Jones: California camp still in Cowboys' future
OXNARD, Calif. – Jerry Jones has some good news for the California training home of his Dallas Cowboys as they prepare to break camp.
The owner wants to keep coming back even after the opening of a Texas facility that could easily replace Oxnard.
"This isn't light to me coming out here to Southern California, like we're trying to experiment over here," Jones said upon his return to the West Coast after a quick trip home to announce plans for a new headquarters and practice facility in suburban Frisco. "We've been doing this for how many years now? This is what we ought to be doing. And we're working right now on trying to extend it."
The Cowboys first held training camp in California 50 years ago, and they've done so more than 30 times since then. Jones was actually the first owner to put training camp in Texas when he moved it from a longtime home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., to Austin in 1990.
Dallas will definitely be in Oxnard next year, and the Cowboys hold a three-year option beyond that. Frisco's $115 million deal to build an indoor stadium and headquarters for the Cowboys includes a requirement to hold at least one week of training camp each year in the Dallas area.
But that essentially happens anyway. After the Cowboys break camp Friday, they stop in Arizona for their third preseason game before going home for two more weeks of camp-style practices.
When they train in California, they generally schedule two preseason games out West followed by a return to Texas.
"You can certainly function in each environment and be successful," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "I do think regardless of how you do training camp and where you do it, it's an important time to help your team bond. They're together. They eat meals with each other. You can create that environment at home. That's a really important piece of training camp."
That's what the Atlanta Falcons do. They built a training facility a few years ago and included dorm-style living that's only used when the players report for camp each summer. Even though the players are close to home, they don't go home after practice for at least a couple of weeks during preseason training.
Jones and his companies are responsible for all the development around the headquarters and the $90 million stadium, so they could consider building permanent housing.
The Cowboys also will have shelter from the heat in an indoor facility for the first time since a covered field was destroyed in a wind storm at Valley Ranch headquarters in Irving in 2009.
Starting in 1963, the Cowboys started 27 straight seasons in Thousand Oaks under coach Tom Landry because he and general manager Tex Schramm loved the mild climate. When Dallas started winning Super Bowls less than a decade later, the "America's Team" label stuck in part because they had built a fan base in California.
"We were very fortunate out there in Thousand Oaks because we had bleachers set up and it was a great place for guys to bring their kids," said former Cowboys player personnel director Gil Brandt. "A lot of those fans became Cowboys fans, and that's one of the reasons I think that led to the popularity of the Cowboys as we see it now."
Oxnard Mayor Tim Flynn wants his city to consider building a training facility that could house the Cowboys or another NFL team and possibly other sports teams throughout the year.
Flynn says the Cowboys' move to Frisco is a call to arms of sorts for him and other city leaders.
The mayor is confident the city of nearly 200,000 — also known as the strawberry capital of the U.S. — has plenty to offer with temperatures that rarely surpass 75 and are downright cool during many of the afternoon practices. Not to mention the beaches and other Los Angeles-area attractions.
Flynn would probably be interested to know that Phillip Tanner, a backup Cowboys running back, was spotted at the Hollywood Walk of Fame on a day off.
"I'm not a sports analyst or team psychologist, but I think for the players to come to California, it does boost morale," Flynn said. "Even though they're working real hard, it's not a vacation for them, they do have some time off.
"It's the weather, the beach. It's Southern California. It's attracting a great fan base."
Flynn isn't wasting any time selling Oxnard, and Jones is listening.
NOTES: Cowboys S J.J. Wilcox's mother died, and the rookie won't return to California while he spends time with his family. He figures to rejoin the team next week. ... G Ron Leary missed Wednesday's walkthrough, and Garrett said an MRI was planned. Leary has been working as a starter since starting camp late after dealing with a back injury.
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