Permissiveness is out; Big Brother is in. "We've used up all our benefit-of-the-doubt collateral," says Jones in justifying his new, tough-love attitude. (No word on how much collateral remains in the account of coach Barn Switzer, who was arrested on Monday after a loaded revolver was discovered in his carry-on luggage at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. Switzer was detained for almost two hours, then released on his own recognizance.) To make sure his employees walk the straight and narrow, Jones put the word out that the Cowboy's Sports Cafe, a restaurant and bar down the street from the team's Valley Ranch headquarters outside Dallas, was off-limits. How firm was this decree? Ask Kendell Watkins. Not long after the backup tight end was spotted patronizing the forbidden watering hole, he was released on July 14.
To better enforce curfew at training camp, and to monitor the comings and goings of the players and their guests, Jones took the Orwellian measure of installing video cameras in the hallways of the players' dorms. He has strongly discouraged players from frequenting not only the Cowboy's Sports Cafe but also certain other establishments in Austin and Dallas and has retained the services of private detectives to inform him of who doesn't comply.
Despite having their place declared off-limits, the hardworking employees of Exposé, a topless bar within walking distance of St. Edward's, are muddling through. Hanging forlornly on a wall in the club, a favorite haunt of players since Dallas moved its camp from Thousand Oaks, Calif., to Austin in 1990, is a banner that says WELCOME BACK COWBOYS. It had hung outside, on the marquee, until Jones sent his gumshoes to ask that it be taken down.
"It's not that big a deal," Kris, a woman who was working the cash register, said last Friday night. "Most of those guys are lousy tippers anyway. They're used to getting everything for free."
Demetris Theocharus, whose business card identifies him as Exposé's general manager and whose office calendar has the words COWBOYS ARRIVE! printed in the square for July 18, reports that several "high profile" Pokes ducked in for about 40 minutes two weeks ago. While he would not identify the players who came calling, he did confirm that wide receiver Michael Irvin was not among them.
That's a good thing, considering Irvin's recent history with exotic dancers. After blowing off Dallas's off-season minicamps, then floating the possibility that he might retire, Irvin reported with his teammates on July 18. His presence in camp goes a long way toward explaining why Aikman, miserable most of last season, has been in such excellent spirits of late. It's not just because his go-to guy is back. Irvin has been flinging himself into drills with unparalleled gusto, challenging his teammates to match his work ethic. "Michael is the reason our practices have been so crisp," says Aikman. "He has that impact."
"Usually by this point in camp, Troy has punted a ball into the bleachers in frustration," says Cowboys radio analyst Babe Laufenberg, Aikman's friend and former backup. "He hasn't exhibited the leg. He's smiling like a kid at a fantasy camp."
Aikman and Irvin spent the week essentially playing catch over the heads of Oakland's defensive backs. The Dallas offense, which scored just 27 touchdowns last season, down from 51 the previous year, appears to be off the respirator. Even with Emmitt Smith watching from the sideline, Aikman (8 of 10 for 104 yards and two touchdowns) moved his team with comic ease on its first two possessions, then took the rest of the night off. The two touchdowns were one more than the offense could muster under Aikman in five exhibition games (17 series) last summer.
Unlike last August, the line is healthy and in sync—for the most part. Responding to a spate of mental lapses at a July 28 practice, Switzer lit into his offense, cursing a blue streak while thrice shoving 6'6", 328-pound right tackle Erik Williams, then bruising his hand while slapping 6'7", 331-pound lineman George Hegamin on the helmet.
Switzer's uncharacteristic outburst, the talk of camp early in the week, was soon overshadowed by the play of rookie outside linebacker Dexter Coakley, a bashful, sculpted third-round pick out of Division I-AA Appalachian State who runs 4.47 in the 40 and has already won a starting job. Coakley was the star of last Thursday night's controlled scrimmage against the Raiders, making four unassisted tackles, deflecting a pass and generally flying from sideline to sideline.