By Clarence E. Hill Jr.
Oxnard _ The Dallas Cowboys arrived at Point Mugu Naval Air Station to kickoff training camp in Oxnard, Calif. with their usual pomp and circumstance.
The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders strutted off the American Airlines team charter first. Coach Jason Garrett, linebacker DeMarcus Ware, nose tackle Jay Ratliff, receiver Miles Austin, tigh end Jason Witten and quarterback Tony Romo then deplaned to greet the base commander and other military dignitaries before the team conducted an autograph session for roughly 2,000 seamen and their families.
But that's where the party ended.
The focus for here on out for a Cowboys team that has missed the playoffs the past two years and has only won one playoff game since 1996 is work.
"It's all work," said Witten, as he walked off the plane. "We had a good off season and all the work we put into get this point we need to put our team together. The time is now. We got a lot of work to do in the next five weeks that's for sure. Everybody is excited to pick up where we left off in the off season. We are excited about the opportunity."
Said Austin: "We are excited to get going and just eager to get back at it. It’s definitely a special time. It’s the beginning of this for all of us. As a new team and a new group, we are excited for the challenge. We know it will be a challenge, a lot of work.
he Cowboys have roughly five weeks between their first official practice on Monday and the Sept. 5 season opener against the New York Giants, their bitter NFC East rivals and the defending Super Bowl Champion.
The Cowboys' 2011 season unraveled in two bitter losses to the Giants, especially the 30-14 blowout set back in the winner take all battle for the division title and playoffs in the season final.
Memories of that loss has fueled the Cowboys all off season and has spurred most of the talk by owner Jerry Jones that the window may be closing on this team and they need to have a heightened sense of urgency to make a playoff run in 2012.
The Cowboys believe they are an improved team thanks to moves they made in off season via free agency and the draft. But they know they can't talk about it. They must get it done on the field, starting in training camp.
“I think there’s definitely urgency,” Witten said. “I don’t know when the window is open and closed, but there’s unbelievable urgency. We feel like we’re a good team, but we’ve got to execute better. We’ve got to play better in key situations. Just go back to that last game, I think that’s clear. Everybody has an understanding of that. But for us, it can’t be the same old story. Our actions have got to speak louder than our words. That’s the approach we’re taking. Thirty-one teams have the same goal. We’ve got to do something about it.”
The work begins on Monday and the Cowboys can't wait.
"You are excited to get back with everyone when it is getting started and you are fired up," Austin said. "It’s like the first day of school. I had my clothes laid when I woke up this morning and was ready to go."