Among the most encouraging things around Valley Ranch this offseason, along with the freakish catches made by rookie receiver Dez Bryant, is the presence thus far of franchise legends at the practice facility during Summer practices.
Earlier in the month, Michael Irvin made an appearance at rookie mini-camp and took time to talk shop and history with Bryant, the heir to the oh-so-storied no. 88 jersey. Irvin also addressed the team as a whole, pushing a message of opportunity in an effort to prepare the rookies for the road ahead.
On Monday, the team, rookies and all, got a visit from another Dallas legend, quarterback Roger Staubach. Staubach was asked by head coach Wade Phillips to address the team, and he obliged. Much like Irvin, he cited the franchise's and his own personal history in his speech to the current squad, with particular emphasis on the 1971 season, which ended in the franchise's first Super Bowl victory.
"I just talked about having the right people in the right places pulling together," Staubach said. "That's the big difference, it's pulling together. Then, miracles happen.
"In '71, I think that's what happened to us. We were 4-3 and complaining, yelling at each other, unnamed players saying it's this fault, that fault. We had a team meeting and decided we were going to put everything aside that's personal stuff and start fighting for the team. We won 10 in a row. So good things happen when you pull together."
One gets the feeling that hearkening back to the team's glorious past is a designed motivational device for head coach Wade Phillips. Phillips saw two ultra-talented teams underachieve woefully in 2007 and 2008, and now, hopes to bring the 2010 edition--which may be as talented, if not more so, than the aforementioned two--together in the great tradition of Cowboys football. The results, obviously, are not guaranteed, and Phillips knows that living up to the past is a tall order for any team.
Still, the coach knows that the history available to these players is as much an opportunity as it is a challenge.
"There's a lot of pressure on us all the time to live up to those kind of people," Phillips said. "But I think that's good. ...I think we have a lot of first-class guys. I don't know if we'll be the '71 team, but I do feel good going forward with this team."