Cowboys roaming all over Hawaii this week

KAPOLEI, Hawaii -- Pro Bowl teams don't have nicknames, but it would be hard to argue with calling this year's NFC squad the "Honolulu Cowboys."

That's because the NFC roster includes 13 Dallas players, the most one team has ever sent to a Pro Bowl.

"It's just like being at home at practice," center Andre Gurode said after a workout earlier in the week in preparation for Sunday's all-star game at Aloha Stadium.

"We've got enough guys here to put together a good roster," said receiver Terrell Owens.

The Cowboys' lineup was clearly one of the NFL's best during the 2007 season. With Wade Phillips in his first season as Dallas' coach and first-year coordinator Jason Garrett guiding the league's third-ranked offense, the team posted a 13-3 record and won the NFC East.

Voting players, coaches, and fans acknowledged that regular-season success by packing the NFC Pro Bowl roster with Cowboys. Besides Gurode and Owens, the other Dallas players here are quarterback Tony Romo, running back Marion Barber, tight end Jason Witten, offensive tackle Flozell Adams, offensive guard Leonard Davis, linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis, safeties Ken Hamlin and Roy Williams, cornerback Terence Newman, and rookie kicker Nick Folk.

However, the Cowboys did make a quick exit from the playoffs, thanks to the surprising New York Giants. The fact the Giants went on to upset the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII did little or nothing to ease the sting of the Cowboys' divisional-round loss.

"I'm glad that they won it," Hamlin said. "For our conference to win it and for our division to win it, it shows you the type of division that we have. We definitely have a tough division. But I'd rather it be us."

"We beat (the Giants) twice last year," said Romo. "But they got us in the game that mattered the most, obviously."

Still, as far as Dallas' Pro Bowl contingent is concerned, there is reason to believe that the team has what it takes to go the distance in 2008. The No. 1 reason is its abundance of talent, something the Cowboys also had in 2006.

Although they have been one-and-done in the postseason the past two years, their impressive regular season in '07 was a sign of progress.

"We're stacked at every position," Newman said. "Last year, when we lost to Seattle in the playoffs, we had the same team but we weren't nearly as good. This year, we opened things up a little bit. We just went out and played with the same guys and went 13-4."

"(Having 13 Pro Bowlers) shows that it's not a one-year thing, that we've got the talent to take it all the way," said Adams. "We have the tools. Next year can be a lot better."

It can, provided the Cowboys are able to take some lessons from their playoff loss to the Giants. Among them might very well be recognizing the importance of taking a more serious approach to the postseason. With a division title and home-field advantage clinched, the Cowboys essentially went through the motions at the end of the regular season.

Players also were given ample personal time, which some (notably Romo) used to go on vacation during their bye week. That led to speculation that many of them might not have had the highest level of concentration in preparing to face the Giants. The Cowboys did nothing to defuse such talk by being penalized 11 times. The outcome was sealed when R.W. McQuarters intercepted a Romo pass in the end zone to kill the Cowboys' hopes for a game-winning touchdown drive in the final seconds.

"Honestly, we were young enough that the experience, itself, will do us a lot of good," Romo said. "I think that that's going to pay us a lot of dividends if we can get back to that position and play in those games again."

Hamlin agreed.

"That was a learning experience for us," he said. "I think that we're growing. We know now we've got to become a little bit better. We've got to become complete and complete the task at hand."

The key is putting the team's collective focus in the right place. The Cowboys must caution against getting too caught up in the fact that they produced so many Pro Bowlers. They could easily fall into the trap of believing that they already have everything they need to be a Super Bowl champion rather than working to improve.

Newman, for one, has his guard way up.

"The fact that, on paper, we're one of the best teams in the league doesn't mean anything," he said. "You still have to go out and win ballgames. Winning 13 games, to me, doesn't mean anything if you don't win the Super Bowl. I would be cool if we went 9-6 and won the Super Bowl.

"We've got to definitely go out and work hard and not get complacent and not get satisfied with what we did the previous year."

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