DALLAS -- In 1996, the villain was Michael Irvin, suspended by the NFL after a cocaine charge. In 1997, Barry Switzer wore the black hat after his arrest on a gun charge.
The latest episode has been dubbed "Scissorgate," again starring Irvin but with a new co-star, Everett McIver.
Welcome to Dallas Cowboys training camp, where the drama is served up thick with intrigue and the media glare is always white hot.
Unlike past training camps, the Cowboys thus far have managed to keep the lid on information about a July 29 fight in which McIver, the new starting right guard, sustained a 2-inch cut on his neck at a Midwestern State University dormitory.
Coach Chan Gailey has said the fight involved horseplay. Others, including normally loquacious owner Jerry Jones, have refused any direct comment, calling it an internal matter.
Several reports, all citing anonymous sources, have said Irvin cut McIver with a pair of scissors during a scuffle over a haircut.
The Dallas Morning News reported that Jones brokered a deal in which Irvin paid McIver in the high six figures for his silence on the matter. Jones and Irvin have strongly denied the report.
Irvin has plenty of motive for keeping McIver quiet. A criminal complaint by the guard could open a police investigation and put Irvin's probation under scrutiny.
After Irvin's no-contest plea to a cocaine charge in 1996, Dallas District Judge Manny Alvarez warned that even the slightest probation violation would bring a 20-year prison sentence.
McIver, sporting a scar on the right side of his throat, took the field for competitive action for the first time last Tuesday in a scrimmage against the New Orleans Saints. He was absent from camp for 11 days after the cut.
Although neither McIver nor Irvin want to discuss the fight with reporters, NFL investigators might want to talk to them.
League officials have confirmed that they are looking into whether Irvin violated a new anti-violence rule.
The episode also has revived -- if it ever rested -- the Cowboys' bad-boy reputation. Even with the arrival of Gailey, whose choirboy image contrasts sharply with that of former coach Switzer, the team again is being roasted nationally as a lawless and bumbling bunch.
A Dallas sports radio station is touting its Cowboys coverage as "a cut above the rest."
And the Morning News on Wednesday featured an editorial cartoon depicting "Dr. Jones" stitching McIver's neck wound with dollar signs. "Sew What!" the cartoon Jones says.
But Jones insists that the image problem is mostly a matter of the Cowboys being who they are -- America's Glamour Team.
Indeed, Dallas is among the most media-scrutinized teams in any sport. Even events such as Tuesday's meaningless scrimmage in Shreveport, La., brought a media contingent worthy of a Super Bowl.
"All clubs have incidences," Jones said before the scrimmage, essentially a practice that more than 27,000 people paid to watch.
"One of the things that happened is that the interest factor, the attention factor, is there, so that I think some of our incidences are more magnified than maybe some other clubs."
On that matter, Jones may have a point.
Saints receiver Keith Poole was accused of hitting a Wisconsin man with a golf club. Broncos backup tight end Dwayne Carswell and the Patriots' Ben Coates were accused of domestic violence. Bears draft pick Curtis Enis was named in a sexual assault complaint in Irving. The Redskins' Terry Allen served five days in jail for trying to outrun police in his Ferrari.
None of those charges has generated much national attention.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Randy Galloway, a longtime Cowboys observer, agreed with Jones that other franchises might have just as many off-field problems.
"I would agree on the numbers statement," Galloway said. "But I think that Jones cannot have it both ways. ... When you have the most highly visible sports franchise in America, you prosper from it, and, my gosh, has Jones prospered."
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