Parcells' first Cowboys camp 'seems like prison'Posted: Saturday August 02, 2003 3:22 PM
Updated: Saturday August 02, 2003 3:42 PM
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- The first bus leaves the Dallas Cowboys' hotel at 5:55 a.m. The last one gets back after 9:30 p.m. Curfew is at 11.
On most days, daylight hours are spent inside the Alamodome. Everything is there: meetings, weightlifting, meals and, of course, practices -- two a day, every day, for eight straight days.
As the first break in the schedule approached, a day off Sunday, more players began spending time on beds and sofas set aside for siestas. But no one dared let fatigue show on the field, and forget about seeking refuge in the training room.
Welcome to Camp Parcells, a four-week run that running back Troy Hambrick says "seems like prison." Yet it's welcomed by veterans excited that Bill Parcells is up to his old tricks as he begins rebuilding this fallen franchise.
"This is pretty much the way football should be: No favoritism, no guys having days off, everybody responsible for what they need to be doing every day," quarterback Quincy Carter said. "He's a proven winner, so we believe in everything he's doing around here."
It's worked. Parcells' teams have made the playoffs in eight of his 15 seasons. He won two Super Bowls with the Giants, reached another with the Patriots and got within a game with the Jets.
The Cowboys have an illustrious history. But since winning a fifth Super Bowl in 1995, Dallas has won one playoff game -- in 1996. The last three seasons have all been 5-11.
There hasn't been a strict coach since Jimmy Johnson left although Barry Switzer, Chan Gailey and Dave Campo tried being tough. They didn't fool the players, though.
That all changed when Parcells arrived.
"You can tell when somebody's putting a lot of lettuce and tomatoes on your sandwich. You don't want that. You just want the meat," receiver Antonio Bryant said. "Coach Parcells is a meat guy. He gives us straight meat."
The best example is the daily injury report.
In three seasons under Campo, the list was loaded with muscle pulls and other aches and pains. Through Parcells' first 12 practices, only three made the list, all for legitimate reasons.
Players might be staying healthy because they came to camp in great shape.
Parcells set a weight limit for each player before he got to camp.
Before the first practice, there was a weigh-in and three 100-yard shuttle runs. It was the stiffest conditioning test since Johnson sent anyone he deemed out of shape to the "asthma field" to run unlimited laps.
"These are the rules. You follow them or you pay the consequences," defensive tackle La'Roi Glover said.
A typical day begins with breakfast and meetings, then practice. Afterward, linemen, linebackers and tight ends go from the field to the weight room, while "small" players get have lunch and the first break.
When the afternoon practice ends, quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, defensive backs and kickers lift weights. Many of the big guys get their break then.
Dinner and more meetings follow. By the time they get back to the hotel, players hardly have the time or energy for nightlife. With less than 90 minutes for fun, it's not worth the risk of missing bedcheck.
"Nobody wants to get on coach Parcells' bad side," Hambrick said.
Practices are intense and instructive. Players are learning new drills and what to do in certain scenarios. It's as much about making them football savvy as how to handle the specific case.
One fixture is a crossfield jog led by 335-pound Larry Allen. Parcells joked that he's trying to prepare Allen for a relay race; he also said he's calling the seven-time All-Pro offensive lineman "Secretariat" -- he loves nicknaming players.
Parcells demands hustle from drill to drill, so everyone should know by now.
A few linemen who forgot got a stern reminder.
"I bet you guys would move a little faster if we had some butterscotch sundaes over there," Parcells bellowed.
That kind of quip is about the only on-field entertainment this year. Gone is the circus atmosphere from last season, from music during workouts to a mascot roaming the stands, leading cheers and even the wave.
Sponsors, friends and other hangers-on no longer surround the field, either, an indication that Parcells' rules have superseded owner Jerry Jones'.
The rookies are the ones without stars on their helmets. They haven't earned them yet. And the starless player bringing Parcells water is top draft pick Terence Newman.
Every player has his name on tape across the front of his helmet, a not-so-subtle way of reminding them they're all being treated the same.
The names might also help the nine new assistant coaches -- all nine of them, plus an impressive cast of "Tuna Helpers."
Former NFL coaches Tom Coughlin and Chuck Fairbanks are volunteer assistants, and former Packers GM Ron Wolf is helping with evaluations. Dave Meggett, a star back for Parcells with the Giants and Patriots, is here on a coaching fellowship.
At the end of the first practice, Parcells asked Meggett to tell Hambrick what to expect from camp.
"If I tell them that," Meggett replied, "they might leave."