Category Archives: ESPN

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: Phil Costa engaged to Hulk Hogan’s daughter

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST - Phil Costa engaged to Hulk Hogan's daughter - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

The Dallas Cowboys center got engaged to Brooke Hogan, the daughter of legendary wrestler Hulk Hogan, in Las Vegas over the weekend. We can only imagine what might happen should Hogan hear that Costa isn’t doing right by his daughter.

Brooke Hogan made the announcement via Instagram, writing: “Happiest moment of my LIFE. I am marrying my best friend. I wouldn’t choose anyone else. I am so lucky and so grateful.”

In the picture, Costa is shown on one knee proposing with the Las Vegas version of Paris and the Eiffel Tower in the background.

Costa, 25, will head to training camp with the goal of earning the starting center job, which won’t be easy with first-round pick Travis Frederick signed and expected to be the man anchoring the center of the line when the season starts.

Hogan, 25, was a reality TV star, appearing in VH1′s “Hogan Knows Best” six years ago and in her own show, “Brooke Knows Best,” in 2008 and 2009. She works now for TNA wrestling.

FREE AGENT IN ESCROW: Linebacker Justin Durant close to signing with Dallas Cowboys

Despite the current lack of funds, the cap-challenged Dallas Cowboys appear to be close to adding an extra body on defense.

NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported that former Detroit Lions linebacker Justin Durant plans to sign a two-year contract with the Cowboys once they create more cap space.

Justin Durant expected to join the Dallas Cowboys - The Boys Are Back blog

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram noted that Durant’s visit amounted to nothing more than an “informational” meeting because the Cowboys, with just $102,000 in cap room, lack the finances to officially make a move. The same applied to visits by free-agent safeties Michael Huff and Will Allen. Apparently Durant’s visit went well enough for the six-year veteran to agree to wait while the Cowboys get their books adjusted.

That likely will come as the team negotiates a multi-year deal with pass rusher Anthony Spencer. The Cowboys also have to sign their draft class.

Durant gives the Cowboys a solid linebacker to add to Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 defense. He started 26 games over the past two seasons for the Lions and racked up 103 tackles in 2012. The 27-year-old figures to start opposite Bruce Carter with Sean Lee occupying the middle.

The Lions made little effort to re-sign Durant, but he went out of his way to thank the team and city on Twitter.

“Shout out to Detroit man I wanna thank y’all for the luv and support y’all showed me the past couple years I really appreciate it,” Durant wrote Tuesday. “I thank the organization for allowing me the opportunity to play the last 2 years I am forever grateful.”

RELATED: Dallas Cowboys agree to terms with free agent linebacker

The salary cap-challenged Dallas Cowboys made a ripple today (Tuesday) by reportedly agreeing to terms with former Detroit Lions linebacker Justin Durant.

The team is expected to sign the seven-year veteran to a two-year deal once it creates more space under the salary cap.

Durant started 14 games last season. He finished second on the team with 103 tackle while playing outside linebacker in the 4-3 defense, which the Cowboys will use this season after employing the 3-4 scheme every season since Bill Parcells installed it in 2005.

Second-year pro Kyle Wilber is projected as the starter at strong-side linebacker for Dallas in 2013, but the club now has two veterans to push him in Durant and Alex Albright.

A seven-year veteran, Durant spent the last two seasons with the Lions after he started his NFL career with a four-year stint with Jacksonville. Durant, who carries 240 pounds on 6-foot-1 frame, turns 28 in September.

MEL KIPER THE VIPER: Beyond Morris Claiborne, Cowboys didn’t get much from 2012 draft

dallas cowboys cb morris claiborne scores on a 50 yard fumble recovery vs philadelphia eagles - the boys are back blog

Looking back at the Cowboys’ 2012 draft and the obvious name that jumps out is Morris Claiborne. The LSU cornerback was clearly the best defensive back in the draft and arguably the draft’s best defensive prospect overall.

The Cowboys had him as the top defender and second overall player (behind only Andrew Luck) on their board and traded a first- and second-round pick so they could move up and select him at No. 6 overall. Claiborne appears to be a nice piece for the foreseeable future. But what else did the Cowboys get out of the other six selections they made?

According to ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper, they didn’t get much. Kiper regraded each team’s draft on Thursday and the Cowboys’ original C+ grade was moved down to a C.

“Despite getting a very good player in Morris Claiborne, this draft looks worse after a full season,” Kiper wrote. “You can’t just say the trade up to get Claiborne at No. 6 was a brilliant move, because that’s analyzing the pick in a vacuum. In terms of overall value, the Cowboys got Claiborne at the cost of a valuable second-round pick. So while the fact that Claiborne is a good one is a credit to Dallas, he also came at the cost of a pick that would likely turn into a starter. (Dallas has landed Bruce Carter, Sean Lee, Mike Jenkins, Anthony Fasano and Marcus Spears in Round 2 in recent years.) And beyond Claiborne, there isn’t much here.

“Tyrone Crawford looks like a depth addition, and Kyle Wilber isn’t a future starter. The one guy you might point to is James Hanna, who caught 8 passes and showed some upside down the stretch. But overall, the draft is about Claiborne, a very good player, but one who came at a cost. I just can’t say there’s anything here of significance beyond that selection.”

Kiper was correct that Carter (2011), Lee (2010) and Fasano (2006) were second round picks made by the Cowboys, but Mike Jenkins (2008) and Marcus Spears (2005) were both selected in the first round.

The Cowboys’ other three 2012 selections that weren’t mentioned included safety Matt Johnson (135 overall), wide receiver Danny Coale (152) and linebacker Caleb McSurdy (222). All three missed the majority of the season with injuries.

The Philadelphia Eagles (B+), Washington Redskins (B+) and New York Giants (C+) all finished with higher grades than the Cowboys.

Editors comment: Too early to put a final grade on this draft class. Consider the source … coming from an outsiders point of view. Mel Kiper is hit and miss, just like any ‘so-called expert” in this area. If you agree with the C, which I think is a little low, that’s a reasonable rate of success in this inexact science called the NFL Draft. The grades should improve as these players complete their 2nd and 3rd seasons. By then, you’ll have a better overall picture. For more information or a reminder of the Dallas Cowboys 2012 NFL Draft, click HERE.

AGING KIFFIN ON CAGING GRIFFIN: At 72, this ‘new’ defensive coordinator could bring the ‘Grampa 2 Defense’ to the Dallas Cowboys

Monte Kiffin vs Robert Griffin - Dallas Cowboys' Defense - The Boys Are Back blog

Monte Kiffin is rumored to be the Dallas Cowboys ‘new’ defensive coordinator. Even his old players didn’t see this one coming.

Former Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks said he figured the 72-year-old Kiffin would get another shot in the NFL. He just didn’t expect it to be with Dallas.

"I would never have guessed Dallas two weeks ago," said Brooks, who still keeps in touch with Kiffin.

Kiffin would convert the Cowboys back to a 4-3 scheme. The Cowboys played the 4-3 from their first season in 1960 until Bill Parcells’ third season in Dallas in 2005 when he switched to the 3-4. The Cowboys have played the 3-4 since.

Does a 72-year-old Monte Kiffin and his Tampa 2 defense make sense for the Dallas Cowboys - The Boys Are Back blog

"I don’t know if he has the players there yet. I hope he does," Brooks said. "I just know what we did to make our defense great. Some would say it’s so simple, but at the same time, it’s so complex. You always hear about Dallas, ‘They’ve got talent. They’ve got talent.’ Well, now it’s time to roost. They can answer the question: Do they really have talent?"

Brooks compared DeMarcus Ware to Simeon Rice. Rice had 69 of his 122 sacks in his four years in Kiffin’s Cover 2 defense.

"For the most part, all he’s doing is going after the quarterback," Brooks said. "We know [Ware] can do that."

The Bucs had John Lynch at safety, Warren Sapp at defensive tackle, Brooks at linebacker, Ronde Barber at corner to go along with Rice. Sapp and Lynch are Hall of Fame candidates this year.

That is a big reason in 13 years in Tampa, Kiffin’s defenses ranked in the top 10 in total defense all but two years — 11th in 1997 and 17th in 2006 — and top 10 in fewest points allowed for all but 2006 (21st). Six times they ranked in the top 10 in takeaways.

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CATS OUT OF THE BAG: Katherine Webb says her boyfriend, Alabama QB A.J. McCarron, ‘really wants to play for the Dallas Cowboys

Katherine Webb, left, the girlfriend of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron celebrate after the BCS National Championship game - The Boys Are Back blog

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past few days, you’ve probably heard of Katherine Webb — the girlfriend of Alabama QB A.J. McCarron who has taken the Internet by storm.

Webb, the reigning Miss Alabama USA who saw her Twitter following skyrocket from a couple hundred followers to nearly a quarter million after being mentioned (repeatedly) on air during the BCS National Championship Game, recently sat down with Esquire for a Q&A.

Of interest to Cowboys fans — Webb says her boyfriend would love to be a member of the Dallas Cowboys.

LM: Are you working with Donald Trump? He’s a Jets fan, right? Maybe A.J. to the Jets one day?

KW: I actually spoke with him earlier today, and he was wanting to meet with both of us if we make it up to New York. I’m working with his publicist trying to handle all of this media madness right now. And A.J. really wants to play for the Dallas Cowboys, so we’ll see what happens.

McCarron threw for 2,933 yards, 30 TDs and just 3 INTs this year for the Crimson Tide, including a 4 TD-0 INT showing against Notre Dame in Alabama’s 42-14 win in Monday’s BCS National Championship Game.

Brent Musburger of ESPN commented about Katherine Webb, a former Miss Alabama and A J McCarron's girlfriend - The Boys Are Back blog

Could A.J. and Katherine be the new Tony and Jessica? On a football-related note, would you want the two-time national championship-winning QB for Alabama to eventually be a Dallas Cowboy? You’ll have to wait one more year for that to potentially happen — McCarron has already said he’s returning for one more season with the Crimson Tide.

NFC EAST SHOWDOWN: Listen Live NOW–New York Giants at Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football

Listen Live NOW - Giants at Redskins on Monday Night Football - The Boys Are Back blog

Listen to Monday Night Football live RIGHT NOW on NFL Audio Pass on NFL.com, NFL Mobile on Verizon (not Sprint), SiriusXM Satellite Radio (Sirius 88 / XM 88) or on a Dial Global affiliate radio station near you.

NFL Game Rewind - The Boys Are Back blog - Tablet

Catch it on NFL Game Rewind afterwards

FEAR FACTOR: Jimmy Johnson believes Dallas Cowboys need more motivation

Former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson looking on - The Boys Are Back blog

Former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson is raising questions about the atmosphere at Valley Ranch. Johnson called Valley Ranch a "country club" during an interview on the Dan Patrick Show.

"All the players in this league think they’re self-motivated and that’s a bunch of bull because there are only a handful that are self-motivated," Johnson said. "So you’ve got to motivate these players through some respect but the No. 1 motivator is fear. Fear of letting down your teammates, being embarrassed or fear of losing the job. Where is the fear in Dallas? There’s no fear in Dallas. It’s a country club where everybody is buddies."

Coach Jason Garrett has changed the climate at Valley Ranch sharply from how it was under Wade Phillips. Of course, Phillips changed the atmosphere from how it was under Bill Parcells.

Garrett was asked about Johnson’s comments.

"I don’t really have any comment on that," Garrett said. "We do things the way we do things here and from a football standpoint we believe we practice the right way, we meet the right way and create the right atmosphere of urgency for our players it’s what I learned as a player and coach in this league. And that’s what we’re trying to create with our football team."

And a players’ view, courtesy of Jason Witten:

“I didn’t hear about it, but obviously he’s a great coach here in this franchise and won a lot of Super Bowls,” Witten said. “I haven’t seen him around a lot. The guys are working hard. Ultimately (talk like Johnson’s) is going to happen, but I don’t think as a player you can worry about that. You’ve got to fix it. We know the expectations. Trust me, we feel it every day and so I don’t think you allow that (talk) to get in but obviously got a lot of respect for him.”

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was asked about Johnson’s comments Thursday. 

"When you’re out here, when you’re involved in it, and you’re here every day, i think you understand the importance of each football game," Romo said. "All I can speak about is me, the grind and the way it works on you when you don’t win a football game, it’s just enormous. The way you constantly evaluate and think about how to improve and get better and take the next step. it consumes your thoughts. That’s really what happens after a loss, so I don’t know what anybody else feels or thinks, but that’s absolutely what you try to do to improve and get better."

Johnson has formed a good relationship with Garrett in terms of being a mentor. In the same interview with Patrick, Johnson questioned whether Garrett would remain the man in charge at Valley Ranch.

FOX NFL SUNDAY analyst Jimmy Johnson.

"Jason Garrett is probably coaching for his job for the rest of the year," Johnson said. "This game with Philadelphia on Fox may decide the future of coaches and players with those two teams."

Maybe Johnson was channeling Bob Arum, the boxing promoter who hypes fights. And with the Eagles and Cowboys at 3-5, the loser most likely will see their playoff hopes disappear. So creating media drama is expected.

The quarterback, Tony Romo, who’s got one year left on his deal, might also be on the way out according to Johnson.

"I would extend Tony Romo unless I had somebody better, and they don’t have anybody better," Johnson said.

EDITORS COMMENT: At The Boys Are Back blog we are always interested in your view. I agree with Jimmy Johnson on his point of most players needing motivation. Jason Garrett has had many influences in his career as a Dallas Cowboy player, offensive coordinator, and head coach. He uses a hybrid style that blends those influences (Tom Landry, Bill Parcells, Jimmy Johnson). Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells were more outwardly aggressive and verbally expressive on camera. Tom Landry more reserve publically, but privately critical and a strict disciplinarian. Jason Garrett’s style falls somewhere in the middle. He’s young and still figuring out his style and approach. As fans, we do not know what happens behind closed doors at Valley Ranch or in the locker room. We do know that the players seem to be behind him and appear to be buying into his system. When the day comes when they don’t … that’s the day to begin worrying. Jason Garrett is evolving … and like the Dallas Cowboys, he’s a work in progress.

RELATED: Dallas Cowboys VP Stephen Jones stops by practice, defends Garrett

Stephen Jones visited practice and ran into reporters, one of whom stopped him to get his thoughts on the topics of the day. Before long, everyone with a notepad and camera had surrounded the Cowboys’ executive vice president.

Is Jason Garrett coaching for his future?

“I won’t even comment on that. Period. That’s ridiculous,” Jones said.

Any comment on Jimmy Johnson saying there is a country-club atmosphere at Valley Ranch?

“Don’t have one.”

A comment or a country club?

“Don’t have one.”

He smiled.

“Any serious questions?”

Sure.

What kind of job do you think Garrett is doing?

“First of all, I think Jason is incredibly smart. No one understands the game more,” Jones said. “He grew up at a breakfast table knowing about the NFL. His father was a coach. His father was a scout. He understands the league. He is a great leader. He leads our team in a great way.

“I think he understands the game. He has been a very success offensive coordinator. He started having success immediately. It wasn’t like there was a huge learning curve for him as a play caller. We have had a lot of great offenses here under Jason. We are moving the ball good this year for the most part. The players respect him. He demands accountability.”

Jones agreed that turnovers are a problem this year. The Cowboys have 19, tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for second-most in the NFL.

“We have to do better there. I think we are improving,” Jones said. “We protected the ball against the Falcons. They are a good football team. We are doing some things to cause turnovers. We are tipping balls. They just didn’t come our way. We were hitting the quarterback hard. The ball was on the ground. We just didn’t recover it.

Asked if the Cowboys were underachieving at 3-5, Jones said, “Absolutely. We had higher expectations than this. We are disappointed with our record. We have to play better. We have to finish.”

ROSTER BOOST: Dallas Cowboys sign ILB Gary Guyton

IRVING, Texas – With injuries clouding inside linebacker position, the Dallas Cowboys will add veteran Gary Guyton to the roster.

Guyton worked out for the Cowboys on Tuesday with Dan Connor uncertain to play Sunday at Philadelphia because of a stinger and Orie Lemon out with a hamstring injury. The only other backup inside backer behind Bruce Carter and Ernie Sims is Alex Albright, who is an outside linebacker by trade.

Guyton played for New England from 2008-11, starting 32 games with 4.5 sacks and three interceptions. He went to training camp with Miami.

COMMENTARY: Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee is not replaceable; Dan Conner expected to start

Dallas Cowboys ILB Sean Lee - The Boys Are Back blog

The Dallas Cowboys are bracing for rotten news on inside linebacker Sean Lee, who could need season-ending surgery on his right big toe. Lee injured the toe in the third quarter of Sunday’s victory over the Panthers in Carolina and said after the game that he expected to be fine. But he had an MRI on Monday, and it sounds as though the results were quite discouraging.

There are plenty of people on the Cowboys’ roster who can play linebacker:

Dan Connor would replace Lee in the starting lineup, and he earned praise from coach Jason Garrett for his work against the Panthers, which included a third-down stop of Cam Newton and a pass deflection, after taking over for Lee. Second-year linebacker Bruce Carter would become the defensive signal caller. The Cowboys have Orie Lemon and Alex Albright as backup inside linebackers on the 53-man roster but could look to add another inside linebacker.

However, in spite of the depth the Cowboys have at the position, Lee is not a replaceable player for them. Not only is he their defensive captain and one of their most important leaders, he has played consistently better this year than has any other player on their defense, including superstar outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware and either of their two new and very talented cornerbacks. Lee’s instincts and playmaking ability cannot be replicated by players like Carter or Connor, no matter how capable they are.

When you’ve watched the Cowboys’ defense this year, you’ve generally been impressed. And I believe they’ll continue to cover receivers well with Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, continue to rush the passer well with Ware and Jason Hatcher and continue to defend the run capably with the help of Anthony Spencer. They have more good players on defense at this point than they do on offense, and I think they will still play fairly good defense the rest of the way.

But Lee has been playing at a transcendent, superstar-type level — one of the absolute best defensive playmakers at any position on any team in the league this year. The closest comparison of which I keep thinking is the Steelers’ Troy Polamalu in his prime — the way he was always able to be around the ball, whether it was due to speed, instincts, pre-snap positioning or a combination of everything. That’s what Lee was delivering this year — a player who at times made it look as though the Cowboys were playing with an extra man on defense. They simply don’t have anyone else on the roster who can play football the way Lee has been playing it. Few teams, if any, do.

Courtesy: Dan Graziano | ESPN Dallas

RELATED: Free Agent signee Dan Connor will replace starting LB Sean Lee

IRVING — Now that we know the Cowboys could be without starting inside linebacker Sean Lee the rest of the season, the team’s free agent signing of Dan Connor this off-season looks more important than ever. Lee and Connor are both Penn State products.

First off, Lee isn’t replaceable. He’s perhaps the Cowboys’ best defensive player. He leads the team with 77 tackles. He’s a defensive captain, a team leader and he relays the play-calls on the field.

An MRI on Monday revealed ligament damage in his toe and he could be facing season-ending surgery. The Cowboys are still trying to decide whether they’ll go ahead and have Lee undergo the surgery that would end his season. Lee was on crutches Monday at Valley Ranch. When he left the locker room Sunday at Carolina, Lee was wearing tennis shoes with his suit instead of dress shoes and had a slight limp.

Connor replaced Lee in the third quarter Sunday against his former team, Carolina, and finished the game. Connor has struggled early in the season in his limited playing time, but he was solid Sunday against the Panthers.

Connor said Monday that he knows he has to be ready for more playing time. He’ll start Sunday against the Giants alongside Bruce Carter. Connor said “that’s how the NFL goes” when he was asked about getting more playing time because of another player’s injury.

“It’s a long season. It’s a grind and guys get nicked up,” Connor said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been on a team where everyone is able to stay healthy every play the whole year. So, it’s all about being ready and waiting on your opportunity pretty much and helping the team however you can, getting your role and taking advantage of your role but always being prepared to go in there and play.”

Connor said playing at inside linebacker isn’t old hat for him.

“I’ve mostly been the middle [linebacker[ wherever I’ve been, so it’s a little adjustment,” Connor said.

Remember this about Lee and the possibility of season-ending surgery before going to bed tonight.

Last year, Lee was facing season-ending surgery on his dislocated left wrist. Lee, however, ended up missing only one game and he played the remainder of the season with a cast. If there’s any chance Lee can play through the injury at some point, he’ll certainly want to give it a shot.

But the Cowboys also have to be smart and safe with Lee’s health. He’s still a young player and will be the centerpiece for the Cowboys’ defense for years to come.

DIALING BACK EXPECTATIONS: You’re looking at the Dallas Cowboys all wrong

The Cowboys' DeMarco Murray rushed for 91 yards in the first half before leaving with an injury - The Boys Are Back blog

BALTIMORE — No, of course there are no moral victories in the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys understand how tough it is to beat the Ravens in Baltimore, and they justifiably felt much better about the way they played in Sunday’s 31-29 loss than they felt two weeks ago after the Bears thumped them. But they’re professional football players, and they believed they could and should have won the game. They rushed for 227 yards, possessed the ball for 40 minutes, recovered an onside kick at the end and set their kicker up with a 51-yard field goal attempt that would have won it. The feeling in their locker room was disappointment.

"I’m sick about losing this game," owner Jerry Jones said. "We made our share of mistakes, but I thought we had a shot to win at the end. With our time of possession, it’s hard to understand how we didn’t win. Everybody is as frustrated as I am."

But there’s a bigger picture here, and it’s one that keeps getting missed as Cowboys fans wail and gnash their teeth about every single loss (and even some of the wins). These Cowboys are a work in progress — a team and a staff and a roster that is piecing itself together and building something it hopes can be sustainable well into the future. You may not want to hear it, and you may not be able to believe it about the Cowboys, but they are in a rebuilding phase right now and much more likely to be a playoff contender in 2013 than this year. So as disappointed as Cowboys fans are about the loss, the penalties, the late-game clock management and everything and everybody else you want to blame, that bigger picture really needs to be the one on which the conversation about the 2012 Cowboys centers.

"We have to win the game, and we didn’t do that," coach Jason Garrett said. "But I loved how our team battled. I was proud of our football team today, and we believe that we can grow from this football game."

A growth opportunity. A learning experience. These are valuable things for the Cowboys at this point in their history, and as Cowboys fans you may just have to accept that. Sure, this is the NFL, and the NFC East required only nine victories to win it last year, so nothing’s impossible. The Cowboys’ schedule gets easier, and if the run game and the offensive line can play the way they played Sunday, they could be much better in the second half of this season. But this season isn’t the central focus of the people running the Cowboys right now. What they’re looking for is growth and improvement, and they saw plenty of it Sunday.

"A lot of this game, you look at and you say, ‘Those are the Cowboys we’re talking about,’" tight end Jason Witten said. "Those are the kinds of players and leaders you want to grow with and build on."

He’s talking about guys like Sean Lee, who remains a terror on defense, and DeMarco Murray, who ran for 91 yards in the first half before a foot injury forced him out of the game. But lots of Cowboys played very well Sunday, including Dez Bryant, who caught 13 passes for 95 yards, and Felix Jones, who rushed for 92 yards in relief of Murray, and Phil Costa and the rest of an offensive line that’s been pulverized all year but on this day looked tough and mean and physical for the first time.

All of it comes with warts, though, and they’re mainly the result of the team and many of its players being unfinished products. Bryant’s big game is likely to be remembered for his drop of the two-point conversion attempt that would have tied it in the final minute. Murray got hurt again, which is a problem with Murray. And the line had its issues, contributing extensively to the fact that the Cowboys were penalized 13 times for 82 yards. The Cowboys made mistakes in this game, and at this point they are not a good enough team to make as many mistakes as they did and win in a place like this, even in a game they dominate physically. They had their shot, they came up short and they have a bunch of film to watch as they keep working to get better.

"I’m all right with anything as long as it’s moving forward," Jerry Jones said. "I’m not for taking any steps back. We knew this was going to be a challenge, but looking at the overall game, as a team, I felt we played well enough to win the ballgame. I’m a lot more encouraged than I was after Chicago."

So before you start asking whether Garrett’s job is in jeopardy (it’s not) or crying about poor late-game clock management or looking at the standings and worrying that the sky is falling, it’s important to step back and see Sunday for what it was — a critical and encouraging step in the development of a team that’s thinking well beyond the borders of just one season. Someday, the Cowboys believe, they’ll win games like this routinely. And if they do, part of the reason will be Sunday’s experience, which showed them how they could.

Courtesy: Dan Graziano | ESPN Dallas

REDSKIN HASBEEN: Joe Theismann takes a shot at Tony Romo

Joe Theismann has a history of running his mouth - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas — Joe Theismann is among the most hated opponents for Dallas Cowboys fans for his years as the quarterback of the Washington Redskins. A new generation of fansmight add Theismann to the most-hated list after his comments about Tony Romo to a radio show Tuesday.

“Sooner or later we have to come to the realization Tony isn’t a very good quarterback,” Theismann said on the Brady & Lang show (Canada) on Sportsnet 590 The Fan (link below).

Romo tied his career high with five interceptions in Monday’s loss to Chicago.

Theismann had four four-interceptions games in his career and his only five-pick game came in the 1985 season opener during a 44-14 loss to the Cowboys.

“What hit me (Monday night) is, Tony isn’t really that good,” Theismann said. “Just because he wears a star on his helmet, we all think that people who are Dallas Cowboys, ‘Ooh they’re wonderful,’ and ‘Ooh they’re terrific, ooh they’re the next Roger Staubach’ or whatever the heck they want to say. They’re full of bologna. Tony makes bad decisions with the football. And I’ll tell you something else; he missed two wide open touchdowns last night that nobody’s talking about. Forget about the five interceptions. He misses Miles Austin and Dez Bryant with easy touchdown throws, and he airmails the ball over their heads.

“You can say, ‘Well, everybody has a bad game.’ Tony has too many bad games. Tony Romo is not a very good quarterback. Somebody has to say it so I just did. He should be a lot better or the reputation he’s carried should have him play a  lot better.”

Romo has the fourth-best passer rating in NFL history at 95.9 behind Aaron Rodgers, Steve Young and Tom Brady. He entered the season at No. 2 but he has fallen with his poor start to this season.

Romo’s 78.5 passer rating this season is higher than Theismann’s for a career (77.4). Different eras of the game with different rules are a big reason why but Theismann had 160 touchdowns and 138 interceptions in his career to go with 25,206 yards.

Romo has 154 touchdowns and 80 picks with 21,982 yards passing.

The Cowboys quarterback wasn’t Theismann’s only target. He took on owner and general manager Jerry Jones, too.

“It took him five years too long to change the offensive line, which isn’t very good,” Theismann said. “It took him three years too long to change his secondary. He’ll do the same thing again. This is what happens when you’re not a football guy. You have to ask yourself, ‘Is the owner holding back this football team with football decisions?’ And I think yes.

“I think you have a couple issues in Dallas. No. 1, I think you have a team, they think they’re pretty good. They’re not. No. 2, their quarterback thinks he’s pretty good. He’s really not. No. 3, their owner is their general manager and he doesn’t make good decisions from a personnel standpoint.”

Theismann later apologized to Jones for his criticism of the Cowboys owner in an interview on ESPN (clip below) but just slightly upgraded his opinion of Romo, calling him an average quarterback.

“I guess my expectation of Tony is really high,” Theismann told ESPN, “and right now he’s average.”

Joe Theismann takes on Tony Romo, Jerry Jones - The Boys Are Back blog

Click HERE to listen to EPSN’s lame follow-up interview with Joe Theismann.

DIRECT VIDEO LINK: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:8456779 (Updated 10/04/12)

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SOURCE: Brady and Lang in the Morning – 8am
A’s clinch playoff berth, Jays’ voice Buck Martinez, and NFL Network analyst Joe Theismann.
Listen now | Right-click to download

UNOFFICIALLY OFFICIAL: Ref lockout could end soon

The NFL and the NFL Referees Association made enough progress in negotiations Tuesday night that the possibility of the locked-out officials returning in time to work this week’s games has been discussed, according to sources on both sides.

An agreement in principle is at hand, according to one source familiar to talks, although NFL owners have postured with a “no more compromise” stance.

Although league sources said it would take a week to get the locked-out officials on the field, the NFLRA says its 121 referees have been trained on the new rules implemented last season, have already passed physicals or are prepared to pass physicals immediately. New official game uniforms designed by Nike are “hardly an obstacle,” according to a source.

Both sides have made concessions on previous sticking points such as a taxi squad of 21 new officials and pension plans that sources say the final meaningful hurdle is, as one source said, “about a little more money.”

While league sources say owners who participated in a conference call with commissioner Roger Goodell during Tuesday’s talks had instructed the negotiating team to set a firm barrier for the financial settlement, the NFLRA is prepared to accept a new agreement primarily in the form of a “ratification bonus,” which would compensate its 121-member union for concessions it is willing to make.

The NFLRA and the league have all but agreed on developing a 21-member “taxi squad” that Goodell has pushed, but not at the financial cost of the union members.

The NFLRA, citing that it once utilized the now-defunct NFL Europe as a training ground of prospective officials, is willing to train 21 officials from the major college ranks by including them in offseason seminars as well as incorporate them in training camp work.

The NFLRA would not unionize those officials and would want them compensated by the league if “they are brought up from the minors” to work a regular-season game.

Goodell has wanted the power to “bench” officials who underperform or are downgraded during the season. The NFLRA contends the league already has that ability because there are always between one and four crews that sit home each week and would be more qualified to substitute in such a scenario.

The NFLRA also wants to form an “expert committee” that would be major contributors to the league’s stated goal to improve officiating. Under this proposal, the committee would be comprised of some of the top retired officials and supervisors of major college conferences who had served as NFL officials.

LASTING LEGACY: Steve Sabol, NFL Films president, dead at age 69

Steve Sabol - NFL FILMS - The Boys Are Back blog

With the eye of an art history major, Steve Sabol filmed the NFL as a ballet and blockbuster movie all in one.

Half of the father-son team that revolutionized sports broadcasting, the NFL Films president died Tuesday of brain cancer at age 69 in Moorestown, N.J. He leaves behind a league bigger than ever, its fans enthralled by the plot twists and characters he so deftly chronicled.

“It is with tremendous sadness that we learned of the legendary Steve Sabol’s passing," FOX Sports Media Group chairman David Hill said. "He was a terrific man and a skilled and talented artist. Steve and his father Ed built NFL Films from nothing and were pioneers in sports television and filmmaking, and after taking the reins from his father, Steve put his own stamp on NFL Films, and its ability to capture football’s nuance and subtlety. When we started FOX Sports, no one was more helpful than Steve, and in a short time he became a great, great friend. He was always there to listen to one of my idiotic ideas. Nothing was ever too much trouble for Steve, and no one, absolutely no one, could rock a pink shirt while talking about the NFL as well as Steve. He was greatly respected and will be missed by everyone at FOX and the entire NFL community.”

Sabol was diagnosed with a tumor on the left side of his brain after being hospitalized for a seizure in March 2011.

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”Steve Sabol was the creative genius behind the remarkable work of NFL Films,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement from the league confirming Sabol’s death. ”Steve’s passion for football was matched by his incredible talent and energy. Steve’s legacy will be part of the NFL forever. He was a major contributor to the success of the NFL, a man who changed the way we look at football and sports, and a great friend.”

When Ed Sabol founded NFL Films, his son was there working beside him as a cinematographer right from the start in 1964. They introduced a series of innovations taken for granted today, from super slow-motion replays to blooper reels to sticking microphones on coaches and players. And they hired the ”Voice of God,” John Facenda, to read lyrical descriptions in solemn tones.

Until he landed the rights to chronicle the 1962 NFL championship game, Ed Sabol’s only experience filming sports was recording the action at Steve’s high school football games in Philadelphia.

”We see the game as art as much as sport,” Steve Sabol told The Associated Press before his father was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year. ”That helped us nurture not only the game’s traditions but to develop its mythology: America’s Team, The Catch, The Frozen Tundra.”

Steve Sabol - The Autumn Wind - The Boys Are Back blog

The two were honored with the Lifetime Achievement Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2003. In his career, Steve Sabol won 35 Emmys for writing, cinematography, editing, directing and producing – no one else had ever earned that many in as many different categories.

”Steve Sabol leaves a lasting impact on the National Football League that will be felt for a long time to come,” NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith said. ”His vision and innovation helped make him a pioneer the likes of which the NFL has never seen before and won’t see again.”

He was the perfect fit for the job: an all-Rocky Mountain Conference running back at Colorado College majoring in art history. It was Sabol who later wrote of the Raiders, ”The autumn wind is a pirate, blustering in from sea,” words immortalized by Facenda.

The Sabols’ advances included everything from reverse angle replays to filming pregame locker room speeches to setting highlights to pop music.

”Today of course those techniques are so common it’s hard to imagine just how radical they once were,” Steve told the AP last year. ”Believe me, it wasn’t always easy getting people to accept them, but I think it was worth the effort.”

His efforts extended beyond his work as a producer, including appearances on screen and in public to promote NFL Films’ mission.

An accomplished collage artist, Sabol exhibited at the ArtExpo in New York, the Avant Gallery in Miami, the Govinda Gallery in Washington, the Milan Gallery in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Garth Davidson Gallery in Moorestown, N.J.

”Steve was a legend in this business – a dynamic, innovative leader who made NFL Films the creative force it is today,” ESPN President John Skipper said. ”The work he and his dedicated and talented team create every day is one of the many reasons why so many more fans love the game of football today.”

Sabol is survived by his wife, Penny; his son, Casey; his parents, Audrey and Ed; and his sister, Blair. The NFL said there would be a private funeral.

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FORBES MAGAZINE: Dallas Cowboys tops NFL list, first to be valued at over $2 billion

Forbes - Dallas Cowboys currently valued at two billion dollars - The Boys Are Back blog

The Dallas Cowboys are the NFL’s first and only $2 billion franchise, Forbes Magazine announced today as it released its annual team value list.

Michael Ozanian, Forbes’ executive editor, said the Cowboys’ value, which the magazine tabs at $2.1 billion, is "a conservative estimate."

Ozanian said the magazine took into account the Cowboys’ $80 million in sponsorship income, their state-of-the art stadium and the fact that they are the only team in the NFL that distributes its own merchandise to retailers.

Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys for $140 million in 1989 - The Boys Are Back blog

Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989 for $140 million. That’s roughly a 715 percent increase to today’s value, factoring in inflation.

While the Cowboys stood atop the list for the sixth consecutive year, the New England Patriots (worth $1.63 billion) passed the Washington Redskins ($1.6 billion) for the second spot.

The New York Giants, valued at $1.46 billion, landed in fourth while the Houston Texas rounded out the top five at $1.3 billion.

Despite playing in the same stadium, the magazine estimated the net worth of the New York Jets at about $200 million less than the Giants.

"We have the Giants bringing in $27 million more in revenue, plus they’re getting the Super Bowl bump on ticket prices," Ozanian said.

Despite the threat of concussion litigation that could eventually cost the NFL billions of dollars, the magazine doesn’t have a single franchise losing value from last season.

"There wasn’t any loss of value reflected in the recent Cleveland Browns sale," Ozanian said. "The investment bankers we spoke to told us that prices haven’t dropped in terms of what people are offering for small or large shares of teams."

Forbes stated that 20 NFL teams are worth more than $1 billion, the most of any league. That number is up from 15 teams last year.

The Cincinnati Bengals, worth $871 million compared to $875 million last season, are the only team that lost value.

Forbes projects only two teams had operating losses last year — the Pittsburgh Steelers ($1.1 billion), due to a higher payroll, and the Oakland Raiders ($785 million), thanks to having the lowest revenues in the league.

The magazine concluded that the two teams that had the biggest jump in value were the Minnesota Vikings ($975 million) and the San Francisco 49ers ($1.17 billion), whose values jumped 22 and 19 percent, respectively, as a result of their new stadiums being built.

The Cowboys’ $2.1 billion value matches that of the Los Angeles Dodgers purchase by Guggenheim Partners. Forbes says only Manchester United is worth more. The magazine said the soccer team was worth $2.23 billion, but the team’s recent offering on the New York Stock Exchanged valued it at $2.9 billion.

HEART2HEART: Jason Witten wants to sign medical waiver to play against New York Giants

Injured Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten watches from the sidelines during Dallas Cowboys training camp - The Boys Are Back blog

There’s no questioning Jason Witten’s toughness. Along with playing through a broken jaw and a broken rib, the Dallas Cowboys tight end has ran halfway down the field during a game without a helmet on.

So it probably doesn’t surprise anyone in the Cowboys organization that Witten, who is recovering from a lacerated spleen, wants to play Wednesday night against the New York Giants so badly that he’s willing to sign a waiver to do so.

According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, Witten has informed the team he is willing to sign a medical waiver that would not hold the Cowboys or team doctors liable in case he re-injured his spleen Wednesday night.

Mortensen added that the Cowboys will not accept any waiver as a path to Witten playing in the game.

Witten, who hasn’t missed a game since his rookie season in 2003, is listed as doubtful on the official injury report.

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Tuesday that the team was waiting for the results of a CAT scan. However, even without those results, Jones said Witten had already been cleared to play against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2.

“I don’t want to be overly optimistic but if you went by the way he’s worked, the work he’s got in, how he feels, then you’d give him a go [against the Giants],” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan’s New School show. “Until you had things such as CAT Scans, which we have and we should use them, players I’m sure played with this degree of spleen injury a lot because all of the signs were on go. I think we’ll look at that, we’ll look for the improvement and then we’ll go by the doctor’s opinion.”

INJURY UPDATE: Jason Witten won’t need surgery

Dallas Cowboys doctors informed tight end Jason Witten he will not need spleen surgery that would have ended his season, according to a source familiar with the situation.

The bleeding in Witten’s spleen has subsided, and doctors believe it now will heal on its own.

Witten still is aiming to return in time for the Cowboys’ Sept. 5 regular-season opener against the New York Giants, but it is questionable whether he will be ready to play.

Witten is more likely to play in Week 2, when the Cowboys play at Seattle on Sept. 16.

Losing Witten would have been a major blow to an offense that relies on him heavily in the run and passing games. He has become the go-to guy for quarterback Tony Romo, catching 409 passes for 4,824 yards and 21 touchdowns since Romo took over as the starter in 2006.

He has missed only one game in his career because of a fractured jaw as a rookie in 2003, and has played through a broken rib, knee and ankle injuries.

Adam Schefter | ESPN

Todd Archer | ESPN Dallas

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