OXNARD, California The Cowboys haven't been better than mediocre in some time now. But every pre-season carries with it the same excitement, the same belief, the same intrigue.

This one is no different, and essentially, that lack of difference stems from a belief that somehow against all odds maybe this season can be different.

At least that's what the players would have you believe.

"Its exciting to get back out here," said cornerback Brandon Carr. "Looking forward to mixing it up with my teammates this year... everybody's sticking together. We know what happened last year. There were a couple of plays we wish we could have had back. Now it's a fresh start."

Owner Jerry Jones will make his annual state of the team address on Saturday afternoon, kicking off training camp, with practices beginning Sunday.

The Cowboys draw the league's first pre-season contest this year, the "Hall of Fame Game" on August 4 against the Miami Dolphins.

But Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, for one, isn't getting ahead of himself.

"We got a long way to go," he said. "I always say, 'It's the journey, not the destination.' I'm a firm believer in that."

Witten knows recent Cowboys squads have let down the fan base, and his team must raise the bar.

"There's nothing really you can say when you finished the last two years 8-8. We haven't been able to get over the hump. It fires you every day when you wake up you have that feeling in your gut that you want to be a part of that group that gets over the hump," said Witten, who at 31 is already the franchise's all-time leader in receptions.

"We're excited, and we're going to do everything we can to make it a season we're all proud of, and we appreciate their support along the way," he added.

Maybe this year is different. Can't blame you if you buy it, Cowboys fans.

It is that time of year.

Follow Joe Trahan on Twitter at @JoeTrahan.

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