Cowboys Coach Finds Silver Lining

Wednesday, August 9th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WICHITA FALLS, Texas (AP) — If Dave Campo wasn't coaching the Dallas Cowboys, he could be a spin doctor for the presidential campaigns. His specialty: finding something good in any situation — even the bad ones.

No matter what has happened the first three weeks of his first training camp as head coach, Campo has remained upbeat. Or, to use his favorite buzzwords, he's been ``excited'' and ``positive.''

Whether it's the team's continued problems with penalties, the offense's struggles or the absence of two Pro Bowl offensive linemen, Campo has done his best to find the silver lining.

Here's how Campo spun those subjects at his daily news conference Tuesday:

— Penalties.

The Cowboys were the most penalized team in the NFL last season, and Campo spent the offseason training his players to follow the rules.

He harped on things like focus and tempo to cut down the presnap penalties, such as offsides and false starts. He also brought in officials to work every summer minicamp and every training camp session.

The dedication seemed to be paying off, especially after his team had just two penalties in the opener. Then came the second exhibition game against Atlanta last weekend.

Dallas committed 10 penalties, including six before snaps. Four of the presnap penalties were by the defense in the first quarter, when Falcons quarterback Chris Chandler tricked them with a hard count.

Campo's spin: The defense was just being overly aggressive, which is easier to correct than if they were too passive, and he's glad to know they need to practice handling a hard count.

``I felt like we'd made a lot of progress in that area, but Chris Chandler is one of the best in the business at it, and he exploited us,'' Campo said. ``We can expect it again from here on out, so it's an area that we need to clean up.''

As for the false start by receiver Raghib Ismail and the holding by center Ben Fricke, Campo said: ``The positive is that we had one presnap penalty, and it wasn't by an offensive lineman. That's two weeks in a row that our offensive line has not had a presnap penalty. I'm very pleased with that.''

— Offensive stumbles.

Among the problems that led to Chan Gailey being fired after last season was the team's tendency to drive deep into opposition territory, then settle for field goals instead of touchdowns.

Hopes remain high that a revamped offense will do a better job of finding the end zone. But of the four scoring drives from the first team thus far, three have been field goals.

Campo's spin: This has been a great way to test Tim Seder and Rian Lindell, two unknowns trying to break into the NFL.

``I was disappointed we didn't get the ball in the end zone, but at the same time I felt OK that we moved the ball as well as we did and our field goal kickers had a chance to kick the ball, which I think is an advantage as well,'' Campo said.

— Revolving offensive line.

In both preseason games, Dallas has started replacements in three of its five offensive line spots.

The changes began when Pro Bowl right tackle Erik Williams decided not to report to training camp because he's considering retirement. A second job opened when right guard Solomon Page moved over to replace Williams. Not long after, All Pro left guard Larry Allen broke his hand.

Campo's spin: That coaches get a better chance to evaluate newcomers.

``If anything comes positive from an injury or from someone not being here, it's seeing young players,'' he said.