Here are some of the more notable highlights:
Injury update: Some of the actual information given out Tuesday involved injury updates: Phillips said free agent defensive tackle Tim Anderson is not yet back to full health, and said rookie linebacker Stephen Hodge is progressing in his recovery from the strained calf that kept him out of part of the team’s OTAs and the full-team mini-camp a few weeks ago. Phillips said Hodge “will probably miss the first couple of practices.” He also said that starting left guard Kyle Kosier is “ready to move right in” to the lineup.
Reason for optimism? Jerry Jones said he was reminded that the last two times the Cowboys held their training camp in San Antonio, the team had 13 and 10 victories. But he followed that by saying he’s not setting expectations high, lest the team “get off track.” When pressed about whether that means he doesn’t have high expectations, or just isn’t talking about high expectations, he equated the future of the team to the standard of excellence that went into the team’s new stadium in Arlington. “My job is to think positively,” he said. “I think the team will play to the level of the new stadium.” Odd comparison…
Got his man: In his opening remarks before the media asked any questions, Jerry Jones acknowledged that he was well aware of the fact that some members of the media had questioned over the offseason whether Phillips was the right man to coach the Cowboys. Jones insisted that he was “so solid in having Wade Phillips as head coach” and that there was “no wavering (by Jones) on Wade Phillips as head coach.
“I had the opportunity (during the offseason) to really evaluate Wade, what he’s about as a person, what he’s about as a coach. There is nobody I want more sitting next to me as head coach of this football team.
“I’m not going to sit down and share my notes with you about the future of the coaching staff. It’s just unnecessary.”
Long memories: Both Jerry Jones and Phillips acknowledged that the blowout loss to Philadelphia that ended the Cowboys’ season last year remained fresh on everyone’s minds. Phillips was asked about his postseason pledge to “change some things” and said “we have changed a lot of things since last year,” as should be expected after any season in which a team is “knocked down a little bit.” Phillips said “we addressed the things that will help make us a better football team, whether it’s things the players do or I do,” Phillips said, adding that all teams go through postseason evaluation, even after a good year.”
When the subject was brought up again toward the end of the press conference, Phillips seemed to bristle, saying “look, we’ve assessed last year already. Pittsburgh was last year’s champion. This year, somebody else has a chance, or maybe it will be them again.”
Phillips insisted he is not worried about his job.
“I want to maintain that we have a winning football team here,” he said. “We’re not going to get away from winning.”
Jones added that the fact that Dallas hasn’t won a playoff game in more than a dozen years weighs heavily on him.
“It’s so motivating to me, so influential to me, to not have won a playoff game in as long as it has been,” he said.
But he shied away from making specific predictions or revealing just how good he thinks the 2009 Cowboys can be.
“I’ve drawn back a lot of nubs making predictions,” he said. “But I think this team is capable of being a playoff team.”
Romo’s their man: Both Jones and Phillips commended quarterback Tony Romo for his offseason work.
“We have a big plus at quarterback,” Jones said. “Tony’s approach to the offseason, his leadership — I like what we have there.”
“This guy has come a long way,” Phillips said. “It’s harder to be a leader as a free agent than it is as an established quarterback. He’s gotten better every year.”
Hard to tell: Much has been made during the offseason about the Cowboys’ moves that rid the locker room of perceived “bad character” players like Terrell Owens, Pacman Jones and Tank Johnson. But while Jones stood by the decision to replace those players, he said the perception that eccentric, colorful players are bad for team chemistry is sometimes inaccurate.
“I’ve been in locker rooms with varied personalities and characters,” he said. “Those players were OK when we were winning Super Bowls.”
Measuring up: Jones was asked about a comment from the Philadelphia Eagles’ front office this week claiming that the Eagles have the most talented roster in the NFL. He was asked what he thought of that assessment, and where he thinks the Cowboys’ roster stands in the league’s talent pecking order.
“I agree,” he said. “We know how formidable the Eagles are. But when I look at our roster, I see real improvement in the secondary. I see speed. I see more of the kinds of players Wade likes to put on the field. I like our offensive line. I like our talent at the tight end position. I like, on a personal level, the way Roy Williams has competed all spring.”
Areas of concern: Phillips and Jones were asked what questions they would like to see answered before training camp concludes.
Phillips: “We’ve got to establish a strong running game. We’re strong at the running back position, but we were not at the top of the league last year — we were somewhere around No. 20. I want to get us up into the top 10.”
Jones: “Depth on the offensive line.”
Catching on: Jones was asked about the wide receiver position, which contains question marks and unproven youngsters behind Roy Williams.
“I’ve seen Patrick Crayton at several training camps, and I feel good about him. Sam Hurd, when he’s healthy, can be a top receiver for us. And I have a lot of confidence in Miles Austin. The decision to move on without Terrell (Owens) was almost totally made to improve the progress of Roy Williams on the field.
Care to repeat that? Jones was asked about his earlier statement that the Cowboys were not interested in bringing in quarterback Michael Vick, who was reinstated to the league Monday after being jailed for his role in a dog fighting ring.
“I like where we are at quarterback,” Jones said. “I think he’ll play, but I don’t know the details or conditions (of his reinstatement by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell). There’s not much room there — I think it’s a very fine line.”
No 80: Phillips was asked his impressions of wide receiver Jesse Holley, who earned a spot in camp by winning the reality TV show 4th and Long,” with former Dallas receiver Michael Irvin.
“I have not evaluated him a lot,” Phillips said. “What he went through was one of the toughest programs there is to get to the NFL — I respect that. We’ll see what he does.”
Playing to strength: The Cowboys shelled out a free agent contract over the offseason for defensive end Igor Olshansky, and Phillips is well aware of what the former San Diego Charger brings to the team.
“I had a chance to coach him before. He says he’s the strongest player in the league, and I’m not going to doubt him. He’s mobile, and one thing he can do is play the run.”