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 IRVING, Texas (AP) -T.O. and maybe Pacman, Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson and, of course, smiling billionaire Jerry Jones. Put 'em all together in a hotel an hour outside Los Angeles and you could have quite a soap opera.
Or, HBO predicts, one heck of a reality series.
The cable network is bringing its ``Hard Knocks'' franchise back to Cowboys training camp this summer, and HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg already is predicting best-ever ratings for his five-show series. Even with the Olympics as competition, he's confident his weekly program will be overflowing with juicy story lines - with his cameras getting exclusive behind-the-scenes access.
``It's fair to say this thing should go through the roof,'' Greenburg said Wednesday.
Greenburg opened a news conference by joking about going to Cabo San Lucas or wherever else is necessary to tell the full story. It was an obvious reference to the getaway trip Romo and Simpson made during the bye a week before Dallas' playoff game in January, a vacation that didn't sit well with fans, especially after the Cowboys were upset by the New York Giants.
But Greenburg later said ``this is not the E! television network,'' and insisted the obvious headliners will only get air time if they earn it.
``I swear to you it's not going to be the Pacman Jones or the T.O. or the Tony Romo story. It just won't,'' Greenburg said. ``They will be part of a team and part of the story, but they won't be the center of it all. I just know that for a fact. The drama develops on its own. Unless the drama surrounds Tony and T.O. and others, it's just not going to happen. ...
``There's nothing like following that rookie trying to make the team. They're still wearing that star and they're trying to become a teammate of T.O. and Tony Romo, which is probably their dream. That's great television also.''
Expect Terrell Owens to earn his share of time.
``If the cameras are going to be there, I've got to be ready,'' Owens said Wednesday during an interview to promote his appearance next week on MyNetworkTV's ``Under One Roof.''
, bumps, bruises and tears. Other than that, it'll be good.''
Training camp will be held in Oxnard, Calif., with preseason games in San Diego and Denver before returning to team headquarters.
The last time the Cowboys were in Oxnard, Owens missed workouts with a hamstring injury that some considered a ploy to annoy coach Bill Parcells. Owens spent so much time riding a stationary bicycle that one day he came out dressed for the Tour de France. Greenburg would love for something like that to happen again.
``We'll be on the inside telling the story out,'' he said. ``We're giving the part the media can't see.''
Some second-tier stories that could develop include the relationship between coach Wade Phillips and his widely presumed successor, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, and the plight of undrafted rookie Marcus Dixon, who was once featured on HBO's ``Real Sports'' show after being sentenced to 10 years in jail for statutory rape and aggravated child molestation for having sex with a 15-year-old classmate.
No wonder Greenburg left open the possibility of stretching beyond the allotted 60 minutes.
``I've taken documentaries from 60 minutes to 90 on the fly,'' he said. ``It's how long the show works, grabs you. That's what we like to do.''
This is the fourth edition of ``Hard Knocks,'' and the second to include the Cowboys.
Cameras were rolling in 2002, depicting a ragtag bunch that was coming off a 5-11 season and would go 5-11 again. Parcells arrived after that, and it's probably no coincidence that the franchise and the networks didn't hook up again.
Steve Sabol of NFL Films asked Jones about a return engagement during league meetings. He didn't have to wait long for an enthusiastic yes.
Jones loves pushing the Cowboys brand, working to keep the star logo among the most identifiable in all of sports. Five straight one-hour episodes every Wednesday from Aug. 6 to Sept. 3 is terrific free advertising for ``America's Team,'' especially with all the repeat showings and on-demand offerings. (The only surprise might be that it's on HBO instead of the NFL Network, of which Jones is the chairman.)
Being featured on ``Hard Knocks'' isn't necessarily great for the players and coaches who will be under the watchful eye of four cameras at every practice, plus surveillance-like cameras monitoring meeting rooms and other typically off-limits areas. Four players per day will wear wireless microphones during practice, with as many as 12 wearing them in preseason games.
Only one of the three teams profiled so far has made the playoffs - the 2001 Baltimore Ravens, who went from Super Bowl champions to 10-6 wild-card team. After the Cowboys in '02, the series was dormant until last summer, when the Kansas City Chiefs allowed their training camp to get the ``Hard Knocks'' treatment. They went 4-12, tying for the third-worst record in the NFL.
``That's why we've got skin this thick,'' Jones said, holding his hands about a foot apart. ``That's part of playing for the Dallas Cowboys. ... I don't think it's a minus at all.''

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