OXNARD, Calif. -- When the Dallas Cowboys arrived at Point Mugu Naval Air Station on July 22, they were just relieved that Lucky Whitehead’s pit bull, Blitz, had been returned safely by a Fort Worth-based rapper named Boogotti Kasino a few days earlier.
The Cowboys complete their 28-day training-camp odyssey Friday with a brief walk-through before they board a flight back to Dallas.
They held 14 padded practices in Oxnard, California, spent five days in northeast Ohio, traveling back and forth between Cleveland and Canton, Ohio, for Jerry Jones’ induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and played a preseason game in Los Angeles.
Somehow, it has seemed to have gone fast.
“It’s probably a little bit like life,” coach Jason Garrett said. “In some ways, high school seems like yesterday and in some ways it seems like it was a long, long time ago. What happens with players and coaches and staff members who are involved in training camp is you dive into each day. We’re passionate about what we do. My experience has been in life, when you’re passionate about what you do, time typically flies. We have been here for a little while and we did get a lot of work done, and I think our team is better for it.”
Who knew Blitz’s story would be just the beginning of a camp that saw many twists and turns on and off the field for a Cowboys team that hopes to repeat as NFC East champions?
In case you forgot, here is a list of some of the things that happened on and off the field during the Cowboys’ stay in California, in no particular order:
Whitehead was released by the Cowboys after a warrant for his arrest was issued in Virginia. Whitehead professed his innocence, but the Cowboys released him anyway. A day later, the police admitted it was a case of mistaken identity. The Cowboys didn’t care. It led to an awkward Garrett news conference in which he said some form of, “We made a decision we felt was in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys. We're going to stand by that decision. We're going to move on,” nine times in a span of three minutes.
Defensive end Damontre Moore was suspended two games for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
Rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis was a late arrival to training camp because of a misdemeanor domestic-violence trial in which he was found not guilty.
Right tackle La’el Collins signed a two-year extension that included a $4 million extension. Collins has yet to play a regular-season game at right tackle.
Linebacker Jaylon Smith, coming back from a serious knee injury, practiced in full pads for the first time in 572 days. He will play in his first game since the 2016 Fiesta Bowl on Saturday when the Cowboys play the Indianapolis Colts.
Quarterback Zac Dysert suffered a back injury while reaching for a bag and needed back surgery. The Cowboys signed 36-year-old Luke McCown to a one-year deal that included $250,000 guaranteed. Jones went so far as to call McCown a “developmental quarterback.”
In the second padded practice, the offensive and defensive lines were involved in at least six skirmishes during pass-rush drills. Three days later, tight end Rico Gathers, wide receiver Noah Brown and linebacker Kyle Wilber were sent to a timeout of sorts for fighting in practice. They returned in 20 minutes and apologized to Garrett.
The Cowboys went to see the movie "Dunkirk" as a team. Sean Lee made sure to research the story beforehand. “I think there are probably a lot of great lessons: the importance of continuing to fight when the odds are against you, having an infectious, can-do spirit,” Garrett said. “Looking at it from another perspective, finishing the job and stepping on their throat, metaphorically.”
Later, the Cowboys saw "Hidden Figures" as a team, the story of female African-American mathematicians who worked for NASA during the space race. It was a little different than some of the other movies the team has seen during Garrett’s tenure: "Lone Survivor," "Deepwater Horizon" and "Rocky III."
Punter Chris Jones signed a four-year extension through 2021.
Defensive end David Irving lost his nipple ring in one practice. Yes, nipple ring.
Defensive end Tyrone Crawford suffered an ankle injury in practice that will keep him out for the rest of the preseason. Later, Crawford released a heartfelt response on social media after the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Ezekiel Elliott was suspended six games for violating the NFL’s personal-conduct policy, stemming from an alleged domestic-violence issue involving a former girlfriend in Columbus, Ohio. The legal authorities chose not to charge Elliott, but NFL investigators found “substantial and persuasive evidence” that he used “physical force.” Elliott, who has not spoken to the media during training camp, said on Twitter that he was “surprised and disappointed” in the NFL’s ruling. He has filed an appeal and will have a hearing Aug. 29. The NFL and the NFL Players Association traded tweets, calling each other out for the handling of the case and the subsequent fallout. Since the ruling, fans chanted “Free Zeke” at different times in practice.
On the night Jones received his gold jacket, he held an epic party at Glenmoor Country Club, during which Justin Timberlake performed a 90-minute set. More than 20 Hall of Famers and nearly three-quarters of the NFL owners were in attendance. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Jon Bon Jovi were among the celebrities on hand. Elliott and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell were within feet of each other but did not speak.
Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx, NBA All-Star Chris Paul, Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith, Tony Romo, Dak Prescott, Elliott, Jason Witten, Bon Jovi and two former presidents -- Bill Clinton and George W. Bush -- appeared in a video feting Jones and his, shall we say, interesting quotes over the years.
Romo called his first “practice” game as a CBS analyst at the Hall of Fame with Jim Nantz, working in a nondescript booth in the end zone.
Jones became the 16th coach, player or executive to earn induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Earlier that day, just hours after the Timberlake concert, the Cowboys practiced at Case Western Reserve University.
Jones showed great appreciation for his first Cowboys coach, Jimmy Johnson, during his Hall of Fame speech. Could a spot in the Ring of Honor be next for Johnson, who led the Cowboys to two Super Bowls in the 1990s?
Among the celebrities to make their way to practice in Oxnard were Omar Epps, Taylor Lautner, Tommy Lasorda, Eric Dickerson and Seth Curry. A fictional Cowboys linebacker from HBO’s “Ballers,” Donovan Carter, made a couple of appearances.
Former Baylor power forward turned Cowboys tight end Rico Gathers caught touchdown passes in the first two preseason games. He suffered a concussion in practice this week and will not play Saturday.
Maybe the long, strange trip is over, or maybe it’s just beginning. The Cowboys open the regular season against the New York Giants in 23 days.
“This team is able to put a lot of that behind it and kind of stay focused on what needs to happen,” Witten said. “Strong leadership. We’ve got to continue to work through it and I think this team has done that so far.”