The Dallas Cowboys opened training camp missing an integral part of last year's Super Bowl championship team: the entire starting offensive backfield.
Where is quarterback Troy Aikman, the MVP of the Super Bowl? Recovering from back surgery. He is expected to be ready to play late in the exhibition season.How about running back Emmitt Smith, the league's leading rusher? He is in a contract dispute and isn't expected to settle soon. Smith was at home in Florida, hoping he will get $4 million a year. The Cowboys have offered about $2 million.
The rookie the Cowboys drafted to be Smith's backup, Derrick Lassic, a fourth-rounder from Alabama, also was unsigned and absent from camp.
Running back Daryl Johnston, a key blocker for Smith, is involved in a contract dispute but is expected in camp soon. Johnston, a restricted free agent, was dickering with Dallas for a two-year deal.
Despite the absenses, coach Jimmy Johnson predicted the Cowboys would be better than last year's club.
"I think we will have a great football team," he said. "I think we will be better because we are more talented. We have a lot of young players coming of age."
In other NFL news Thursday:
The Bills, thrashed by Dallas in the Super Bowl, opened training camp without three veterans and their top draft pick, but two of the four players agreed to contract terms by sundown.
Buffalo signed first-round draft choice Thomas Smith, a cornerback from North Carolina, and cornerback Chris Hale agreed to terms and was expected in camp today.
Heading the no-shows was all-pro defensive end Bruce Smith, in the final year of his contract, who is looking to renegotiate and raise his salary to nearly $4 million annually.
Wide receiver Art Monk signed a one-year contract extension three days before the opening of camp.
Monk, the National Football League's all-time leading pass receiver, had sat out the spring minicamp after being told by new coach Richie Petitbon and general manager Charlie Casserly they planned to make him a backup.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints signed their No. 1 draft choice, offensive tackle Willie Roaf of Louisiana Tech. The Times-Picayune quoted Roaf's father Clifton as saying his son had agreed to a five-year contract worth $6.6 million.
The club also came to terms with quarterback Steve Walsh, punter Tommy Barnhardt, tight end Hoby Brenner, and fullback Lorenzo Neal and nose tackle John Kirksey.
San Francisco 49ers
On the same day the 49ers signed Steve Young, they brought back one of his backups and resolved first-round pick Todd Kelly's one-day holdout.
Bill Musgrave, who played behind Young and Steve Bono last year, was signed to a two-year deal Thursday. Terms were not disclosed. Kelly, a pass-rushing linebacker out of Tennessee, reportedly reached agreement in principle on a four-year contract worth $2.36 million.
The Oilers have retained exclusive negotiating rights for Pro Bowl players Ernest Givins and Lorenzo White, but the two are far from agreeing to contracts with the club.
The two transitional free agents were free to negotiate with other teams until 4 p.m. Thursday. Neither received an offer.
First-round draft pick Steve Everitt, a 6-foot-5, 291-pound offensive lineman from Michigan, signed a three-year deal for an estimated $3.1 million. He was on the field for the first practice of training camp later in the day.
Green Bay Packers
Mark Clayton didn't absolutely have to show up Thursday for the start of the Green Bay Packers' training camp, but he had a lot of catching up to do.
"I have to learn everything out here," said Clayton, who made the Pro Bowl five times as a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins. "I don't know anything about depth charts here."
Quarterback Jeff George was fined $4,000 for missing the opening of training camp.
"George's absence from training camp is unexpected," general manager Jim Irsay said. "He is under contract to the club and the club will take appropriate action."
It's uncertain whether Barry Foster, the NFL's leading rusher last season, will report to camp tonight.
Foster skipped the team's minicamp in June because he's unhappy with the three-year contract he signed less than a year ago.