One of the most obvious problems the Cowboys have had in big games in recent years is that no one, including White, has been able to fill the leadership vacuum which was created when Staubach retired in March 1980. Landry frets that the ease with which the Cowboys have made it to the playoffs each year has made it possible to get by without a leader. "Most of our players don't know what it's like to lose," he says. "They've never had to face adversity. Winning becomes a habit. You assume you're going to be in the playoffs every year. It won't be long before you're not doing the things you need to do to get to the Super Bowl." And there lies the rub, for as Schramm says, "With the Cowboys, the Super Bowl is the only acceptable goal."
White believes that what Dallas needs to return to the Super Bowl is not a new quarterback, or even greater leadership. He is an advocate of strict discipline, particularly in light of rumors that several Dallas players were out late the night before the NFC championship game last January. White feels the incident, if true, may have been symptomatic of a greater laxity. "Something like that would have been reason enough to lose," he says. When White heard that Landry was thinking of increasing discipline during training camp this season, he encouraged the coach to get tough. Landry was only too happy to oblige.
From the first day of training camp, Landry was sending out more signals than a semaphore with a twitch, and the message underlying each was the same: "This is not a routine camp." Curfews and bed checks were rigidly enforced for the first time in years, and players were fined for everything from putting their helmets down on the practice field to being late to meetings. Two weeks ago, 12 players who chose to skip lunch neglected to sign in at the team cafeteria as required. They were fined $100 each. Landry later complained that because of the new Players Association agreement with the league, fining wasn't as much "fun" as it was when he could nail a player for $1,000 for each indiscretion. "Every time they stepped out of bounds," says Landry, "they got hit."
On the second day of training camp, Landry put the team through punishing "grass drills," a form of torture he had not employed since the 1978 season, which, perhaps not entirely coincidentally, was the year the Cowboys last went to the Super Bowl. He made the players perform the drills in only one practice, but the threat lingered for the remainder of the camp. "It got their attention," says one Cowboyologist.
The grass drills probably hit 11-year veteran Harvey Martin harder than any of the other Cowboys because Martin had reported to camp out of shape and with his blood pressure above normal, probably a result of months of hearing his name linked to various Dallas cocaine investigations. Last August his name first surfaced in connection with a hairdresser named Danny Stone, who was indicted for conspiracy to distribute cocaine. When Stone was arrested nine pictures of Stone and Martin were found in Stone's house, though Martin insisted that he merely got his hair cut at the shop where Stone worked. Landry, who is bald, later said that he got his hair cut at the same place, along with Schramm and Director of Personnel Gil Brandt.
In May, Martin was sent to "evaluate" a drug rehabilitation center in Minneapolis. He and Receiver Tony Hill were subpoenaed to testify for the defense in the trial of a retired Brazilian soccer player named Lauriberto Ignacio, but neither was ever forced to appear, and Ignacio eventually was convicted of drug smuggling and is awaiting sentence. Martin was also one of five Cowboys publicly linked to further Federal investigations of the Brazilian cocaine-smuggling ring; the existence of the investigation was confirmed by Schramm as the team opened camp. The other players named were Hill, running backs Tony Dorsett and Ron Springs and Defensive Tackle Larry Bethea.
Discussions of drugs in the Cowboys' camp usually went under the euphemistic heading of "distractions," and the players treated the whole subject as one big distraction. "You get tired of dealing with it," says Pearson. "We don't talk about it much as a team. It's kind of a touchy situation, so you stay away from it as much as possible." When he arrived in Thousand Oaks Dorsett held a press conference to deal with all the questions at once, then said he didn't want to talk about it anymore. But last week, when the Cowboys returned to Dallas for the remainder of the preseason, Dorsett did touch briefly on how the allegations had affected him. "It hasn't been a distraction to me," he said. "I don't understand the total picture, but my understanding was that it was very trite what they were looking for. The whole thing would never have been more than a city [local] case if it hadn't been the Dallas Cowboys. I guess you're supposed to screen everybody you come in contact with to protect your image. When you're America's Team, you gotta stay clean."
The drug involvement, if you can call it that, has hit the Cowboys right where they live—in the image. With all the Brazilians floating around the edges of the picture, the Cowboys are now being referred to by delighted cynics as South America's Team. "You certainly can't say this type of thing is a positive for us in terms of our image," says Schramm, "and we're very, very conscious of our image. But it's also been a very unfair thing because the impression around the country is that there's been some kind of investigation involving our players, and there has been no investigation of our players." No one can say at this point whether any of them will ever be charged with anything. And if they aren't, there is no assurance that that will ever be announced, either. "How do you get anybody to say it's over when nobody's ever said it's started?" says Schramm. "That's the terrible thing."
One remarkable thing about it is that the Cowboys now have their very own ex-FBI agent on the payroll. Larry Wansley, the Cowboys' new director of counseling services (they couldn't very well call him the team narc), is a former undercover cop who is supposed to keep America's Team off America's front pages by ferreting out trouble before it happens. His duties this season will include keeping "undesirables" away from the players' rooms when the Cowboys are traveling on the road. Presumably this means that if any Brazilian soccer-playing hairdressers carrying cameras and tiny spoons show up in the vicinity, Wansley will get suspicious.
Wansley says he has been well received by the players, but not all of them are happy with the idea that Big Brother Larry is watching. "There's a tendency to feel like I'm a grown man, and I don't need that," says Dorsett. "I don't think that's what we need to bring unity to this team. If we can't do it without a security man, we're in trouble."