IRVING, Texas Even after all these years, the ringmaster of the Valley Ranch Circus knows how to draw a crowd. Wearing a pair of large Ray-Bans that covered a good portion of his face, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones found himself surrounded by at least 40 reporters and cameramen on the first day of the club's mandatory minicamp Tuesday.
Jones sounded off on a variety of topics, including his rumored appearance on the remake of the hit show "Dallas" from the 1980s. And since Jerry's a true original, it makes sense that he would be playing himself.
"I did enjoy having it shot out at Cowboys Stadium, having it shot there in the suite" said Jones, who claimed not to know when his episode would air. "Of course, I've always been a big fan and was a big fan, when I first got to Dallas, of J.R., so all of that fit well. I think it's a good thing for Dallas."
Unfortunately, the reviews haven't been as favorable as one might hope. If Jones isn't in the pilot, he could be out of luck.
The Cowboys owner spent a portion of Tuesday's practice talking to his prodigal cornerback, Mike Jenkins. There's been a lot of angst over Jenkins' decision to skip the club's voluntary workouts, but he wasn't about to risk being fined. Jenkins is returning from offseason shoulder injury, so it's not like he was ready to participate in workouts anyway. Jones once again ruled out trading Jenkins and said the two spent time talking about the "prospects" for the 2012 season.
"I'm excited about the fact we have this type of corner," Jones said of Jenkins.
The Cowboys will experiment with Jenkins playing the slot position when he's cleared for practice, but that's an area where Orlando Scandrick has played in the past. For once, the Cowboys should have outstanding depth at a position where they've been thin the past few seasons. Jenkins will provide some excellent insurance in the secondary if he can get past the indignity of no longer being a major priority on this roster.
Jones then turned to one of his favorite topics, the wide-receiver position. The eternal optimist believes that quality third receivers grown on trees, in part because Laurent Robinson came in off the street last season and made a huge impact. The Cowboys wisely chose not to match a monster free-agent offer to Robinson by the Jacksonville Jaguars, but they now have a void at the position.
Against all odds, the enigmatic Kevin Ogletree, a former undrafted rookie, remains on the roster despite his lack of consistency. He was once the master of the smoke route, but he couldn't even pull that off last season. But this is the land of opportunity when it comes to middling wide receivers, which is why you bump into such luminaries as Daniel Radway, Danny Coale, Andre Holmes and Dwayne Harris in the locker room.
Jones thinks they all have a shot at being the next Miles Austin because that's how this man's wired. And he doesn't have any interest in signing a veteran receiver such as Plaxico Burress to bolster the offense. A source with the Cowboys told me earlier this week that Chad OchoCinco was never considered before he signed with the Miami Dolphins.
"I like the potential to develop young receivers behind the two starters," said Jones. "I prefer that to a veteran."
Jones couldn't suppress his enthusiasm for the steps Dez Bryant has taken this offseason. The third-year wide receiver made a tremendous one-handed grab in Tuesday's practice and he appears to be in much better condition, judging by the fact that he's no longer vomiting between routes. In the past, Bryant hasn't been a bookworm when it comes to studying the offense, but Jones praised his mastery of the "route tree" during his extended session with reporters.
And just when you thought the organization's director of hyperbole had run out of material, he spoke of new fullback Lawrence Vickers in reverent tones.
"This could be the best we've been at fullback since Daryl Johnston," said Jones, referring to the man who helped clear the way for Emmitt Smith's run to the Hall of Fame.
Jones also said he envisioned a scenario where tailbacks DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones could be on the field at the same time. When I asked if he'd been drawing up those formations at home, he smiled before saying, "Every night."
He even touched on the life and times of Terrell Owens, who was recently released by the Indoor Football League's Allen Wranglers. Someone wanted to know if Jones still had a soft spot for the wide receiver who put up excellent numbers for the Cowboys while being a divisive force in the locker room.
"He really can reach out to me at any time, because I consider him a friend," said Jones of Owens. "I would feel good if he reached out. I think that he really, without having first-hand knowledge of what kind of physical condition he is in, I know he has the right stuff and he could help someone.
"I have actually looked at some of the things he did last year. He's still got the ability to be quite a threat as a receiver. I would advise him if that he still has got the heart - and he does - to continue to try to get on with an NFL team.
Fortunately, Jones indicated that he doesn't have an opening for a 38-year-old receiver who recently sought counseling on Dr. Phil. And that's good news coming from a man who used to bathe in the interest T.O. generated.
As odd as it sounds, maybe it's a good sign that Jones is now enamored with the Radways and Holmeses of the world. And if all else fails, Jones can always turn to acting.