SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Cowboys coach Wade Phillips promised that this training camp would be much tougher and that he would be more involved. He kept his promises.
Dallas wrapped up three weeks of training camp Wednesday in the Alamodome with their 31st workout in 22 days; there were two workouts on half of those days. There was a two-day stretch in that span when they had the preseason opener in Oakland followed by their only day off.
"I am trying to do what helps this team. It's a long season and the mental toughness is part of it," Phillips said. "I say the mental part of it. When you get tired, that's when the mental process comes in. I thought it was good for our guys. I think they have come through it well."
Phillips, who is also now his own defensive coordinator, is going into the final year of his contract after a season when the team went from being a preseason Super Bowl favorite to missing the playoffs.
His players noticed the new, tougher sessions this time around.
"This camp has been like two of the other camps put together. I haven't heard anyone call this one cupcake," linebacker Bradie James said.
"It's been a lot more detailed collectively," added tight end Jason Witten. "I think we've made it harder. ... It's been a great focus and minimum distractions."
With Terrell Owens and Adam "Pacman" Jones gone, the HBO "Hard Knocks" cameras at another camp and pop singer Jessica Simpson no longer shadowing starting quarterback Tony Romo, it was a drama-free three weeks in San Antonio.
"We definitely needed less drama. The dramatics, the saga, the soap opera, that's pretty much gone," James said. "We are still America's team and there will be things that come up. But this camp has been strictly football."
The Cowboys broke camp relatively healthy. Fullback Deon Anderson had arthroscopic surgery last week on his left knee, but cornerbacks Terence Newman (groin) and Mike Jenkins (ankle) returned to practice this week after missing the preseason opener.
Dallas plays its preseason home opener Friday night against Tennessee, which will be the first NFL game played in the new $1.1 billion Cowboys Stadium. They resume preseason workouts after that at their Valley Ranch facility, where they haven't practiced since a canopy at the indoor practice facility collapsed May 2.
The likable Phillips, who has tried to downplay his tougher stance, believes his team is responding to the challenge after the disappointment of last season.
"I talk to them every day and every night. It's been discussed, what we're trying to do and how we're trying to do it," Phillips said. "When I ask them to do things, they've responded. I think that's the way it ought to be coaching-wise certainly, and player-wise. I feel good about our players and our camp."
Like so many others, James had a difficult time imagining the easygoing Phillips getting tougher and being effective.
After offseason workouts and training camp, James no longer is wondering.
"He's almost like a new coach. He knows what's at stake. He knows we have to have a winning season," James said. "He's been different. He said he was going to be different. I didn't know how he was going to pull it off, but he has. I'm just trying to deal with this guy."