the defense was on the field. He didn't want to miss an offensive snap.

And of all things, while in the middle of the interview late in the fourth quarter, we had to pause to pick up the call of first-year receiver Jesse Holley, he of "4th And Long" fame, in the midst of improbably returning a backwards bouncing punt 82 yards for the touchdown to give the Cowboys a 35-31 lead. As we went to commercial break following the score, Romo, and I exaggerate not here, popped me on the shoulder and said, "Hey, we got a chance to win this one," and sprinted off back to join the sideline celebration.

As if they all were in this together, no matter 23 of those guys playing that night would no longer be here on the 53-man roster come Monday's practice, all causing Phillips to say, "I know it wasn't a regular season game, but it was a football game and they found a way to win. I think it was a neat win, one I'll always remember."

Who knows what causes a team to bond, a silly fourth preseason-game win, an indoor practice facility falling on its head, 44-6, but there is a sense of some spackle being applied. Because unlike last year when the drop of a helmet would incinerate this club, corners Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick went out of their way to downplay the decision to alternate them as starting right corners instead of fueling a fire the media was poised to ignite.

"We're more concerned by the unit rather than individual play," Scandrick said.

Well I'll be.

Now, of course, all this sounds great in theory until something goes wrong, or they suffer a loss or three, because as Brooking knowingly said, "Now the true test is when you're faced with adversity; that's when you find out if you will stay together.

"(But) I believe with all my heart we are doing things the right way."

The right way will lead to at least a 10-6 record this year and the third

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