Friday, July 25, 2008
Interview: Dallas Cowboys radio announcer Brad Sham
Brad Sham is synonymous with the Dallas Cowboys, and this season marks his 29th as the radio voice of the team.
Brad Sham is synonymous with the Dallas Cowboys, and this season marks his 29th as the radio voice of the team. He took some time recently to talk about some of the more intriguing training camp competitions he’ll be keeping an eye on.
Sports Page Weekly: Veteran players say they get beaten down by training camp. Does it ever get old for you?
Brad Sham: As a matter of fact, it’s the opposite. I don’t know why, but I find myself looking more and more forward to training camp and the preseason. I think it’s because as the game has changed with the salary cap in terms of roster construction, training camp is more and more important. That’s where the team is built.
You don’t get the chance to see anybody hit each other in minicamps; you can only do so much in what they call “the underwear Olympics.” But in camp, you have to play football.
Camp is where you find out about your depth, what players who may be on the bubble may be able to contribute, and other players who may have changed, developed, or lost something. So I look very forward to it.
And this year, the weather break going to Oxnard is going to be spectacular. I almost feel guilty not having to pay for it.
SPW: If there was one player who you could identify as the one with the most pressure on him to impress the coaching staff during this camp, who would that be?
Sham: Well, that prepositional phrase ‘to impress the coaching staff’ is a pretty big one. There are other players who don’t have to impress the coaches who have a lot of pressure on them.
But if you’re talking about a player making a team, the first guy who comes to my mind is [wide receiver] Isaiah Stanback. They really seem to be pleased with Miles Austin, and I think the extreme depth they’re carrying in the secondary means they won’t carry six receivers. At least I think that’s what that means. They’ve got too many other good players at other positions, and seeing how much they’ll throw the ball to running backs and tight ends, I think it will be hard for more than five receivers to make the team.
Presuming Terry Glenn is not one of them for the moment, if they carry five, and two of them are Terrell Owens and Patrick Crayton, and the other is Sam Hurd, well, that’s three. Now you’ve got Austin, who they really like, Stanback, Danny Amendola, who they’re really high on, and Mike Jefferson coming off the practice squad. If Glenn works back into the mix, that makes it even harder.
The previous scouting administration looked at Stanback as the guy who someday would replace Terrell Owens. But if that’s going to happen, I think he’s going to have to make that impression this year. Otherwise, I think he’s going to have trouble making the team.
He’s got a world of physical ability, he’s very, very bright, and he’s a terrific young man with a great work ethic. On a team that really needs players because they’re trying to win a championship, the battle between Austin and Stanback will be one of the most interesting ones in camp.
SPW: Do you have a definitive feeling one way or the other whether Glenn will be a Cowboy this season?
Sham: A couple of weeks ago I would have probably said I didn’t think so, but now you pick up the papers and it seems the tea leaves are maybe reading the other way a little bit. If he goes to camp, it’s still going to depend on both what he is able to do and what some of these young players are able to show the coaching staff. What Jefferson, the kid Mark Bradford from Stanford, and Amendola are able to show right out of the chute, plus what Glenn can show them, will make the staff sit down and ask themselves what that group looks like today, what it will look like in two months, and what it will look like next year.
I don’t think it’s a slam-dunk that Glenn will be on the team, even if he shows up to camp. But if he’s able to do everything and impress them, a player with that kind of experience will go a long way toward winning a championship this year.
SPW: Obviously a 13-3 team doesn’t have a lot of holes, but are there some other position battles you’ll be keeping a close eye on?
Sham: There are a lot of positions of interest. It appears they have a great deal of depth at corner, but that presumes [rookie Mike] Jenkins plays the way they think he’s going to play. I also think they’re counting on [fellow rookie Orlando] Scandrick to play some kind of role right away, and I don’t know how ready he is to do that. It’s going to be an important training camp for him; not so much from the aspect of making the team, but to determine how much he’ll be able to play.
I’ll be interested in seeing all of those young corners, and I think everybody’s interested in watching the safeties. Everybody’s interested in watching Roy Williams, and whether he looks better, or different. Everybody’s interested in seeing Zach Thomas, and it’s a very big camp for Bobby Carpenter. When you talk about guys who have to impress the coaches, he’s right behind Isaiah Stanback for me.
I’ve talked to Bobby, and he’s very comfortable and confident playing the inside, weakside linebacker position behind Thomas. He thinks that’s going to be the best spot he’s been in since he’s been here.
I’m also interested in seeing Tank Johnson. I have a feeling he may have a real big year. He’s like a different guy; he’s had an actual off-season. He was just trying to re-learn football when he first got here. If he is ready to be the kind of impact player he possibly could be, I’ll be interested in seeing if they are at all tempted to take Jay Ratliff, move him to end, and have him battle Marcus Spears for a starting position.
On the other side of the ball, you always have to watch the young offensive linemen. I think it’s a big year for Doug Free and Jim Martin, and it’s an even bigger year for Pat McQuistan. Those guys are all going to get a lot of playing time in the preseason. The Cowboys have two veteran tackles with histories of knee problems; sometime in the next two years there are going to have to be changes there. They need to know if they’ve got the people on hand.
I know that [former Cowboy offensive line coach and current Dolphin head coach] Tony Sporano was over the moon about Free’s potential as a left tackle, and I think he’ll play that position a lot in the preseason. I think we’ll see McQuistan play right tackle a lot, and we’ll see Martin play tackle and guard.
[Rookie tight end] Martellus Bennett is going to be another guy worth watching. They have some real plans for him in the offense, and I think he has to prove he has the maturity to do all the things necessary to play pro football. He’s got tremendous ability; it’s easy to see why they drafted him. He’s got to prove he’s ready to take on the role they have planned for him. He could have a large impact on the offense.
Richard Bartel will also get a long look in the preseason at the backup quarterback position. The coaches are very impressed with the improvement in his study habits, footwork and body composition. He always had a great arm. At some point Brad Johnson’s not going to be able to be the backup, and you always want to have someone young to develop.
SPW: How are you reading the tea leaves in terms of Anthony Henry being converted to safety?
Sham: I think what’s going to happen is the Cowboys will have a real situation-oriented defense. One of Wade Phillips’ strengths is finding ways to get players in the best position to succeed. He feels very strongly that the coaching staff knows the players much better than at this point last year.
People are going to have to get out of their heads the idea of, ‘this guy’s is a corner, this guy is a safety,’ etc. I think the Cowboys are going to have specific packages for specific situations and teams. In some of those packages, you’ll see Anthony Henry playing a nickel or dime safety against tight ends, and you’ll see Roy Williams might be a dime linebacker in some of those situations.
That doesn’t mean that Anthony Henry is now a safety and Roy Williams is now a linebacker. It means in some situations and for some teams, Phillips will have different player groupings ready.
A lot of that has to do with how well Adam Jones comes along and how well Jenkins comes along. How many great cornerbacks can you have on the field at one time? Can you find a way to get two or three and still have Henry on the field? All of that is tied together.
SPW: Do you see Adam Jones being on the field for the Cowboys Week One?
Sham: Presuming he doesn’t do something incredibly stupid and get himself arrested again, it would be shocking if he weren’t on the field. I can’t think of a reason why the commissioner would let him get on the field for minicamps, OTAs, training camp and preseason games if he did not intend to make him eligible to play in the regular season – provided he didn’t get into anymore trouble. I think that would be a really unfair thing to do, both to the team and to the player.
I don’t know why the commissioner would do that, and I don’t think he will. I think it’s a foregone conclusion that all the kid has to do is stay clean and he’ll be eligible to start the season. I suppose it’s possible the commissioner’s intent is to really be a tough sheriff, and if the guy stays clean he’ll let him play after four games, but I don’t know what the purpose of that would be.
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