As the summer heads toward August, the football stories about whether or not Brett Favre will play another year or the color of Kleenex Terrell Owens is using in Buffalo will move to the back pages of the sports section with the National Football League training camps officially opening this week.

All 30 teams have visions of being a playoff contender as the excited rookies arrive before the veterans on most of these teams. The two-a-days will be tough for those stupid enough to come to camp overweight and out of shape, but for most it will be tough, but beneficial as a learning experience.

Each team will have anywhere from 75 to more than 100 candidates competing for the 53-man rosters with many players in attendance knowing their chance of making the final cut are slim and none.
Enthusiasm will be running rampant as the players divide their waking hours between attending several daily team or position meetings and actually sweating profusely out of the practice field. The rest of the time is spent studying playbooks and being in their assigned quarters at bed-check time.

This tough time of the NFL season is being scrutinized by Commissioner Roger Goodell, who wants to shorten the preseason period of training camp.

In less than two weeks the first exhibition game will take place, with each team playing four preseason contests except the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans, who meet in the inaugural Hall of Fame Game Aug. 9 and play five exhibition games.

Football-crazed fans often get a distorted idea of how their favorite team will fare in the regular season by what they see in these exhibition games. 

Most of the time coaches will allow the stars and starters to play very few snaps, if any at all. The last thing they want is to see one of their starters take a cheap shot by an overzealous opponent who probably won’t make that team, anyhow. 

Perhaps one of the biggest football news stories of the off-season was Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones releasing controversial wide receiver Terrell Owens. Within 48 hours T.O. signed a contract to play for the Buffalo Bills.

This one move should have some significance this fall, especially in Buffalo where young quarterback Trent Edwards, who only threw 11 touchdown passes last year, will be expected by T.O. to throw at least that many to him alone.

Edwards can either have an unbelievably improved season in 2009 or more than likely will be the target of T.O.’s frustration like so many of Owens’ previous quarterbacks have been along the way.
Buffalo brought Edwards along slowly the first two seasons and really didn’t turn him loose, so his ability to post big numbers is virtually unknown. He needs to show he can be an upper-echelon passer or the star receiving tandem of Owens and Lee Evans will be a huge disappointment for the Bills’ fans.

And in Buffalo, a passing quarterback has to get off to a quick start before the wintry weather sets in, which generally begins before the end of October.

In Dallas the pressure will be on how Roy Williams handles being the No. 1 receiver for the Cowboys. What T.O. left behind, Williams has to scoop up. It won’t take very long for the radio and TV announcers and the football writers to scrutinize the Dallas offense minus T.O. and also tabulate how many balls Williams drops in a game.

Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo needs to take command of the offense and make good decisions the entire season. His questionable quarterbacking caused the Pokes to blow fourth-period leads at the end of last season and then he fell completely apart in the finale when a win over Philadelphia would have put Dallas in the playoffs, but the Cowboys were blown out 44-6 by the Eagles. 

Head Coach Wade Phillips will be on a short leash this season, his third at the helm of the Cowboys and his eighth as an NFL head coach. He holds the distinction of having the second-most regular-season wins without a playoff win in NFL history.
And the Cowboys last playoff win was in 1996, making this the longest dry spell in franchise history. The team also is going through its longest gap between Super Bowl victories, last winning 27-17 over Pittsburgh on Jan. 28, 1996 in Super Bowl XXX.  Barry Switzer was the Cowboys coach back then.

KWICKIES…A tip of the Korner Kap to former West Orange-Stark Mustang Earl Thomas, who now plays safety for the University of Texas Longhorns. Thomas has been named to the All-Big 12 Media Pre-season Football team along with Jasper’s Sean Witherspoon, who plays middle linebacker for the Missouri Tigers.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday that the league has cleared Michael Vick to rejoin pro football by Week 6 of the upcoming 2009 season.

West Orange-Stark Mustang football fans need to take advantage of renewing their season tickets to the 2009 home games by next week so they can watch a couple of future University of Oklahoma stars—Trey Franks and James Haynes — play their senior year for the ‘Stangs.  Current season ticket holders can purchase their 2009 football tickets during a two-day sale Aug. 4-5 from 9 a.m.-noon and 1 p.m. -3 p.m. at the WO-S Athletic Office. Season tickets not claimed by 3 p.m. Aug. 5 will go on sale to the general public. Season tickets will be $16 for four home games. After season ticket sales close, all tickets will be $5. Student tickets are $2 per ticket pre-game and will not be sold at the gate. 

New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs is building anticipation for a Week 2 matchup vs. the NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys. He’s taking dead aim at Dallas quarterback Tony Romo. “I’m not a fan of Tony Romo,” he said in a recent appearance on ESPN Radio. “Keep him in the pocket, he’s not that good. His luck will be gone sooner or later. If you were to keep Tony Romo in the pocket, he’s not that effective.”

The Houston Astros looked bad in the final two games of their recent home stand against the injury-riddled New York Mets, making several boneheaded decisions on the basepaths, especially in Sunday’s finale. They had Mets ageless starter Livon Hernandez on the ropes in the very first inning by scoring three runs on back-to-back-to-back doubles by Miguel Tejada, Carlos Lee and Geoff Blum. Hunter Pence followed with a sharp single to center, but the slow-footed Blum was sent home and was out by a mile for the second out in the inning. One pitch later, Pence was caught stealing and the Astros never scored another run in the next eight innings, losing the game 8-3 and the series two games to one. They began a seven-game road trip Monday against the front-running Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals and will be away from home for 14 of their next 20 games. 

And while on the subject of the Astros, center fielder Michael Bourn and Tampa Bay’s Carl Crawford grew up in Houston and played on the same Little League baseball team as 12 year olds. Crawford wanted to concentrate on playing junior high football after Little League but Bourn’s dad convinced him to stick with baseball. Today Bourn leads the National League and Crawford leads the American League and the major leagues in stolen bases.

JUST BETWEEN US…It’s about time major league baseball decided to consider re-instating Pete Rose, so he can rightfully be voted into the Hall of Fame. After all, Rose never did anything against the rules of major league baseball as a player and he certainly wasn’t a good enough manager to be considered for this great honor. Rose was banned from major league baseball in 1989, so it’s time Commissioner Bud Selig made a positive move to consider reinstating baseball’s most prolific hitter. It also will give the Cincinnati Reds an opportunity to properly retire Rose’s jersey.