OXNARD, Calif. — Emotion overcame Jerry Jones along the way.
The tears that welled in his eyes were noticeable because he had given Mike McCarthy his sunglasses to wear on their walk to the opening news conference. Jones reminisced about his first training camp trip to Southern California as owner of the Cowboys 32 years ago. His voiced cracked as he spoke of his relationship with Jimmy Johnson and his failure to keep the two together longer.
A maudlin stroll down memory lane? Not at all. This was the 78-year-old patriarch reveling in his good fortune, thankful for the chance to return to one of his favorite spots at one of his favorite times of year after a 23-month COVID hiatus.
This was Jones expressing his appreciation for the ride while acknowledging there won’t be as many of these trips left as he would like.
“What you’re seeing is just how good it feels to be here,’' Jones told reporters Wednesday during one of his sentimental interludes. “Doggone, just as much as I enjoy this stuff, I get to thinking, ‘Well, are you ever going to see that again? Are you ever going to be sitting up there talking to everybody again?’
“I’m not going to apologize, but I am sensitive today and emotional about the whole show.”
“Old Man’' by Neil Young wasn’t playing in the background during the one-hour session, but it could have been. Well, except when Jones twice threw in an expletive.
Those weren’t part of Young’s lyrics for the song.
Most of the questions focused on vaccinations, COVID protocol, Dak Prescott’s return from a gruesome injury and the prospects for the season as the news conference got underway. The tenor began to change once Jones was asked about his sense of urgency to get this franchise back to the Super Bowl. He became choked up when talking about how some label him as naive.
“It’s a better world to be naive than to be skeptical and be negative all the time,’' Jones said. “I do my best work, I think, when it’s more positive. I need it to be promising. I need us to have a way to go that causes me to do stupid things, or it causes me to do excessive things that sometimes really work. That’s been the way I’ve played the cards.
“I’d do anything known to man to get in a Super Bowl. That’s a fact. There’s nothing, in my mind, that has a higher priority than that.’'
Jones followed by saying there’s no place he’d rather be than with this team right now. He reflected on those early days with Johnson and the Cowboys in 1989 and their subsequent breakup. Jones recounted the conversation he had with Barry Switzer when he asked the Oklahoma coach to be Johnson’s successor.
Switzer told Jones to go get Johnson. Jones responded that Johnson was gone, but Switzer was insistent. The Cowboys owner didn’t understand why Switzer wanted to get everyone in the same room.
“I just want to get both of you little [expletives] on this couch and ask you both how could you [expletive] this up?’' Switzer told him.
Jones laughed at the memory before turning serious.
“My role here, my job was to keep it together,’' Jones said. “It was my job. I should have had deference to something that was working good.
“We had a great run of it. He’s a great coach, and I’m proud to have him as a friend, and proud to have had the times that we had. We just had a great experience.’'
Can Jones answer Switzer’s question now?
“I’ve never been able to know why I [expletived] it up,’' Jones said. “Not just that, but anything else.
“No, I can’t answer those questions.’'
Psychological insight isn’t what the opening of this camp is about for Jones.
It’s about cherishing the memories that have gone before and anticipating the new ones that lie ahead.
Old man, look at my life
I’m a lot like you were
Catch David Moore on The Ticket (KTCK-AM 1310 and 96.7 FM) with the Musers, BaD radio and the Hardline during Cowboys training camp.