Joe DeCamillis Gets Neck Brace Off
Federal investigators are at the Irving, Texas complex studying wind currents, rain, the structure and the people who built it. They are still trying to figure out why it fell, sending 12 people to the hospital, paralyzing assistant coach Rich Behm and breaking the back of special teams coach Joe DeCamillis.
But while federal investigators do their work, so does DeCamillis, who got his neck brace taken off on Monday for the first time since the accident.
DeCamillis was hired from Jacksonville to improve a bad special teams unit that has speed and youth, but no direction.
But DeCamillis' goals to take over this unit were delayed due to the crash of the practice facility. He had several broken vertebrae. He was supposed to come back to work at some point in late July, potentially before training camp.
DeCamillis, the son-in-law of former NFL coach Dan Reeves, returned during organized team activities and the veteran minicamp in June, wearing a neck brace and using a bullhorn to get this unit in gear.
Coach Wade Phillips said it was an inspiration to the entire team that the special teams coach, who needed surgery to repair his back, was on the field sooner than expected.
"The inspiration part, I appreciate coach saying that," DeCamillis said recently. "It's great for him to say that, I just look at it as me doing my job. When I first came in [the players] were a little bit surprised but then not real happy I was there because I was on their butts."
The first two weeks of training camp had DeCamillis yelling at players with his neck brace on. Phillips monitored his progress from afar and got updates from the trainers and DeCamillis concerning his health. There was a possibility that DeCamillis was going to coach special teams from the press box. He will, however, coach from the sidelines Thursday night when the Cowboys open the preseason schedule at Oakland.
"He's talked to some guys that I think had knee replacements or hip replacements," Phillips said. "Coaches that have been on the sideline and he could probably tell you more about it, who all he talked to and how to make sure he doesn't get run over."
Phillips said to coach special teams you have to be near the action. The best special teams coaches are running up and down the sidelines encouraging and yelling at players, giving high-fives to assistant coaches when good things happen.
As for that horrible day, DeCamillis won't talk about it anymore. He said it's in the past and that he has to move forward. If he doesn't he will get stuck -- stuck waiting around for somebody to help him.
DeCamillis doesn't need any help when it comes to special teams play. Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said DeCamillis is one of the best in the business and hated to see him go.
Yet, DeCamillis understood, for a few months at least, he needed help. Help to fight through the pain and suffering to get back on the field.
"It was great to have the support of the Dallas people and the prayers and all the thoughts they gave me and my family were outstanding," he said. "The people at Parkland Hospital [in Dallas] were outstanding. It was a very humbling experience and it's a great experience from the standpoint that people care about you that much."