One of the first National Football League teams to begin their training camps for the upcoming 2010 season was our own Dallas Cowboys.

The reason for the early start is because the Pokes will be involved in the first game of the exhibition season—the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 8 in Canton, Ohio against the Cincinnati Bengals.

However, the focus of the Cowboys won’t be on the upcoming game against the Bengals, but rather on becoming the first team in NFL history to play a Super Bowl game with the home field advantage.

In February, 2011, Super Bowl XLV will be played in owner Jerry Jones’ $1.2 billion Cowboy Stadium that opened last season.

The Dallas Cowboys’ training camp began its five-week stretch Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio. The Pokes will travel more than 6,500 miles, practice in three different cities and play preseason games in four stadiums.

Hopefully the Cowboys will pick up where they left off last season when the second-ranked offense piled up more yards (6,390) than any team in franchise history, erupted for 75 plays of 20-plus yards and averaged an NFL-best 6.3 yards per play.

Many of the question marks concerning quarterback Tony Romo were answered in 2009 after he completed the most throws (347) for the most yards (4,483) in franchise history.  His determination to reduce turnovers paid off as he was intercepted only nine times.

Romo also proved his durability by becoming the first passer in Dallas history to take every snap and throwing at least one touchdown pass in each of the last 12 regular-season games.
And instead of their usual late-season swoon, the Cowboys got into the playoffs by winning their last three regular-season games and then drummed the Philadelphia Eagles out of the playoffs 34-14 by securing the franchise’s first post-season win in 13 years.

But the late-season surge ended as rapidly as it begun with an embarrassing 34-3 loss against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC divisional round. Romo is anxious to redeem himself after the season ended on such a sour note, especially for him, losing two fumbles and getting picked off once by the Vikings.

Although Jones was not happy with the way the season ended for the Cowboys, he made it clear he was turning up the heat as never before when he announced a two-year contract extension for Head Coach Wade Phillips, rewarding him for the late-season surge in 2009.

“I’m encouraged by the progress we made last year, but in no way are we satisfied,” Jones told the USA Today Sports Weekly. “This contract represents that. Two years in the NFL is an eternity, but it has to be urgent. It has to be addressed as though there is no tomorrow.”

Phillips began with himself and through a mixture of diet and exercise, he dropped nearly 40 pounds during the off-season. “If I’m going to get my players in shape,” the 63-year-old Orange native said, “it only makes sense that I ought to as well.”

Phillips’ .688 winning percentage is the best in franchise’s 50-year history and last season he became the only head coach in the NFL to double as the team’s defensive coordinator.

“One of the things I’m most excited about is our coaching,” Jones said recently. “I like the continuity of Wade and what he is doing.”

Besides Jones praising Phillips’ 3-4 defense, Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman, former coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers, said his staff has studied tapes of Phillips’ 3-4 defense as the Aggies prepare to adopt the alignment.

It appears to this Korner that the 2010 Dallas Cowboys will be loaded with talented players who are anxious to get the season started on the right foot. First-round draft pick Dez Bryant should complement the already-loaded pass catching targets for Romo to find.

And the three-pronged running attack using either Marion Barber, Felix Jones or Tashard Choice should keep the opposing defenses more than honest.

Jones released aging veterans Flozell Adams and safety Ken Hamlin and promoted Doug Free to spell Adams and protect Romo’s blind side. The Cowboys also acquired left tackle Alex Barron from the St. Louis Rams to back up Free. And with Flozell gone, so disappears five or six illegal procedure penalties per game.

The Cowboys were very fortunate not to have suffered many serious injuries last season. However, when wide receiver Roy Williams went down, in stepped little-used Miles Austin, who produced a franchise-record 250 yards and the rest is history.

The 26-year-old Austin went on to finish the year as Romo’s favorite target, hauling in 81 catches for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns. He earned his first Pro Bowl, has made the cover of Sports Illustrated twice and is seen in the high society circles with starlet girlfriend Kim Kardashian at his side.

Every day Jerry Jones reminds the members of his team that he wants the Dallas Cowboys to be the first team in NFL history to host the Super Bowl with the home-field advantage.

And if there’s one thing about Jerry Jones—he generally gets what he wants!!!

KWICKIES…The Houston Texans have steadily improved in each of the four seasons under Head Coach Gary Kubiak, who was given a contract extension through the 2012 season. The Texans were 6-10 in Kubiak’s first year (2006), went 8-8 the next two seasons and finished with a four-game winning streak in 2009, just missing the playoffs with a 9-7 worksheet last season, including a 5-3 road record. They were 3-1 against the NFC for the third straight season. Making the playoffs is the ultimate goal for the Texans this fall, despite the fact they are tied with the Tennessee Titans for having the toughest 2010 schedule in the NFL.

Lefty Wandy Rodriguez, who is fast becoming the ace of the Houston Astros’ pitching staff, quieted the booming bats of the Cincinnati Reds Sunday with seven shutout innings in which he allowed only a first-inning single as the Astros blanked the front-running Reds 4-0 Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park in Houston. The Astros continue their nine-game homestand with games against the Chicago Cubbies Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, an off-day Thursday and a weekend series with the Milwaukee Brewers.

And while on the subject of the Houston Astros, it appears to this Korner that Roy Oswalt’s stock dropped dramatically Saturday when he gave up six runs in the first three innings to Cincinnati, losing 7-0 for only the third time in his 10-year career to the Reds. Of course Poor Roy got the same amount of run support he has been getting whenever he takes the mound—Zero.

Andre “Hawk” Dawson, former manager Whitey Herzog, umpire Doug Harvey, broadcaster Jon Miller and sports writer Bill Madden all were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday in Cooperstown, N.Y.

How in the world did the people at Penn State University ever figure out that the Buna Cougars are using the same trademarked logo as its school’s Nittany Lions? The Pennsylvania school should be honored that a Class 2A school in Texas is emulating their logo. Besides the Nittany Lion (an ordinary mountain lion, cougar, puma or panther) has been extinct in central Pennsylvania since the 1880’s.

JUST BETWEEN US…University of Texas head football coach Mack Brown was a guest on ESPN’s Mike & Mike Show Monday morning and verified the fact the No. 1 concern in college football today is the money thanks to Title IX that provides equal funding for women’s sports. “Of the 120 Division 1-A schools that play football, only 19 of them made money last season,” Brown pointed out. He admitted that Texas came very close to joining the Pac-10 earlier this year and said it would have worked out all right for the Longhorns program, but he was very concerned about some of the other Big 12 schools. The 59-year-old Brown coached at Appalachian State, Tulane and North Carolina before taking over the reins of the Texas Longhorns.