Cowboys return from Japan, get serious about camp

Monday, August 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TOKYO – It is time, said coach Dave Campo, for the Cowboys to go to work.

Campo said he's looking forward to returning to the hard-working, regimented atmosphere of training camp, where the focus is football. The past few days, the players have been as interested in exploring Akihabara, the electronics district, and Roppongi, the party district, as in football.

When the Cowboys return to practice on Tuesday at 4 p.m., it will mark only the second time in the past week they've had a normal practice.

"We had a little bit of a break this week. We were off our feet. We have to go back to training camp and get after it," Campo said. "I told our guys to get ready because this might be the toughest week we have at training camp. We have to eliminate the turnovers and the penalties and go back to work."

The Cowboys turned the ball over five times ­ none by the first-team offense ­ and committed 10 penalties for 50 yards in their 20-9 loss to Atlanta.

The defensive line jumped offside four times in the first two series, including three on Atlanta's second possession. Dallas committed eight pre-snap penalties.

"Chris Chandler does a wonderful job with the hard count and he got us a couple of times," Campo said. "We have to look at the football a little more. We were looking to get to the quarterback and we were pretty effective except for jumping offsides. We have to eliminate that."

Middle linebacker Dat Nguyen, who intercepted a pass in the end zone and recorded three tackles, said the Cowboys can't make mistakes on third down. Twice, third-down penalties by Dallas gave Atlanta first downs.

"We jumped offsides a couple of times and that hurt us," Nguyen said. "When you get the offense on third down, you want to get them off the field. It's a learning experience and that's what the preseason is for."

Campo said he also wants to see the turnovers cease, regardless of whether rookies or veterans are making the mistakes.

Rookie running backs Michael Wiley and Chrys Chukwuma lost fumbles and rookie quarterback Clint Stoerner threw an interception. Third-string quarterback Paul Justin accounted for the other turnovers with an interception and a fumble.

"I look forward to getting back to camp for a few days because we need the work," quarterback Troy Aikman said. "Tonight, it was evident that we need to get better."

As the Cowboys move toward the halfway point of training camp, they will begin focusing more on their progress as offensive and defensive units instead of evaluating individuals.

In their first two games, offensive coordinator Jack Reilly has been calling plays just to get a look at how the Cowboys are executing them. In the next two preseason games, he will develop more of a game plan.

So far, though, Aikman likes what the Cowboys are doing.

"As we start playing more as a group, we can zero in on how we attack people," Aikman said. "With a limited number of snaps, we just want to take a look at some things. We will also continue to focus on scoring in the red zone."

The Cowboys moved inside the Falcons' 20 twice, but settled for field goals each time.

On their first possession, the Cowboys had third-and-5 from the Atlanta 10-yard-line, when Aikman threw incomplete to Joey Galloway in the corner of the end zone.

"We botched the third-down call with our personnel," said Aikman, "If we had gotten the right call made, I think we would have gotten a touchdown.

"I like what we're doing offensively. We're attacking people. We're not sitting back and letting the defense dictate what we're going to do."