Dallas Cowboys Media Coverage – A Look Back At Thousand Oaks
Today we celebrate the 25 anniversary of my first Cowboys training camp by noting some of the differences between monitoring the Cowboys circa 1986 and today.
They are, for the most part, substantial.
1. Training camp used to take longer. Like forever.
In 1986, rookies started practicing in Thousand Oaks, Calif., July 6. Veterans came a few days later. They stayed – except for preseason games including a trip to London – until breaking camp on Aug. 21.
That was almost seven full weeks of practice away from home. Compare that with less than two weeks of work players are putting in here in San Antonio. Very strange.
2. I hate to get too much into Old Man Syndrome but the practices 25 years ago were much demanding and far more physical. The Cowboys tended to work 90 minutes to two hours in the morning, longer than that in the afternoon. New legislation prevents teams from more than four hours work a day now.
Players did a lot more running often including sprints at the end of workouts back then. However, it’s pretty obvious that players maintain better physical condition year round today. In 1975, when I had a summer job at a sporting goods store at Northpark Mall, Drew Pearson worked there, too.
Clearly that doesn’t happen anymore. Today when the guy wearing Pearson’s old number goes to Northpark, well, let’s just forget that one …
3. We stayed in dorms at Cal Lutheran as opposed to hotels today. That was true for the media and it was true for the players.
Or as Pat Riley, a visitor to practice one day while he was running a summer camp at the school, put it in a question to team president Tex Schramm: “The players stay in dorms? You stay in the dorm?” Pause.
“Coach Landry stays in the dorm?”
Yes to all three.
4. The evolution of the daily interview with the head coach has not been something that favors newspapers. Landry talked to the print media separate from the electronic media most of the time. That basically ended when Jimmy Johnson arrived and conducted his post-practice interview sessions on the field while standing on a crate.
Jason Garrett, like all of his predecessors going back to Chan Gailey, speaks from a lectern. Every answer is carried on local radio … whether it needs to be or not.
5. In 1986, David Moore was a youthful cub reporter covering this team. Today … Moore’s still delivering prose on the Cowboys but somehow he doesn’t look to have aged 25 years.
Maybe 15 on a bad day … but that’s about it.
6. In 1986, the Cowboys’ owner was never seen at training camp. Ever.
Yeah, that has changed.
7. One of the positives has been the death (or near death) of the training camp holdout. In the ’80s, it was common for the top rookies to miss the start of camp. Veterans squabbling over contract terms, anyone from Randy White to Dexter Clinkscale, were commonplace.
In 1986, in addition to talking to Leigh Steinberg on just about a daily basis (he represented first-round pick Mike Sherrard), I also did plenty of phone time with the agent for running back Darryl Clack, the Cowboys’ second-round pick.
Clack was unable to forge much of an NFL career. But his agent has done rather well. Bruce Allen is now the Redskins’ general manager.
As is usually the case these days, the Cowboys have no holdouts.
8. The ’86 Cowboys had Danny White. Today’s Cowboys have Tony Romo.
Some people think these are two drastically different players. Others think they are the same guy.
I would lean towards the “drastically different” if I have to choose one or the other. But given the lack of Super Bowl rings earned as starting quarterbacks (White got one as a punter), I understand the “same guy” sentiment.
9. As senior VP of public relations for the NFL, Greg Aiello zealously defends the league against being wronged (perceived or otherwise) by the national media. In 1986, as Cowboys PR man, Aiello mostly tried to keep those of us in the Dallas media from misinterpreting things that Tex Schramm would say.
10. The cafeteria lunchroom is a thing of the past. That’s both good and bad but mostly bad.
In 1986, players, coaches and media all ate at the Cal Lutheran cafeteria. Now mostly this looked like a junior high school dance with the players on one side and the much smaller press corps seated on the other. But there was definitely interaction, and some players liked to get interviews out of the way while they were eating.
When Herschel Walker signed his five-year, $5 million contract – ground-breaking at the time – I sat across from Tony Dorsett at lunch an hour or two later, and the Hall of Fame running back told me, “If these figures are correct, Tony Dorsett is unhappy.”
If a similar situation transpired today, reporters would probably get player reaction via text messages. Give me the face-to-face interaction of the cafeteria, give me the look in Dorsett’s eyes as I have him Walker’s contract numbers … and the food wasn’t that bad, either.