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Cowboys circus headed back to California for camp

IRVING, Texas (AP) -Even Terrell Owens will find it difficult to draw top billing this time, with so many other sideshows to gawk at when the Dallas Cowboys open training camp.

As Owens has so eloquently put it before, "Getcha popcorn ready!" It's going to be a show.

There will be plenty to see with the Cowboys, whose bitter ending to a 13-win season in January made it 11 seasons without a playoff victory - though it has done little to dampen super expectations for 2008.

First, there is the player who wants to be formerly known as "Pacman" and doesn't know for sure if he will be allowed to play this season.

How about the Tank that Dallas got to roll out only half of last season after he returned from his NFL suspension.

Roy Williams went to his fifth straight Pro Bowl last season, even though the hard-hitting safety often went to the sideline on passing downs. And that could happen again, especially if "Pacman" - sorry, Adam - Jones is playing.

Jason Garrett, the supposed successor-in-waiting for coach Wade Phillips - who in his only season in charge so far led Dallas to its first NFC East title since 1998 - is more firmly in place.

Plus, who knows, maybe Jessica Simpson stops by to see her beau, Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo.

With all that and more when the Cowboys open camp Friday in Oxnard, Calif., not too far from Hollywood, they have the ingredients for a made-for-TV show.

Oh, Jerry Jones took care of that.

Never missing a chance to promote the Cowboys brand, Jones enthusiastically agreed when HBO executives wanted to again feature the team in the "Hard Knocks" series.

When last highlighted by the cable network six years ago, Dallas was coming off a 5-11 season and was on the way to another. That was pre-Bill Parcells, before T.O. and Romo.

Somehow last season, a franchise-record 13 victories, the NFC's top seed and an NFL-record 13 Pro Bowl players didn't equal a playoff victory. Dallas lost to the New York Giants, the eventual Super Bowl champion and NFC East foe the Cowboys beat twice in the regular season.

Their depth chart loaded with all those Pro Bowlers and returning players at nearly every other position, the Cowboys are considered a prime Super Bowl contender 12 seasons after their fifth championship.

But long before finding out if "America's Team" makes it to February, or falls short again, there are all the sideshows to watch.

-UN-"PAC"ING JONES: Able to get a once-elite and still young cornerback-kick returner, filling two areas of need with one player, Jerry Jones was willing to take a chance on a player seeking to shed his nickname and troubled past.

The Cowboys won't really lose much if "I want to be Adam or Mr. Jones" doesn't work out, because they'd get a draft pick back from Tennessee. But Jerry - the Cowboys' only real Mr. Jones - hopes for another successful reclamation, like Owens and Tank Johnson previously, and several other players when Dallas was winning playoff games in the mid-1990s.

Adam Jones' situation is a bit different. He was suspended by the NFL all last season and couldn't even work out with the Titans. He has been arrested six times and involved in 12 incidents requiring police intervention since being drafted sixth overall in 2005.

While Jones was cleared in June for practices and preseason games, commissioner Roger Goodell might not decide until the week of the Sept. 7 season opener if the player will be fully reinstated.

The commissioner has to be convinced there will be no more trouble.

"I'm going to do my part," Adam Jones said.

"He knows it's his last straw, so he's going to take extreme caution to everything he does," said Johnson, who has a locker near Jones at Valley Ranch.

Deion Sanders has become somewhat of a mentor for Jones in Dallas. Jones has since requested to be called by his real name, though he initially stuck with the nickname given him by his mother and that he's been known by his entire life.

"There's really just a lot of negativity behind it," Jones said. "It's just time for a change."

-TANK ROLLING FORWARD: Tank Johnson was still serving his eight-game NFL suspension for violating probation on a gun charge and had to wait two months to play after signing last September.

Johnson, whose last game with the Chicago Bears was in the 2007 Super Bowl, initially kept a low profile while serving his penalty and getting acclimated to a new team. But the boisterous spirit is back, and the nose tackle is ready to have a real impact on the field.

"I am a beast right now," Johnson said. "You learn the plays one by one instead of 50 at a time. When you come in Week 11, they already have 50 plays in. ... Now I know where I am going."

Dallas took a chance on Johnson after starting nose tackle Jason Ferguson tore his right biceps in last year's opener. Johnson started only one of the nine games he played, but showed enough that Ferguson was traded for draft picks this spring.

-SEEMINGLY CONTENT, MORE-TESTED T.O.: When Dallas last trained in California two years ago, Owens spent more time on a stationary bicycle than the field.

To the ire of Bill Parcells, T.O. even donned a cycling uniform and helmet to poke fun at all the time he spent pedaling while nursing a sore hamstring during his first Cowboys camp after an unceremonious, midseason departure from Philadelphia.

Two touchdown-filled seasons and a new contract later (a $27 million, three-year extension through 2011, when he will be 38), Owens seems content, healthy and settled in Dallas. Especially when catching passes from Romo.

"We're obviously getting better, obviously the chemistry," said Owens, whose team-record 15 TDs last season gave him an NFL-high 28 the past two years. "We just want to build on what we already have."

And, Owens is clean even though he's now part of the NFL's "reasonable cause" testing program. Owens missed a random drug test, which he blamed on a simple miscommunication about contact information, and can now be tested up to 24 times a year.

While unhappy about extra testing, Owens isn't worried about results. He said he has never had a positive test "for substance of any kind" during his 13-year NFL career.

"I know what I put in my body," Owens said.

-ROY BASH: First, Roy Williams admitted during a radio interview that at times he hoped passes weren't thrown his way because he knew he couldn't cover the receiver.

Then there were some disparaging remarks made by a couple of teammates.

Phillips defended Williams, whose 115 tackles were second on the team, saying "the guy didn't give up a single deep pass all season. ... He did get in the Pro Bowl."

True, but Williams often didn't play on obvious passing downs. And that appears likely again, because cornerback Aaron Henry was dropping back into Williams' spot when Adam Jones was on the field during minicamp.

Williams quit doing interviews at Valley Ranch, but told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram after an autograph session he was excited and expects to have a good season.

"But I can't say it," he said. "I have to go out there and show it."

Hold the comments if No. 31 gets burned by a pass - that will be rookie cornerback Mike Jenkins, not Williams. The five-time Pro Bowler switched to No. 38.

-COACH IN WAITING?: Before Phillips was hired as Parcells' replacement, Jerry Jones had already hired Garrett. Jones considered making the former backup to Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman the head coach.

Instead, Garrett was hired as offensive coordinator, then became a hot commodity after his play-calling resulted in many team passing records and the second-most points in the NFL.

Garrett interviewed with Baltimore and Atlanta about head coaching jobs, but removed his name from consideration. He got promoted to assistant head coach with a substantial pay raise because Jones didn't want to lose him - and the owner's feelings won't change in the future.

-GOT GLENN?: Terry Glenn had as many operations on his right knee as he did catches last season: two. The receptions came in the playoff game after not playing until the regular-season finale.

The 34-year-old receiver, who got a $5 million roster bonus last season, hasn't been back on the field because of an unresolved contract squabble. He refused to sign a $500,000 injury waiver, which is what he'd get instead of his $1.74 million base salary should he reinjure his knee and be unable to play again.

-BIG SPENDER: Jerry Jones committed at least $70 million, with $59 million in signing bonuses, on multiyear contracts this offseason for Owens and four other Pro Bowlers: left tackle Flozell Adams; running back Marion Barber (now the starter after Julius Jones left in free agency); safety Ken Hamlin; and cornerback Terence Newman.

"Obviously, (Jones) has got high expectations and he should," said Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten, who two years ago got his own big deal. "We've got to give him something back that he's put so much in this team."

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