Cowboys have bigger holes to fill
Dallas made serious run at Asomugha but still has confidence in own corners
SAN ANTONIO -- Let's see whether Day 3 of Dallas Cowboys training camp from the Alamodome can be any wilder than Day 2.
At different spells in the morning walk-through and afternoon practice, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was handed a cellphone by owner and general manager Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones.
The Cowboys were in on the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes hard, and Ryan, who coached the cornerback for five years in Oakland, was hoping to close the deal -- at least that's what everybody's guess was.
It became a play-by-play on Twitter, exploding into some euphoria when the Joneses fist-bumped after hanging up.
Maybe they were just planning a dinner reservation and Ryan knew the maitre d'.
By the time the Cowboys ended practice, Asomugha was a Philadelphia Eagle with a five-year, $60 million contract, including $25 million guaranteed.
Instead of preparing to see Asomugha once in the season opener against the New York Jets, who were considered the favorite to get him, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo gets to see him twice inside the NFC East.
"We had an opportunity," Jerry Jones said on KRLD-FM. "We acted on it, and believe me, we firmly acted on it until my eyes watered."
With the money saved by not signing Asomugha, the Cowboys now can fill more pressing needs, like at safety and along the offensive and defensive lines.
While teams should step to the plate when there is a chance to sign a player like Asomugha, cornerback, truthfully, was more of a want than a need.
As Ryan spoke with the mystery guest on the cellphone, Terence Newman, who likely would have been replaced had Asomugha ended up in a Cowboys uniform, lined up in drills no more than 5 yards away.
It was only-with-the-Cowboys kind of stuff as cameras shifted their attention from the players to Ryan and the Joneses.
Newman chose not to talk after practice, saying he would speak in two days.
"We're going to play with what we got," Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. "So [Asomugha] is going to Philly? They always have good corners. Good for him. He's going to a great team in the NFC East. We'll see him, but our guys here are just as good. Terence Newman's been to the Pro Bowl. Mike Jenkins has been to the Pro Bowl. They're just as good. When we were 11-5, they were good. Same guys. We've got to get back out there and play like that, and with this type of defense, I think it's going to happen."
Newman had one of the best defensive plays of the afternoon practice, busting up an out route from Romo to Dez Bryant. Immediately, secondary coaches Dave Campo and Brett Maxie slapped him on the helmet. Players got excited, too.
"I'm sure everybody hears stuff, but it hasn't affected his play at all," Campo said. "If he has, I don't know, but we're not saying anything about it."
Before Newman suffered a rib injury after an interception in the first quarter against the New York Giants in 2010 -- the same game in which the Cowboys lost Romo for the season -- Newman was having perhaps his best season. He had seven pass breakups in the first six games. He had 23 tackles.
But for most of the rest of the season, Newman had to play with painkilling injections. He could not turn and run as he once did. As a result, he was beat more and could not recover. At times he did not play with proper technique, and it hurt him because he was not the same athletically because of the injury.
"That year's over," Campo said. "We're looking forward to this year."
Campo said Newman, who turns 33 in September, is in better shape than he can remember. He's 2 pounds lighter than last year. He worked out in a Dallas suburb and in Arizona for a spell during the lockout. He was at the player-run practices in May.
Ryan's new 3-4 scheme is more cornerback-friendly. They can mostly pick what kind of alignment they want pre-snap. Ryan is more aggressive with his calls, which most corners like. It's why Asomugha liked playing for him so much in Oakland.
"We're fine with what we got," Campo said. "We've just got to play better than we did last year."
Todd Archer covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.
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