Our 13 day stay in Oxnard/Ventura, California is coming to a close today, as we head for DFW, and the Cowboys take the train to San Diego. Tomorrow night is the pre-season opener, but much like the lack of intrigue during Hard Knocks, the preseason opener for a team that has almost no jobs up in the air is not going to be considered anything more than a check-mark on the “To Do” list.
I won’t lie, it will be fun to see a few things – like can Danny Amendola take NFL hits across the middle, and is Felix Jones as fast as he looks in practice – but even Felix will likely not spend much time on the field in San Diego.
Chances are pretty good that you see a lot of Richard Bartell handing off to Tashard Choice and throwing to Mike Jefferson.
Oh well, the season is coming. And we are 30 days from the real thing.
Take the last train to San Diego …
With just a short walk-through scheduled for Friday morning, the Cowboys on Thursday held their last full practice in preparation for Saturday's preseason opener.
Pack your bags and get out your ticket - the train to San Diego and, after that, the 2008 season, pulls out of Oxnard at 2 p.m. (PDT). Thursday the team released the season's first unofficial depth chart and held its only Chargers-intensive practice. Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said earlier this week the team would begin looking at plays run by their early-season opponents, including for the regular-season kickoff against Cleveland. He said Thursday they were going to study the Chargers.
While running back LaDanian Tomlinson won't be testing the Cowboys' defense, even for a series, Friday's game should be worth watching. There's a battle for the No. 3 receiver to be won, and a chance to see how defensive linemen Marcus Spears and Jay Ratliff will shuffle. We get to see the rookies in live action, and test a new, old vet, linebacker Zach Thomas.
"Today's practice is more of a rehearsal practice for the ballgame," Phillips said prior to the workout. "The plays we want to run in the ballgame, the defenses we want to run, we'll go over those things."
Phillips ruled out cornerbacks Terence Newman (groin) and Quincy Butler (hamstring), and rookie defensive lineman Marcus Dixon (back). Everyone else, he said, would play. The starters should get at least a series or two of work.
"We've got a set amount of time we want to play them, a number of plays," Phillips said. "We're putting together a team, but we want to see how each individual plays and they're looking forward to showing how they can play.
"In some cases they're trying to make the team, some cases it's trying to be better and some cases it's a really good player trying to improve more."
Beginning Friday, the premiere episode of HBO and NFL Films' "Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Dallas Cowboys" will be available free in its entirety at HBO.com/hardknocks. The hour-long episode will be viewable online for only one week.
Only episode one will be available on the Internet. Fans can also participate in interactive features on the site, including "Ask a Cowboy."
Pac Man gets to play football again ….
The preseason opener is an exciting time for most teams.
Players are tired of hitting each other and ready to unload on an opponent. Coaches are eager to see some young stars of training camp translate what they have done in practice to the game.
However, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam Jones is anticipating Saturday’s preseason opener against San Diego more than most.
After serving a year-long suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, it will be his first game action of any kind since December 2006.
"I am very excited," Jones said. "I have been waiting on this a whole year. I am anxious to get back to work."
Jones hopes to make it a spectacular return by taking an interception back for a touchdown.
"Hopefully I can get one," Jones said. "We will see."
Coach Wade Phillips said the starters will play no more than a quarter as the team takes a longer look at some of the young players.
One player who has caught everyone’s attention in camp in rookie free-agent receiver Danny Amendola. Phillips is eager to see the former Texas Tech star perform in a game.
Cowboys 1st rounder Mike Jenkins Highlight Film from South Florida
The New York Times takes a look at life after Brett in Green Bay …
On Brett Favre’s first full day as a Jet, Steve Falteisek — one of the seemingly thousands of Green Bay Packers fans who own No. 4 jerseys — drove more than three hours from his home in Hudson, Wis., to Lambeau Field. Falteisek, on vacation from his job as an engineer, came in search of autographs Thursday with his 14-year-old son, Harrison, and one of Harrison’s friends.
When they arrived, Falteisek took off his Favre jersey and slipped on a green Aaron Rodgers No. 12, hoping to catch the new starting quarterback’s attention. But that hardly meant Falteisek supported the Packers’ decision to trade Favre.
The dispute between the Packers and Favre, the iconic quarterback who rescinded his retirement decision but refused to play for the team, bitterly divided passionate Packers fans. Some, like Falteisek, consider Favre an untarnishable Packers icon.
“It’s a Greek tragedy, like Icarus flying too close to the sun,” said Falteisek. “Aaron’s got talent, but you don’t trade a future Hall of Famer for a No. 2 or a No. 4 draft pick.”
Only a small number of Packers fans turned out at Lambeau on Thursday, when the players lifted weights and watched film but did not practice. There were no sign-waving protestors waiting for Packers General Manager Ted Thompson when he left the complex via the loading dock at about 2:30 p.m., driving a blue Cadillac Escalade and wearing a baseball cap.
Thompson will forever be known here as the Man Who Traded Favre, a notion that left him nervously fingering a microphone cord as he sat with the team president, Mark Murphy, and Coach Mike McCarthy at a noon news conference Thursday.
“I don’t think anybody would be comfortable with that,” Thompson said. “Hopefully, we can do things going forward where people will not remember that.”
That will not be easy. Reminders of Favre are everywhere. A fan whose backyard borders Lombardi Avenue across from the stadium has this painted in green and gold on his fence: “Hawk Eyes His Prey, Victory Not Favre Away.” (The “Hawk” is linebacker A. J. Hawk.) A nearby flower shop offered similar wordplay on its marquee: “Planting Season Favre From Over.”
The Brett Favre Steakhouse, on Brett Favre Pass, is three blocks from Lambeau, and advertises on a revolving billboard across the street from the stadium. The restaurant’s gift shop, selling everything from autographed photos to Brett Favre-label wine ($26) to those ubiquitous cheeseheads ($18), has seen no drop-off in business during the controversy, according to Carrie O’Connor, a restaurant manager who lives in Green Bay.
“We’ve been here 10 years, and it’s been our best year,” she said. “The gift shop is still going very well. Autographed items are still selling great, and our online orders are still coming. We’ll see what happens, I guess.”
Many Packers fans remain angry. A web site, SaveBrett.net, collected more than 20,000 names in an online petition demanding the Packers restore Favre to the starter’s role. It featured this message from its founder, Tony Mars: “We may not have succeeded at bringing Brett back to Green Bay as we had hoped but at least, if he had to leave, he leaves knowing that the Packers management does not represent the vast majority of fan opinion — the true soul of the Green Bay Packers.”
One fan at practice Wednesday told The Green Bay Press-Gazette that he planned to sell his season tickets, which might be good news to the approximately 78,000 people on the Packers’ season-ticket waiting list. Another fan held a sign that read, “In The Name of Vince, Fire Ted,” a reference to the late Vince Lombardi.
The Packers players, after learning from Coach Mike McCarthy in a team meeting Tuesday night that Favre was being traded, appeared relieved and at peace with the decision. McCarthy thought the meeting, rather than the trade itself, brought closure to an uncomfortable situation, at least in his locker room.
Wednesday morning’s practice at Clarke Hinkle Field ran so crisply it ended 23 minutes early. Wednesday night, Rodgers has his best practice session of training camp, hooking up three times with receiver James Jones for hefty gains. Two young women even taped a “We (Heart) Aaron #12” sign to the chain-link fence near the players’ entrance to the field, a rare display of public affection for Favre’s successor.
Rodgers makes his first start Monday night here against Cincinnati.
The Rangers run in place during homestand …
After 11 days of sweating in sweltering Arlington, the Texas Rangers ended the longest homestand of the season where they started it: 6 ½ games behind in the wild-card race.
The Yankees, led by masterful Mike Mussina, beat the Rangers, 3-0, to split the four-game series in front of 44,603, the second-largest home crowd of the season. It's the second time this season the Rangers were shut out but the first time at home since Aug. 11, 2007, against Tampa Bay.
The club had gone 80 home games without being shut out until Thursday.
By essentially jogging in place, the Rangers didn't run themselves out of the race.
But they didn't generate much momentum, either, as they head off for a six-game road trip against the Orioles and Red Sox, who lead the wild-card standings.
Coach Fran – still beloved in Alabama …
The source said the deal was done but the contract hadn't been signed. So there's still a chance Dennis Franchione won't make his ESPN Radio debut as a color analyst at the Alabama-Clemson game.
Knowing Franchione, he may be holding out for a better offer from Westwood One.
So far, there's no truth to the rumor that Franchione has made two demands during negotiations.
One, that Mike McKenzie write his scripts.
Two, that ESPN launch a Web site called ColorManF ran.com, with premium subscriptions for insiders priced at only $1,200 a year.
Of course, not that long ago, there was no truth to the rumor that Franchione was leaving Alabama for Texas A&M, so stay tuned.
It's understandable why Franchione might sign on with ESPN. He can only count his buyout money from A&M for so long, and television has become a halfway house for former coaches who think they can still coach.
But why would ESPN want Franchione?
Is there anyone more ill-suited to a career in radio - even as a temp while he rehabilitates his image - than a man with a voice for newspapers?
Franchione's tone isn't exactly melodious, unless you've spent an afternoon listening to Lou Holtz, who's spent a lifetime doing Daffy Duck. With his flat Midwestern accent and nasal whine, Franchione sounds like Ferris Bueller's teacher on helium.
And is there anyone more ill-fitting in the booth for an Alabama game than the former Alabama coach with hands of Vaseline?
You remember. The guy was too slippery to hold the rope.
How many Coach Fran bobbleheads died to pay for his sins? It was bad enough that, after two years, he left Alabama for Texas A&M. It was worse that he left behind the Alabama players he convinced to stay despite the NCAA probation they inherited.
Worst of all, he left without telling the players goodbye.
There has to be more to this unholy alliance than the local suspicion that, if it's appalling to Alabama, it's appealing to ESPN. Then again, the ESPN family does seem to have a permanent place on the roster reserved for a former Alabama coach that Alabama fans love to hate.
Exit Bill Curry. Enter Dennis Franchione.
Shan Foster – off to Europe ….wow. another great sign in a Mavericks summer of thud…
Dallas Mavericks' fans will have to wait a while to see 2008 second-round draft pick Shan Foster knocking down 3-pointers at American Airlines Center.
Foster, a 6-6 guard from Vanderbilt, has signed a one-year contract with a team in Europe and will play overseas next season, Mavericks president Donnie Nelson said Thursday in an e-mail.
Nelson, who is in China serving as an assistant coach for China's men's Olympic basketball team, didn't specify the team Foster signed with. The Mavericks still retain Foster's NBA rights.
"This gives him valuable playing experience in one of the top leagues in Europe," Nelson said. "He performed well in summer league but ... this gives him a chance to improve. His future is very bright, and we're excited about him rejoining us next summer. This also gives the Mavs roster flexibility, which may prove valuable in the current free-agent market."
Foster and his agent, Bill Duffy, of BDA Sports Management, couldn't be reached for comment.
"We think it's great for Shan if he does," Mavs owner Mark Cuban said via email, "and I think the more NBA-quality players there are in Europe, the better it is for the entire league."
Foster, who will turn 22 this month, averaged 7.5 points in 11 games for the Mavericks' NBA summer league team. He was only 2-for-11 from 3-point range over his final six games.
If this doesn’t give you chills….Sunday morning vs China (in China)