There Goes The Neighborhoods

Newton was the same way. So was Charles Haley, but then I never knew Haley to be hesitant or feel a tad shy about anything - or saying anything. Anything to anybody! Darren Woodson could talk both sides of the floor. 

The last thing you want in a locker room is a bunch of gossiping going on, one side accusing the other side of losing the game or games "for us." But when the players mingle, less of that takes place, thus the little sign Bill Parcells hung around the locker room warning about the downside of hanging around in little groups "and bitching." 

And as McCord pointed out, part of Phillips' reasoning for doing this is putting players who must face each other in practice on a daily basis next to each other, thinking that might cut down the potential animosity competition tends to generate. They will almost be forced to talk to each other - to better get to know each other. 

Now it sorta used to be this way before Jimmy Johnson arrived, but I do take a lot of liberty with "sorta." See, when the Cowboys first moved into The Ranch just before the start of the 1985 season, the locker room actually was segregated into quadrants - four separate groups of lockers, each cluster opening to the middle and walling off the outside world. Meaning, the guys in say quadrant No. 1 would have absolutely no contact with the guys in quadrant No. 4. There was an aisle down the middle and two quadrants on each side, with a separate opening to enter each. Players were sprinkled throughout. 

So as reporters, we would spend the locker room hour constantly walking around, checking in each quadrant to see if the guy you were looking for was there. You couldn't tell unless you walked in, although, you always knew Ed "Too Tall" Jones was present in his quadrant since he always spent the noon hour sleeping, and I'm telling you, a guy that big, you didn't want to disrupt, by any means. You waited until he woke up, which usually was right when it was time for us to leave or when John Dutton and his booming voice arrived. 

The best quadrant, well it was the one in the northwest corner. In there was Tony Dorsett, Everson Walls, I believe Michael Downs and Dexter Clinkscale, along with Ron Springs, and for some reason, Steve DeOssie, another noontime napper. As Springs recently recalled, that particular quadrant was affectionately called "The Ghetto," and somehow they put up with the Irish-Italian guy. 

Well, that quad system prevailed the first year of Johnson's five-year reign, but just as training camp moved from Thousand Oaks, Calif., to Austin, Texas, the second year, the locker room configuration changed as soon as that 1-15 season ended. Johnson opened up the locker room - one big room, offense to one side defense to the other. Plus, in Jimmy's mind, if he needed to talk to the guys all at once, he now could. Or if he needed to make some sort of silent statement, like walking in there to stare at someone or some reporter or just look like he was peeved, everyone could see him at once. Jimmy was just as big at sending those subtle messages as Parcells was. 

He loved to work the big room. 

And the big room never changed, no matter if the head coach became Barry Switzer, Chan Gailey, Dave Campo or Parcells. Just the same. 

Until now, now that the big room is a mixed bag, guys scattered here and there, instead of all the offensive linemen lined up together on the south side and the wide receivers clustered to the east and the defensive backs in that northwest corner and the defensive linemen in the northeast corner. And that, especially after La'Roi Glover departed, was the toughest corner, because the guys not being interviewed always made it tough on the guys who were. Some reporters just didn't bother going in there. 

From my understanding, the players are fine with the change, and were told about the impending moves by Phillips in a team meeting. So it's not as if the reshuffling of the 70 locker stalls came as a surprise. (Some guys are doubled-up with 86 now on the roster.) This has been as is for about a month now, and really the gang won't be all here until returning from training camp to resume workouts around Aug. 11 or 12. 

Hey, guys will be guys. They'll adapt. The hardest part might be on the

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