Construction site When the Cowboys report to Oxnard, Calif., this week, they'll be visiting their fourth training-camp site in 14 years and beginning their second stint in Oxnard. Since 1990, the Cowboys have trained in Austin (1990-97), Wichita Falls (1998-01), Oxnard (2001), San Antonio (2002-03) and again this year in Oxnard. In 2001, the Cowboys held a split training camp in Wichita Falls and Oxnard. Regardless of the site, the objective remains the same, for the Cowboys and the rest of the NFL: Prepare a roster for the regular season and resolve issues. Will Quincy Carter keep his starting job with the Cowboys? Is free-agent acquisition Corey Dillon a good fit in New England? Can Eli Manning deliver for the Giants? The Cowboys begin workouts Saturday and break camp Aug. 20. Two teams -- the Washington Redskins and the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots -- reported Sunday. The rest of the league will report throughout the week, with Indianapolis and Arizona checking in last, on Sunday. There are a lot of questions around the NFL, and few answers. But that's what training camp is all about. Here's the sales pitch: We're going camping! The idea was to get away. Away from distractions. Away from wives and friends and spectators and everything other than football. In 1926, according to evidence cited by the Professional Football Researchers Association, coaches of the New York Giants and Duluth (Minn.) Eskimos decided to try something new, taking their teams away from home for a couple of weeks of intense preseason preparation. NFL training camp was born. For decades, it changed little. Oh, there might be an opportunist here or there who saw some profit in it -- former Redskins owner George Preston Marshall, the Jerry Jones of his time, had his team barnstorm up the coast before each season from the '30s into the '60s to sell tickets and build a fan base in the South -- but mostly, camp was about work and isolation. That is no longer the case. NFL camps in the 21st century are a marketing tool, a way to create regional interest, cultivate fans and, of course, make a few bucks on concessions and souvenirs, not to mention corporate sponsorships. Instead of trying to cloister their players away in some out-of-the-way location with minimal fanfare, teams now work to attract spectators, offering the best chance to get close to players and get autographs. Indeed, many camps now resemble carnivals, with mascots, music and attractions designed to lure even casual football fans. Players in the early days needed three weeks or more of camp to get back into playing shape after an off-season without football. Many of them had full-time jobs to help pay the bills. Players now are in better shape than ever, participating in year-round workout programs and a seemingly endless string of minicamps, quarterback schools and organized workouts throughout the spring. They report to camp having already learned much of the playbook and in top condition. So what's the point? Coaches say camp gives them a chance to evaluate players in a full-contact situation. But camp now is just as much about sales, marketing, sponsorships and fans. -- Andy Friedlander Four voted into Hall's Class of '04 The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2004 includes Bob Brown of Oakland, Carl Eller of Minnesota, John Elway of Denver, and Barry Sanders of Detroit. They will be formally enshrined into the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Sunday, Aug. 8. Three former Cowboys -- Bob Hayes, Rayfield Wright and Cliff Harris -- were finalists for the first time this year, but did not receive the 80 percent of the vote needed to be elected. Among the players becoming eligible for the Class of 2005 will be former Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin. In 2006, former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman and cornerback Deion Sanders will become eligible. Seven members of the Hall of Fame were elected based on their accomplishments with the Cowboys: Bob Lilly, Roger Staubach, coach Tom Landry, team executive Tex Schramm, Tony Dorsett, Randy White and Mel Renfro. Cowboys training camps Year Site City 1960 Pacific University Forest Grove, Ore. 1961 St. Olaf College Northfield, Minn. 1962 Northern Michigan College Marquette, Mich. 1963-89 California Lutheran College Thousand Oaks, Calif. 1990-97 St. Edward's University Austin 1998-01 Midwestern State University Wichita Falls 2001* River Ridge Complex Oxnard, Calif. 2002-03 Alamodome San Antonio 2004-05** River Ridge Complex Oxnard, Calif.