WICHITA FALLS, Texas (AP) -- Michael Irvin won't be around to celebrate first downs as if they are touchdowns. Deion Sanders will no longer fire up fans and taunt opponents. "Moo-o-o-se" calls are a thing of the past.
Suddenly, the Dallas Cowboys have lost much of the spark and flair that made them a team people loved to root for -- or against.
While Dallas has been on a slow fade from its "America's Team" rebirth in the early 1990s, the changes going into this season are the most dramatic since Jimmy Johnson left after winning a second straight Super Bowl.
Sanders was released for salary cap reasons and signed in June with archrival Washington. Irvin and Daryl Johnston, both coming off neck injuries, retired within the last month.
With 11 Pro Bowls among them, their talent will be missed. But removing their personalities takes some of the shine off the Cowboys' star and makes Sundays a little less interesting.
"In reality, they're moving on to their real life, or their own individual life, but in a sport, it's like a person just died," running back Emmitt Smith said. "They're no longer with you. They're with you in spirit, but they're no longer with you in body.
"What do you do to combat it when somebody dies in your family? You go in mourning for a moment and then eventually you pick yourself up and move forward. That's what happens. I'm picking myself up and moving on."
Although none of the trio participated in offseason activities, their absence really hit home in the first week of training camp.
"It is different," quarterback Troy Aikman said. "You get used to playing with guys and you expect them to be around. Now we have a lot of new faces around. That's one of the things we have to fight through."
With his swagger on and off the field, Irvin epitomized a new breed in Dallas in the early 1990s: loud and proud with the talent to back it up. The same was true of Sanders, who joined the mix in '95 and helped the Cowboys win a third Super Bowl in four years.
Irvin and Sanders considered entertainment part of their job description. You didn't watch just to see Irvin catch a pass or Sanders intercept one; you wanted to see what they would do once the ball was in their hands.
Irvin's exaggerated first-down gesture was among his trademarks. Sanders could enliven a crowd just by lining up to receive a punt. Once he caught it, the show really began. The same was true of his playing cornerback, or even his failed bid to join Irvin as a receiver.
Johnston was a strong, silent fullback who inspired teammates by being so durable despite playing so rough. Opening holes for Smith left him with serious injuries, but he endured them quietly while others fussed about lesser problems involving other players.
Johnston became the working man's favorite player and a quirky appreciation developed. On the rare occasions when he'd catch a pass or take a handoff, fans would roar his nickname, drawing out the first syllable. The chants were heard on the road, too.
Yet for all the thrills Irvin, Sanders and Johnston provided, the Cowboys haven't won a playoff game in the four seasons since their last championship and are 24-24 in the last three seasons.
In January, owner Jerry Jones decided the team needed an overhaul. He began making changes with the idea that Irvin, Sanders and Johnston wouldn't be back.
Jones replaced coach Chan Gailey with defensive coordinator Dave Campo and junked Gailey's offense in favor of the system Dallas used in the early 1990s.
Joey Galloway was acquired to replace Irvin as the No. 1 receiver and four new cornerbacks were brought in to cushion the loss of Sanders. Converted linebacker Robert Thomas will remain in Johnston's role, having assumed the job last year.
Jones is confident he has a better group of players. What he doesn't know is who will emerge as the team's new focal points and its most colorful characters.
"There's a lot to overcome," Jones said. "Between the coaching staff and the veteran players we have, we must recognize there is a void there and do something about it."
Campo, who had been an assistant in Dallas since 1989, understands what's missing. He considers it his job to find the heirs to Irvin, Sanders and Johnston.
"Motivation and leadership can be cultivated, and that's what I'm going to try to do," Campo said. "I'm going to try to bring it out of guys who have it inside them right now but maybe have never had to jump out and do it."
With only nine players left from Dallas' last Super Bowl team, the Cowboys' transition is moving fast -- so fast that Irvin's No. 88 and Johnston's No. 21 already have been assigned.
So while fans may yearn for the good old days, Johnston says a new era could be on the way.
"You're going to have new people coming in and hopefully there will be someone young who steps up," he said. "I'm sure that in the mid- to late 1980s people were probably wondering how the Cowboys would ever replace the guys who came before us."
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