Gil LeBreton

Jerry in July: Undaunted as always as Cowboys open camp

In July, even Jerry Jones is undefeated.

But in a lot of ways, like any other lame-duck politician, his training camp act has become repetitive, predictable.

The “State of the Team Address” is what Jones’ annual camp-opening press conference is now called. I guess the title “I Have a Dream” was already taken.

In truth, the 2014 Dallas Cowboys are as much of a mystery to their owner/general manager as to anyone. There’s a new play caller, a new defensive coordinator and a new linebacker, among many, to lean on.

Jones said Wednesday afternoon that he looked around the room at the team meeting and counted 47 faces that weren’t there for the start of last year’s training camp.

“We’ve never had more new faces,” Jones said. “Yet, I have optimism for those new faces. Many of them are experienced veterans, to some degree.

“We’ve got our share of rookies and rookie free agents, but still I’m very optimistic that we have a team that can come together.”

Of course, he’s optimistic. He’s Jerry. The memory of the good times is growing dimmer with each passing season. Optimism is Jones’ shield against having to admit that he’s screwed up a proud franchise.

Yet, Owner Jones will turn 72 years old this season. And he just learned this week that maybe his closest ally among NFL owners, Pat Bowlen, one year younger than Jones, has relinquished his duties with the Denver Broncos because of Alzheimer’s.

The true “state” of the Dallas Cowboys? Muddled. Almost dicey.

But Jerry remains bullish on the team that he has patched together.

Talking about the leadership that has emerged from the squad, Jones said, “That makes me optimistic about our chances to compete and compete right now. It’s not about next year.

“We’ve gone from possibly being one of the older teams to being one of the younger teams. We think we’ve got young players with enthusiasm that are positioned in a way that they can be successful to compete right now.”

Even on defense, Jones said. Even on a defense that gave up the third-most yards in NFL history.

A defense, dare we remind, that will be without its three best players from last season.

“I know on paper — on paper — we’re a better team with our defense than we were, on paper, that was lined up against Philadelphia in our last game,” Jones said. “We’re better. We’ve got better players.

“Now, DeMarcus [Ware] wasn’t on the field. But we’ve got guys that are in this training camp that can run this defense and make us a better defense than the one that lined up against Philadelphia.”

The money saved from letting seven-time Pro Bowl honoree Ware pursue free agency, Owner Jones explained, allowed the Cowboys to enhance their defensive depth chart.

If I heard Jerry correctly Wednesday, he’s counting on newcomers Henry Melton (torn ACL last season), Rolando McClain (court date in Alabama on Friday) and former Cowboy Josh Brent (imprisoned for six months in the intoxication manslaughter death of teammate Jerry Brown Jr.).

Jones said Wednesday, “We’ll consider that,” when someone asked if he would welcome back Brent.

Wow. It’s not surprising, though.

He’s Jerry Jones. And it’s July.

He’s undefeated. Unashamed. And totally unapologetic.

The state of the Cowboys? Same as last year, especially the owner/general manager.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram