Two years ago, the most newsworthy team in the NFL -- the Dallas Cowboys -- had an incredibly quiet offseason and went on to win the NFC East and advance to the divisional round of the playoffs before losing to Minnesota. The hoopla resurfaced with a new stadium and a barnstorming tour in the preseason, and Dallas won just six games, with coach Wade Phillips getting fired in the process.
All-Pro linebacker DeMarcus Ware said the signs are pointed that way. Every player under contract has attended player-led workouts. The fact that so many players followed the organized efforts of quarterback Tony Romo, tight end Jason Witten, linebackers Bradie James, Keith Brooking and Ware also shows that there isn't a leadership void as so many people suspect.
"If you look at our team, it's a whole bunch of leaders in general, not a guy like Ray Lewis who takes over a team or Peyton Manning who takes over the team," Ware said on Tuesday's "Cover Two Podcast". "It's a whole team thing. Romo's one of the guys. We had a meeting and said, 'Hey, we have to have OTAs. We have to bring all the guys together,' and the guys listened. That's what leadership is about, guys listening to guys who have been there long enough and sort of established themselves.
"When you can have everybody show up when they don't have to show up, that's what we're trying to do."
One of the players who Ware says has attended has been wide receiver Dez Bryant, the enigmatic talent whose 2010 rookie season was cut short by an ankle fracture. Bryant has also generated off-field news because of alleged unpaid debts and for getting kicked out of a mall for wearing his pants too low.
"All the things he's done off the field or whatever, he's out there trying to do better," Ware said. "He's at the OTA sessions getting balls from Romo, getting closer with Romo, figuring each other out. He was running routes a month ago, and it was not a problem like the injury didn't hurt him. I think he's going to be a great asset next season."
Ware said defensive players are trying their best to learn some of the schemes and coverages that new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan plans to install. Although he's clearly not pleased with the lockout keeping players away from coaches, Ware said players have grown by working out together without supervision.
"You go from Wade Phillips, which is a guy, he's more tailored to the older guys and developing younger guys," Ware said. "Then you have a younger coach come in, which is Jason Garrett, he's more of the Bill Parcells-type guy. He likes putting the pads on. He likes doing a whole bunch of the fundamental stuff and just focusing on that, doing the right things and just little things like that. Maybe that's what we needed; maybe it's not what we needed. ...
"At the end of the day, you've got to get out there and play football. Put everything else aside; put all the accolades aside. Put what you did, your ego, put everything aside and be a team player because the team that plays well together wins together, and that's what it's about."