Campo back with Cowboys, enjoying original role
OXNARD, Calif. (AP) -Dave Campo goes onto the practice field at training camp to the sounds of cheers instead of jeers. And without seeing a certain group of Dallas Cowboys fans.
‘‘I haven’t run into the guys with the bags on their heads,’’ Campo said, grinning. ‘‘Maybe they’re still out there. But I couldn’t see them. I didn’t know who they were.’’
There’s nobody hiding their face in shame with Campo’s return after five seasons away, to the place the always-likable coach calls home and back into his original office at the team’s Valley Ranch facility.
Campo, 5-11 in each of his three seasons as the Cowboys’ head coach, was rehired during the offseason to be their secondary coach, the job he had when he first came to Dallas and the NFL in 1989.
‘‘That’s a good feeling to be back, and being in a situation where we can have a good team and go out eventually, whenever that is, on a good note,’’ Campo said. ‘‘It’s all extremely positive.’’
With unbridled enthusiasm, Campo’s voice rings out during drills when he loudly encourages players with phrases like, ‘‘Get the ball! Get the ball!’’ and ‘‘That a way baby!’’
Campo has already developed quite a connection with the defensive backs, who teach him dance moves on the field and broke from one post-practice huddle by yanking the coach’s shorts down - a prank caught on film for the first episode of HBO’s ‘‘Hard Knocks.’’
‘‘He’s always talking, always encouraging us, always coaching us - all at once,’’ cornerback Terence Newman said. ‘‘You’d never know he was 61. It’s unbelievable how much energy he has.’’
Roy Williams, a five-time Pro Bowl safety who was a rookie during Campo’s final season as head coach, is the only player in the group that had previously been with Campo in Dallas.
‘‘It’s real cool,’’ Williams said. ‘‘He’s short in stature but he’s a big man.’’
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones certainly had no qualms about bringing back Campo, the only coach in the team’s history not to make the playoffs. Watching Campo during training camp has reinforced how Jones feels about him.
‘‘I just needed to be reminded how good he is as a coach and certainly as a position coach,’’ Jones said. ‘‘In the meeting rooms, he’s just outstanding. ... He’s going to make a big impact.’’
Coach Wade Phillips, who was looking for a new secondary coach after last season, was ‘‘surprised but excited’’ when Campo said at the Senior Bowl that he was interested in returning.
‘‘Dave Campo was a tremendous acquisition,’’ Phillips said.
When Campo was promoted from defensive coordinator to replace Chan Gailey as head coach in 2000, Campo had unfortunate timing. That ended up being Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman’s final season, and the team was unable to do much because its salary cap was in dreadful shape.
Even with one of the NFL’s top defenses, the Cowboys lost eight of their last 10 games in 2002. Campo was fired and replaced by Bill Parcells.
‘‘I don’t know that bitter is the term. Anytime you try to do something and it doesn’t work out, it’s disappointing,’’ Campo said. ‘‘I was disappointed for a lot of reasons, but the bottom line is it’s business.’’
Campo then went to Cleveland as defensive coordinator for two years and spent the last three seasons as secondary coach and assistant head coach in Jacksonville.
The Jaguars, even with the obvious and likley prospect of losing him, allowed Campo to interview for a job in Dallas, where he had been part of three Super Bowl championships as an assistant coach.
‘‘I never stopped wanting this organization to be successful,’’ Campo said. ‘‘I’m a Cowboy. When you’re somewhere for 14 years, you’re a company man.’’
Given an opportunity in the right situation, Campo said he probably would try being a head coach or a defensive coordinator again. But, this time with the Cowboys, he’s back doing what he really loves.
‘‘The reason I got into coaching was because I like being around the players,’’ he said. ‘‘Sometimes the coordinator and the head coach is more of a manager than he is a teacher. So I am very comfortable what I’m doing. I’m happy.’’
Even when caught with his pants down on the field.