Cowboys look to shake off injuries and find Super Bowl identity in camp

Cowboys in Oxnard

Credit: Arnold Payne / WFAA

Head coach Jason Garrett watches from the sidelines as the Dallas Cowboys work out in practice at Oxnard, California on July 21, 2013.

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by JOE TRAHAN

Bio | Email | Follow: @joetrahan

WFAA Sports

Posted on July 22, 2013 at 1:31 PM

Updated yesterday at 5:04 PM

OXNARD, Calif. --  Some might call it California dreaming, but now that they're back on the West Coast, the Dallas Cowboys say they're determine to forge a new identity.

"We all have visions and aspirations of being part of a Super Bowl," said Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett in the camp opening press conference.

Problem is, they've been nowhere near that level for years. And so far, Garrett's Cowboys have been close, but not good enough. 

Among the ways they're banking on improvement this season is staying healthier, but that's not off to a great start.

The team was short-handed for day one of practice after defensive lineman Jay Ratliff strained a hamstring during his conditioning test, and making matters worse during the first afternoon practice, fellow defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford was lost for the season after suffering a torn Achilles during drills.

Meanwhile, top draft pick Travis Frederick led an offensive line missing five players, including the top three guards on the Cowboys roster.

"It's unfortunate, [but the] way [the] game goes," said offensive coordinator and line coach Bill Callahan. "We'll get them back in a couple of days. Its just one of those things that happens -- you can't plan for it."

Overall with this team, its been a decade-and-a-half of mediocrity.

Owner Jerry Jones couldn't opt for regime change with Jason Garrett entering his third full year as head coach. So, they've opted to improve with scheme change.

It'll be subtle on offense with Bill Callahan taking over play-calling duties and emphasizing the run more. On defense, there will be big time changes, making the time at training camp vital, with Monte Kiffin installing his version of the 4-3.

That means it's back to the future for defensive lineman DeMarcus Ware, who hasn't played defensive end since college, but he's determined to re-establish himself as one of the pass-rushing forces to be reckoned with in the league.

"The last two seasons being 8-8, we're working to do better than that," Ware said. "But just going out and making the playoffs?  Who wants to just make the playoffs?  We're trying to get where we want to be."

Kiffin said his defenders are working hard, but the long process is just beginning.

"They realize they're getting it down, but we're not there yet, and we got to get there in a hurry," Kiffin said. "I just tell them, you've got to lock in every day."

They've got five weeks to lay a solid foundation they hope will lead to better play when the games count most. Hard work is the only way to make their dreams reality.

And before its all done, we'll see if they'll be good enough. Or yet again, just close.

E-mail jtrahan@wfaa.com

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