OXNARD, Calif. -- The Dallas Cowboys arrived at Point Mugu Naval Air Station on Saturday to kick off training camp with their usual pomp and circumstance.
The Cowboys Cheerleaders strutted off the American Airlines team charter first. Coach Jason Garrett, linebacker DeMarcus Ware, nose tackle Jay Ratliff, receiver Miles Austin, tight end Jason Witten and quarterback Tony Romo then deplaned to greet the base commander and other military dignitaries before the team conducted an autograph session for roughly 2,000 soldiers and their families.
But that's where the party ended.
The focus from here on is work for a Cowboys team that has missed the playoffs the past two seasons and has only won one playoff game since 1996.
"It's all work," said Witten as he walked off the plane. "We had a good off-season and all the work we put in to get this point. ... The time is now. We've got a lot of work to do in the next five weeks, that's for sure. Everybody is excited to pick up where we left off in the off-season. We are excited about the opportunity."
Said Austin: "We are excited to get going and just eager to get back at it. It's definitely a special time."
The Cowboys have roughly five weeks between their first official practice on Monday and the Sept. 5 season opener against the New York Giants, their bitter NFC East rivals and the defending Super Bowl champions.
The Cowboys' 2011 season unraveled in two late-season losses to the Giants, especially the 31-14 blowout in the winner-take-all battle for the division title and a playoff berth in the season finale.
Memories of that loss have fueled the Cowboys all off-season and spurred most of the talk by owner Jerry Jones that the window to a playoff run might be closing.
The Cowboys believe they are improved, thanks to moves they made via free agency and the draft. But they know talking about it is meaningless. They must get it done on the field, starting in training camp.
"I think there's definitely urgency," Witten said. "I don't know when the window is open and closed, but there's unbelievable urgency. We feel like we're a good team, but we've got to execute better. We've got to play better in key situations. Just go back to that last game, I think that's clear. Everybody has an understanding of that.
"But for us, it can't be the same old story. Our actions have got to speak louder than our words. That's the approach we're taking. Thirty-one [other] teams have the same goal. We've got to do something about it."
The work begins on Monday, and the Cowboys can't wait.
"You are excited to get back with everyone when it is getting started and you are fired up," Austin said. "It's like the first day of school. I had my clothes laid out when I woke up this morning and was ready to go."
Like the rest of his teammates, Miles Austin had nothing but good things to say about troubled wide receiver Dez Bryant upon arrival at training camp Saturday.
Austin caused more than a few eyes to roll when he called Bryant "a true professional," considering the third-year player's much-publicized past issues of being late to team meetings and sideline outbursts.
That's in addition to his litany of off-the-field problems, which have included lawsuits for failure to pay debts, being banned from a mall for wearing sagging pants and the latest, a charge of family violence for allegedly assaulting his mother.
But Austin said the latter, which is still unresolved, will not be a distraction.
"I feel like Dez is a true professional, and with any true professional when you come to work you have to -- regardless of how good or bad outside circumstances are -- you've got to put those things to the side and go on and work," Austin said.
The Cowboys spent roughly an hour signing autographs for military personnel and their families Saturday before boarding buses to their training camp hotel.
Jason Witten said he and his teammates were more than happy to do it.
"It's always neat for us come out here," Witten said. "The really special part of about it is when you see these guys who are putting their lives on the line protecting our freedom.
"I have been over in Afghanistan and I have seen what it's like for them. I have nothing but respect for them. They are the unbelievable heroes. It's a thrill for us to be able to do this."
Clarence E. Hill Jr.