KYDC ’92: Cowboys Might Have Been the Hardest-Working Team

This post is part of the 1992 Season in Review series, marking the 25th anniversary of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl championship season.

Jimmy Johnson during one of the off-season programs he ran in 1992.

The Dallas Cowboys were getting ready to start training camp twenty-five years ago. By then, the team had already completed three “quarterback camps,” which were not limited to quarterbacks.

According to the late Blackie Sherrod of the Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys had the toughest off-season program of any team in the NFL.

On July 17, 1992, he wrote:

There’s his famous “quarterback camps,” another misnomer. At least three of those, with all hands commanded on deck. And there’s a rookie camp and the one legit (by NFL rules) mini-camp and what not. Possibly one-third of the off-season spent in structured, supervised workouts. Plus daily “volunteer’ sessions in the weight rooms and such.

“I don’t know what all other teams do,’ he said. “Some don’t even see their players from the end of the season to the start of training camp. I would say (he paused for proper understatement) we were one of the extremes.

“We have 100 percent player participation in our off-season program,’ he said proudly, “and that’s unheard of in the NFL.

“We have it for two reasons. First, we demand it, even though it’s voluntary.” Another pause, to let the grins subside. “And also because the players are excited about the team. They’re enthusiastic about it.’

Well, maybe. But Johnson’s modus operandi is that his players except it or traveling papers. They might as well enthuse-and-bear it if they like their current address. Benefits of work

It wasn’t always thus. Tom Landry had the reputation of a stern foreman, but he made no such off-season demands. One can remember when Hollywood Henderson refused to participate in off-season exercise because he wasn’t getting paid for it. Johnson does provide token money — $200 weekly for at least nine weeks.

“Our first year, players did not accept it enthusiastically. They were not used to it,” said Johnson. Of course, most of those players are now gone. The newcomers seem to accept, in some degree of grace, their year-round responsibility.

“Last year we were the least penalized team in the league,’ said the coach. “And that comes from conditioning and discipline.

“We didn’t have a lot of injuries. That also comes from conditioning. I like to think of us as a “physical’ team, and we’ll be even more physical this year.’

Those off-season exercises, of course, are without pads. Today there will be that extra 40 pounds luggage, plus serious contact between hulks. All this conducted on a hot grassy plain, occasionally and mercifully swept by breezes. Of course, should any of the wealthy young men complain of brutality, Johnson could always load them in a pickup and, within a few Austin blocks, show them laborers in blazing noonday sun, laying a tar roof, and for minimum wages.

***

Also in the news on July 17, 1992…

The Cowboys helped their secondary by signing safety Ray Horton, who had been with the Cowboys since 1989. The team was also expected to sign safety James Washington, cornerback Garry Lewis, and linebacker Vinson Smith. However, the team lost running back Ricky Blake for at least five games because he failed pre-season physicals.

So what happened?…

  • Horton started seven games in 1992, which was his final season as a pro. He had two interceptions along with a touchdown during his final season.
  • Smith started 13 games with Dallas in 1992 before being traded to Chicago after the season.
  • The Cowboys traded Lewis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in August 1992. The Cowboys obtained an eighth-round pick and selected defensive back Dave Thomas with it.
  • Blake never played in the NFL after failing the physical.

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