WICHITA FALLS, Texas -- Seventy pounds of Nate Newton is gone. It was like he got rid of four bowling balls he was carrying around.
The 13-year veteran shed the weight before the Dallas Cowboys got rid of him after a failed 1997 season in which Newton admits some of the blame falls in his big lap.
"You notice Nate came into camp with a new look," he said, wiping sweat from his brow. "Nate didn't come in telling jokes. I didn't feel I competed last year the way I had competed in my other years in the league."
Overweight and injured, Newton couldn't run block or pass protect. Owner Jerry Jones called for a meeting just as soon as the season was over.
"Mr. Jones asked me if I wanted to be a part of this team and where it was going under the new coach (Chan Gailey)," Newton said. "I told him I wanted to be a part of it."
Newton did it the hard way -- pumping iron, sweating off pounds and dieting.
"I do feel better," said the Cowboys left guard who weighs in at 300 pounds. "I did what I had to do instead of going out and having fun. "
The blowtorch hot camp has been a drag for Newton, still is trying to get into shape.
"I have good days and I have bad days," Newton said. "I have Leon Lett across from me and that means I really have to work hard. He's making me better."
Lett has made Newton look so bad at times that Newton has been punished by the Cowboys coaches.
"I've been running some penalty laps after practice," said Newton, breathing hard for air in the noonday heat. "But I still like the new coaching staff."
How much of last year's collapse could be blamed on Newton?
"A lot of last year should fall on my shoulders," Newton said. "You can put about 60 per cent of it on me. I let everybody down. Last year was a nightmare, like looking at your mother-in-law. I want to forget about it."
Newton said he likes what he sees of the new Cowboys head coach.
"Coach Gailey brings out the best in players," said Newton. "I think he has been excellent."
Gailey praises Newton, saying, "He looks a lot better and he's doing everything we ask of him. But this is one of those deals where we have to see it out on the field during a game with pads on. Nate is working hard and we hope it pays off when it counts."
Asked to give himself a grade in the early going, Newton said, "I think I'm looking pretty damn good. I'm having a competitive camp but I can't let down."
Then Newton added with his first smile: "Now you'll (the media) be kind to ole Nate."
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