Recuperating Dallas coach back on job
CARROLLTON, Texas -- Cowboys special teams coach Joe DeCamillis was supposed to take six weeks off to recover from a broken neck.
Two weeks turned out to be plenty.
Wearing a neck brace and shouting into a bullhorn, the Dallas Cowboys' special teams coach was back on the practice field Tuesday. That's only 15 days following surgery to repair broken vertebrae from the collapse of the team's indoor practice facility.
"He is showing a lot of toughness and dedication," tight ends coach John Garrett said. "I don't know as a special teams player how you can sit in a meeting room and not feel 100-percent dedicated while you are out there. He is an inspiration. He is a tough guy."
DeCamillis was injured when the tent-like structure fell apart during a storm May 2. Eleven others were hospitalized, including scouting assistant Rich Behm, whose spine was severed. The 33-year-old father of three is paralyzed from the waist down.
The debris also ruined the team's two outdoor fields, forcing them to use a nearby high school stadium for the next few months. Players were bused in for Tuesday's workout, the first organized team activity of the offseason. The Cowboys will have OTAs for four weeks, then hold a weeklong minicamp.
DeCamillis wasn't expected to be around for any of it. The club already had said assistant coach Wes Phillips would fill in for DeCamillis, with the coach scripting out the schedule and watching video at home every night.
But DeCamillis showed up at team headquarters last week and -- with his doctors' permission, insisted head coach Wade Phillips -- he spent Monday getting ready to take the field. He met with coaches at team headquarters Tuesday morning, then drove to the practice field with his wife.
DeCamillis stayed for all of the special teams work, which lasted about 20 minutes. He was in charge during that time, walking among players with notes in hand and barking out orders. This actually was his first time with the full squad after being hired just a few months ago.
"It all went well," Phillips said. "In fact, it went real well."
Because of the electric megaphone, DeCamillis' words were heard by all -- and they weren't very quotable, not after removing the expletives.
"That's the way it goes in coaching, so we're not going to change that," Phillips said, smiling. "I think it's inspirational, I really do. ... That's what you tell the team. There's things that they can do that they don't think they can do. If you can get through that barrier, you can be better in whatever you do. So that's a great example."
DeCamillis left after the special teams drills finished. He did not speak with reporters and the team declined a request for a statement from him.
Also Tuesday, golfer Rich Beem announced a fundraising campaign he's starting for the injured Cowboys staffer whose name is pronounced just like his. Fittingly, it's called Beem Fore Behm.
"If the guy's name was Bob Smith, would I have done it? I don't know, but it wasn't," Beem said. "His name was Rich Behm and you can bet I'm going to help out."
Beem is donating $100 for every birdie he shoots during PGA Tour events in the Dallas-Fort Worth area this weekend (Byron Nelson) and next weekend (Colonial). He also will be giving his clubs and other memorabilia for an online auction and spurring more donations with the offer of a chance to win customized clubs from Calloway. A neighbor of his already has pledged $10,000 per stroke under par he shoots in the two events.
"I just have to go make birdies now," Beem said.
When Behm's name became part of the story, the golfer received several phone calls to make sure he was OK.
"It threw me for a loop a little bit, I must say," Beem said. "I was reading it on the Internet and it kind of freaked me out a little bit."
Combining the connection with the Tour's visit to the area compelled Beem to come up with some way of helping. He got the ball rolling with his agent last week and it's grown from there, with the PGA Tour and the Cowboys getting involved, too. Beem is hoping to meet Behm next week.
"I spoke to his brother today at the Cowboys' facility, and he was telling me a little bit about his brother and how much kind of a stubborn guy he is," Behm said. "He's not going to let this thing beat him, which is an amazing thing to hear."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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