The road to the Super Bowl starts this week for the Cowboys. The team is in Oxnard, California and will hit the field for start of training camp on Monday. Dallas is coming off an impressive 13-3 season but fell just short of a shot at the Lombardi Trophy, losing to the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs.
2017 brings about a fresh start. It also brings about some uncertainty with all the issues off the field the Cowboys have been dealing with recently. Owner Jerry Jones, executive vice president Stephen Jones and head coach Jason Garrett took the stage on Sunday for the opening press conference, understanding what could lie ahead.
“In order to build a championship team, you have to build a great front line but you also have to build a great roster from one to 53,”said Garrett. “We’ve got 90 guys on our team competing for 53 spots. Part of this game is about handling adversity and a big part of adversity in this league is someone being taken off the field and how you respond to that.”
When the Cowboys do hit the field on Monday, the roster will look a little bit different, especially on defense. Gone are veterans Brandon Carr, Barry Church and Morris Claiborne. The youth movement is underway in the secondary, which can be a scary thing with the types of quarterbacks the Cowboys will face this season. However, it’s also a chance to shine in the spotlight.
Was this the plan all along or was this a business decision that came down to money on the table?
“It’s not about the money, it’s about the money,” Stephen Jones said in a joking matter. “In all seriousness, it is a tough situation and I do think, sometimes you do with older players, have to make tough calls. Those are tough calls but at the same time you have to make a call - is it time to get a little younger, let some other guys step up. Obviously, this is a great opportunity for someone like [Cowboys safety] Byron Jones to step up and be a leader. This opens up some great opportunities for some guys who were ready to take leadership.”
Another player that will be the center of attention on defense when practice starts up is Jaylon Smith. The linebacker is still working his way back from a devastating knee injury he suffered in his final game at Notre Dame but the Cowboys like him enough to select him in the second-round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
“To me, he’s just like a number one draft pick coming out here to the field for the first time,” said the elder Jones. “We all know his circumstances and what he needs to overcome. It looks really good – all testing, all feeling, really looks as good as I could have hoped at the time. We will see.”
The Cowboys will continue to use caution with Smith. How much he will practice is still up in the air. Smith has stated that he will be on the field when the Cowboys open up the season in Arlington against the New York Giants.
“Jaylon had an outstanding offseason,” said Garrett. “He’s made great strides. He really handled all the work we asked him to handle. He went over every hurdle he needed to go over so he’s in a really good position starting training camp. The biggest thing for us is we are going to take it day-by-day.”
More questions will be answered as training camp gets rolling along. Despite all the offseason issues the Cowboys are facing that could have regular season implications, Jerry Jones remains calm and optimistic.
“I am a lot more comfortable than I thought I would be.”