Print and Go Back ESPN.com: BlogsColumns [Print without images]

Friday, July 23, 2010
Updated: July 25, 6:48 PM ET
Cowboys not steering clear of Super talk

By Calvin Watkins
ESPNDallas.com

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- At some point Saturday afternoon, whether it's at the Alamodome or the team's downtown hotel, Wade Phillips will deliver his message to the Dallas Cowboys.

He will talk about procedural things on the first day of training camp, like what time practices and meetings start, where to go for treatment and what time the buses leave from the dome each day.

But after those administrative things, Phillips will talk about the big message: the Super Bowl.

It's a message the Cowboys are embracing.

"I think it's great for your football team," Phillips said during a nearly hourlong news conference Friday afternoon. "It puts their focus right now on what is expected. It's like being in school. You know what's expected and when you come home with that report card, it better be what your parents expected. It's the same thing here. There's pressure to do well, [and] anytime you have pressure to do well I think you do better."

Wade Phillips
"Our team is confident, but I think we're realistic," coach Wade Phillips said on the day before the Cowboys' first training camp practice.

The Cowboys think they're better than last year.

Jerry Jones, the owner/general manager, didn't go Daniel Snyder on us in an uncapped year and spend like crazy to upgrade the left tackle, safety and kicker positions.

Instead, Jones committed to Doug Free, who started seven games at right tackle last year for an injured Marc Colombo. Jones released 12-year veteran Flozell Adams, who still is looking for a gig, and the team will move Free into the left tackle spot.

If Free struggles, and the Cowboys hope that he won't, Alex Barron, who started 74 of 76 career games in St. Louis, is the backup.

At safety, Ken Hamlin wasn't a playmaker for the Cowboys following the 2007 season. He struggled the last two years in Dallas. Phillips wanted a playmaker at safety because that's what his defense calls for. With that, Alan Ball, a man who has three starts in a three-year career covering 28 games, becomes the starter.

The Cowboys like Ball's cover skills. He was drafted as a corner out of Illinois and moved to safety because of his athletic ability.

Kicker can be tricky.

Nick Folk was released toward the end of the 2009 season for missing an NFL-high 10 field goals. Shaun Suisham was brought in, and two misses in the playoff loss to Minnesota sent him home.

Jones didn't seek veterans John Carney or Matt Stover, who rank Nos. 3 and 4 on the all-time points list, to become the new kicker.

He's sticking with somebody on his roster: David Buehler, who as a rookie led the NFL in touchbacks last season.

Phillips said he will give Buehler every chance possible to maintain the job in the five preseason games. If he fails, Phillips said a veteran will be looked at.

As for other concerns, there are few.

Dez Bryant will start his rookie season on time because he came to terms on his five-year contract before training camp, becoming this year's first first-round pick to agree to a deal.

The Cowboys want Bryant to start quickly to compete with Roy Williams for the starting wide receiver spot. Williams is still the starter and is coming in with a renewed focus.

Phillips said his quarterback, Tony Romo, is elite and is only getting better as he hits 30 years of age.

The defense is as strong as ever.

DeMarcus Ware, one of the best pass-rushers in the game, and Anthony Spencer bring a dominating duo of outside pass-rushers.

Even the speculation surrounding end Marcus Spears was quieted by Jones. The Dolphins lost defensive end Phillip Merling for the season with an Achilles injury, and with team vice president Bill Parcells having drafted Spears when he was the coach in Dallas, there was speculation that a trade was in the works.

Jones said that's not happening.

The cornerbacks, Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman, are coming off Pro Bowl appearances.

"There are not a whole lot things not to like about the upcoming season," Jones said. "Very few things. But we all know the game, the journey we got ahead of us."

Jones remembered what happened in 2008.

The Cowboys came into that year fresh off a 13-3 regular season that was followed by a stunning divisional-round playoff loss to the New York Giants. Jones thought the Cowboys would finish the job in 2008 by making a deep playoff run.

Phillips joked that Jones thinks his team can get to the Super Bowl every year, even if Quincy Carter is the quarterback.

But 2008 was no joke. The team finished 9-7 and missed the postseason. It was the start of a flurry of moves that you know about by now.

Jones said he learned from that experience not to take anything for granted.

And while the Cowboys -- along with a few other NFC contenders such as the Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers -- have Super Bowl aspirations, nothing is guaranteed.

"Our team is confident, but I think we're realistic," Phillips said. "You can talk a lot right now and say you're going to do all these things, but what we're going to do is practice and try to get better every day and point toward this season."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.