Autograph seekers who once waited patiently outside the dormitories at the Dallas Cowboys training camp now are kept away by wooden barriers and signs warning "authorized personnel only." A security guard walks the grounds.
For the first time in years, curfew is being checked regularly. No excuses are being accepted for tardy appearances at meetings or doctors' appointments.
Competition for positions, once an afterthought at camp, is strong. Ten reserves, including quarterback Gary Hogeboom, will start Monday night's preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams. Regular quarterback Danny White had a terse "no comment" when asked about the switch, and the Cowboys have a dandy quarterback controversy brewing.
"Don't read anything into the lineup changes," says Coach Tom Landry, who obviously wants everything possible read into those moves.
The presence here of a former FBI agent turned director of security is a daily reminder of the team's other troubles. Published reports linked five players (Tony Dorsett, Harvey Martin, Tony Hill, Ron Springs, Larry Bethea) to cocaine investigations in Dallas. None of the five has been charged, but publicity resulting from the allegations tarnished the all-important Cowboys image and led to the construction of the barriers, which are intended to keep away "undesirables" from the players' living quarters.
Any players using drugs have been warned to seek help immediately. Otherwise, "We are going to seek them out, confront them and solve the problem," says General Manager Tex Schramm. "It's a positive approach. We just aren't going to tolerate it."
This is Camp Cowboy, affectionately nicknamed Fort Landry.
Frustration over three straight losses in the National Football Conference title game prompted Landry to reevaluate his methods. So what if Dallas has been in the playoffs 16 of the last 17 years, including 12 appearances in the conference championship game? Any season that doesn't include a Super Bowl is considered a failure by the Cowboys. The result: a tougher approach, as exemplified by Landry's pledge to "keep tightening down the screws and keep squeezing until it comes out the other end."
Landry wanted a camp without distractions. Instead, he got contract holdouts (Everson Walls, Dextor Clinkscale). And he got the drug turmoil, which dominated the camp's opening days (Martin was greeted by 17 reporters when he arrived). That turmoil refuses to subside, much to the players' dismay.
"Football used to be fun," said Martin. "You could have a pure, old-fashioned good time. You still want to win and go to the Super Bowl, but so many different things come into play now. It makes you really want to hurry up and get out of the game."
Soon after camp opened, Larry Wansley, the former FBI agent, said NFL security people gave the team a list of more than 10 Cowboys suspected of having been involved with drugs.
Schramm says that report is somewhat misleading. "All they told us was that those players had been seen in places where people considered to be 'undesirable' also were seen. They were telling us that the company the players were keeping might not be the best. We passed that on to the players. It's a common-sense approach.
"Players are public people--it's that simple. When the players do endorsements, commercials, appearances, they want the people to believe what they say. If so, they have to accept the responsibility if they do something wrong. They can't have credibility on one side, then say, 'The other is my private life, just don't copy me.' "
A Cowboys' official complained last week that "people really didn't care if Tony Peters or Ross Browner or Pete Johnson are in trouble. But if Tony Dorsett or Harvey Martin is involved, then it's big news."
Certainly, other teams such as the Redskins and Bengals have players who either have been formally charged with drug offenses or who have admitted under testimony that they bought drugs. But the Dallas problems have received far more national publicity, even though no Cowboy has been arrested.
The Cowboys have survived other controversial players (Duane Thomas, Thomas Henderson and Bob Hayes) and controversies (the book "North Dallas Forty"). Still, critics wonder how the team will cope this time.
"You'd be a fool not to be apprehensive that something else could happen to a player," Schramm said. "We have no evidence that anything will happen, but sure, we'd like to get everything cleared up so everyone knows the five players aren't in any trouble. It's difficult having this hanging over the team and over them."
Says receiver Drew Pearson: "No question the image has been hurt. A lot of people out there are waiting for the Cowboys to fall, for bad things to happen to us. We've got this image, America's Team, and so forth. It put us high on the pedestal. When we do mess up or slip a little, it's really bloated in the papers.
"But I guarantee that this will not be the norm around here. It will be cleaned up, straightened out and it won't happen again."
Martin, usually an outgoing man with a hearty laugh, is sitting on a wall under a big tree. Earlier in training camp, when his blood pressure was taken, it showed a rise. Also earlier in camp, he said that his life had been ruined by rumors linking his name to drugs. Now, at the end of a late afternoon practice, he talked about his frustrations.
"You never know when someone might invent something to link you to the wrong activities," he said. "It's very scary. You no longer have any private life. You used to have some personal time, but not any more.
"You are under pressure all the time. As football players, we meet a lot of people and they tell us anything we want to hear. Their true identity is hidden from us.
"But when you can be put on the cross for knowing the wrong people or, say, for being nice to the wrong people when you might not have known the extent of their business, it makes you feel like you can't talk to anyone any more, it makes you feel that you can't sit down and have a good old friendly conversation like you used to with people at the bar. You are scared about who he is; he might be an undercover agent seeing how much you are drinking."
Martin denies he has had drug dealings. So have Dorsett and Hill. Bethea and Springs aren't talking. Martin and Hill were subpoenaed as possible defensive witnesses in a drug trial in Dallas. But neither was called to the stand in the case, which ended last week. "I hope that this is all over now," Martin said. "I know that nothing will happen concerning me."
He has had a most difficult year. At training camp last summer, FBI agents talked to him and Dorsett about a drug investigation. He filed for bankruptcy last winter, which prompted Redskins fans to throw pennies at him during the NFC title game in RFK Stadium. He considered retiring.
"The way things are going in this country right now, you never know if things are over," he said. He shook his head. He is one of the regulars who will not start Monday. "First time I haven't started a game since 1975," he said. "I don't know what it means.
"A lot of veterans don't like competition. I know he (Landry) wants us to get upset. You never know how all the publicity I've received affects somebody. As a player, you'd like to lose your position on talent. But this is not a matter of talent. I really don't know what's going to happen."
At Camp Cowboy, there is an ongoing search for leadership and discipline. During the past offseason, some veteran players complained to Landry and Schramm, asking them to get tougher. The players were concerned about the drug problems and about rumors that a few teammates broke curfew the night before the NFC title game. Schramm says those complaints were a major turning point.
"In the past," he said, "the players took the attitude that they didn't want to pry into other players' business. But now they are saying, 'This is enough.' They don't want people using drugs or breaking curfew to ruin their chances for success. They told us to handle it, to get rid of them if necessary."
Perhaps Landry, who has a disciplinarian image, let things slide a bit lately. Not at this camp. One day, he canceled the players' usual Wednesday night without curfew. Another day, he revived grass drills, a punishing exercise that had been dropped years ago. He ordered a halt to posttouchdown end zone spiking and celebration dances. Then he announced the lineup changes.
Even Landry admits he isn't sure how his veterans will react. "It's been a little tough on them because you get used to a pattern and that's been changed," he said. "We concentrated more on details this summer. Take a pass pattern. You think you know how it works, but if you try to explain it, you can't. You've taken it for granted. We've reviewed why it works.
"Has it been a success? Check with me in January. If we make the Super Bowl, it has been."
Receiver Butch Johnson, who no longer can do his California Quake dance after a touchdown reception, says, "For so many years, we had gotten so much publicity and we were so successful that we had gotten away from the team concept. It became all 'I' and not 'we.' He (Landry) is just emphasizing to us that everything we do right now revolves around football, instead of football revolving around everything else."
Regarding leaders, Johnson says Landry "is wishing he was in the Roger Staubach era. Roger was a unique person, like a player-coach. He only comes around once in a while. Our leaders will emerge in good time."
Whether much of this self-examination would be done if the Cowboys had played in Super Bowl XVII is an unanswered question.
"All I know," said defensive tackle Randy White, "is that I'm spoiled. I played in three Super Bowls my first five years here. I want to play in another one. If it takes this kind of camp to do it, then it's been worth it."