Since Jason Garrett took over the Cowboys, they have gone back to the future. Garrett has shared the team’s history with his players, including new photographs of the team’s Super Bowl-championships outside the Cowboys’ Valley Ranch locker room.
The Cowboys had ex-players Michael Myers, Leon Lett, Larry Allen and Kevin Mathis roaming the practice fields at Valley Ranch on Thursday. (Lett and Mathis have been helping coach during training camp.) During Friday’s practice against the Chargers at Cowboys Stadium, the Cowboys will welcome back 50 former players. The ex-players will have lunch at the stadium and be on the sideline to visit with the current players.
“I think it’s an important thing to understand where this organization has been and embrace it. Embrace it,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “It’s a standard that has been set here for a long time. The players hear me say this all the time: We’re not living in the past; we’re living in today and going forward. But sometimes it can be instructive to see what’s gone on in the past, particularly when you’re in an organization like this. To have the relationships that I have and this organization has with some of these players, we think that’s a good thing. It’s been a real positive experience really for everybody.”
— Charean Williams
Former Cowboys offensive lineman Larry Allen doesn’t say much. He even joked Thursday after a one-sentence answer to a question that, “It’s like old times. Quiet Larry.”
Allen was reminded that he’ll have to speak publicly when he gives his Pro Football Hall of Fame speech. Allen, a six-time All-Pro and 11-time Pro Bowler in his 14-year NFL career, is eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2013.
“I know that. I guess I need to start working on that,” Allen said, adding that he won’t speak longer than a minute — long enough to thank everyone.
Allen could go into the Ring of Honor before that. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones hinted last week that Allen is a candidate to be added this year. The Star-Telegram has reported that Drew Pearson will be added to the Ring of Honor this year, but it is possible Jones could add more than one or add Allen next year.
Allen said he has not talked to Jones about the Ring of Honor.
“But it would be great,” Allen said.
Allen lives in California, but while he is in town this week, he is helping Cowboys’ first-round draft pick Tyron Smith. He also said he will take Smith to lunch.
“He has long arms, and he uses his reach well,” Allen said. “He just needs to pick it up a little bit and get a little quicker.”
Garrett said Allen will be invited back.
“Larry Allen is one of the all-time greats,” Garrett said. “I told our team afterwards that you’d be hard pressed to find someone who played the offensive line better than Larry Allen did in the history of the NFL. I remember his rookie year, he started at left tackle, he started at right tackle and then he played his natural position guard. He went on for 15 or so years after that and made multiple Pro Bowls.
“…When you bring a guy like that around, who wants to be around, it’s just a good thing. It’s good karma to have Larry Allen around whether he says something to you technically as an offensive lineman or just has his presence here I think that’s a good thing. The same thing Charles Haley has been around working with our guys. Leon Lett. Kevin Mathis. Some of those guys who have been in our organization in the past, we think that’s a good thing. They’re the right kind of guys and great examples to our team.”
Thursday’s practice brought good news and bad news to the Cowboys. The good news is they were back on grass for the first time. After 13 practice days on the turf at the Alamodome in San Antonio and four practices inside Cowboys Stadium, the Cowboys spent the morning on their grass fields at Valley Ranch.
“It feels good,” Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. “I used to always hear those old guys talking about their knees hurting on the turf. Now I kind of know what they were experiencing. It felt good to get on the grass. It’s good for us to fight this heat a little bit and see what we’re made of. I thought it was good. We were able to move the ball on them and get some good work.”
The bad news is that meant they practiced in the heat. The Cowboys had a practice scheduled for last Saturday at Valley Ranch, but rain sent them to Cowboys Stadium.
“I think our guys have been working hard in an indoor environment and practicing at a good tempo,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “It was fun for us coaches to see how they would responded to being in the heat and maintaining that tempo and get through the harder parts of practice. At first glance it seemed like they were able to do that.”
The mercury was almost to 100 degrees by the time the two-hour practice ended.
“This is what we need,” Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. “We need to get out in and practice in it and get our bodies conditioned for going to play the Miamis and the hot teams.”
The Cowboys have one preseason game — at Miami on Sept. 1 — that will be played outdoors and seven in the regular season. The Cowboys also play at Arizona on Dec. 4, and the Cardinals have a retractable-roof stadium.
“We’re going to be in the heat during the games, and the sun is going to be out here until the end of time,” Cowboys receiver Kevin Ogletree said. “We needed to get this work.”
A year after predicting (and then orchestrating) his inevitable departure from the Cowboys, receiver Patrick Crayton was back at the Cowboys’ Valley Ranch training complex as a member of the San Diego Chargers.
For Crayton, it was business as usual, as he felt right at home during the joint practices between the two teams in advance of Sunday’s preseason matchup at Cowboys Stadium.
“It’s still work for me,” Crayton said. “You have to treat it every day like it’s work. I’m just on the different side now. No, it’s not strange, not strange at all. It feels like I’m back at home. I’m back on this great field again. It’s like a putting green. I love it. It was good.”
There were no fireworks between Crayton and his former teammates. He and Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick renewed their battles and trash-talking sessions, though Crayton did get shoved after a play by defensive end Jason Hatcher.
“I told him I saw better hands on a snake,” Hatcher joked.
Added tight end Jason Witten: “I’m sure he gave you guys some good sound bytes. Pat’s great. I have so much respect for him. He’s one of the best at finding a way to get open. You always think he’s covered and some way he makes a catch, and big ones at that. He was a big player here for a long time. You saw him come in as a young player, as a quarterback, and he just worked his tail off to become a good player. I think he’s got a good home there because it seems like they like him really well.”
Crayton, a DeSoto native, was back at home, but he was not back to his old outspoken self. Chargers coach Norv Turner has instructed him to tone it down in San Diego.
The irony is not lost on Crayton that the Cowboys still are searching for a third receiver. They try to claim one on the waiver wire after final cuts if Kevin Ogletree doesn’t step up.
“Well, I don’t know what to tell them because I won’t be available,” Crayton joked.
Still how his Cowboys career ended was no laughing matter to Crayton who enjoyed living the dream of playing for his hometown team.
“I had a wonderful six years,” Crayton said. “I’m very grateful to Mr. [Jerry] Jones and this organization for what they did for me. There will never be any hard feelings for me. There will always be motivation. You have to prove every day that you can play in this league.”
Crayton said he is happy to be in San Diego where they run essentially the same offense as the Cowboys. Chargers coach Norv Turner taught to Garrett when he was a player and Turner was the Cowboys offensive coordinator in the 1990s.
So far Crayton is an even better fit with the Chargers than he was with the Cowboys. He made an immediate impact last year, catching 28 passes for 514 yards, including a career-high 18 yards per catch, in nine games before season-ending wrist surgery.
He currently is the team’s No. 2 receiver opposite Pro Bowler Vincent Jackson.
“It’s another veteran,” Turner said of Crayton. “It’s another guy who knows how to come to work every day and play. He was getting on a role last year when he got hurt. It was a big negative for our team when he got hurt. He is back. He is going to give us some big plays.”
— Clarence E. Hill Jr.
Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said plenty of opportunities remain for the offense’s new players to shine. For the young receivers, especially, this is a good time to practice their best, he said.
“Some receivers have had to step up,” he said after practice Thursday with the Chargers. “The guys are tired, but they have to understand, they’ve got a great opportunity in front of them right now, to run with the first group. Being an undrafted free agent, you dream for those moments. You’ve got to take advantage of it.”
Witten said the Cowboys offense has made improvements in training camp, mainly in communication, mainly because it is facing new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s scheme.
“Going against our defense every day makes you a lot better because you can’t take a play off,” he said. “They come from all different angles. You have to be on it, communicate it – those things good teams do. Open your mouth and talk. You can’t just line up and say I’m going to take care of my guy. “There’s been some urgency there.”
Watching the steady and crafty Patrick Crayton catch passes for the Chargers, its not hard to imagine how good a fit he would be in the Cowboys offense, complementing game-breaking receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Austin on the outside.
Kevin Ogletree is being targeted for that role after the Cowboys cut Roy Williams in the offseason. He got a trial by fire practicing against the Chargers on Thursday.
Austin was held for precautionary reasons to rest his tight hamstring. He might even miss Sunday’s preseason game against the Chargers if he can’t practice Friday.
So Ogletree got a chance to work with the starters opposite Bryant.
“It’s an opportunity for me every day just to prove my worth being here and my role on this team,” Ogletree said. “I think I’m getting there. It’s a process. I’m getting better. That’s what counts.”
Ironically, one of the reasons the Cowboys finally cut Crayton last year is because they thought Ogletree was ready for a larger role. But Ogletree played only six games, catching just three passes for 34 yards before being put on injured reserve with a dislocated big toe.
He is healthy and has shown improvement in camp this year. But he is also being pushed by rookie receiver Dwayne Harris for the third spot.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he needs to be more consistent.
“There are a lot of good things that he’s done,” Garrett said. “He shows really on a daily basis that he’s a guy who can win as a route runner in this league both as an outside receiver and inside receiver. Kevin, like a lot of our younger players, shows you flashes and needs to do it on a more consistent basis. I think he’s done that more and more over the last three years and he just needs to keep doing it.”
If Ogletree doesn’t do it, the Cowboys, who have more than $6 million in salary-cap room, will likely search for a proven receiver on the waiver wire after final cuts.
— Clarence E. Hill Jr.
Cowboys kicker David Buehler underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam on his ailing right hip. The results confirmed the original diagnosis of a hip strain and he will sit out Sunday’s game against the Chargers, a source said.
It is a setback for Buehler, who is competing with rookie Dan Bailey and Kai Fobath for the kicking job. Bailey only kicked off in the preseason opener against the Broncos. An errant snap cost him a PAT opportunity.
Against the Chargers, Baily will get a chance to do it all and prove that he can handle the prime-time spotlight.
Buehler is listed as day to day. He has not kicked since injuring the hip Monday. So if things go well, he could be back kicking again next week.
Fobath has not kicked since the Cowboys signed him Aug. 2. He has a quadriceps injury.
By DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports Writer
Associated Press August 18, 2011 01:15 PM
Terrelle Pryor will have an opportunity to pursue his NFL dreams, with one significant caveat: The former Ohio State star must still pay for breaking NCAA rules while he was in college.
The league announced Thursday that Pryor is eligible for its supplemental draft, but he won’t be allowed to practice for the team that selects him until Week 6. Pryor gave up his final season with the Buckeyes following an investigation into the team’s memorabilia-for-cash scandal.
He would’ve had to sit out five games had he chosen to return to Ohio State.
“We accept that voluntarily,” Pryor’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told The Associated Press. “It’s a small price to pay for him to have a chance to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL.”
A small price that could have broader consequences.
Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith worked together on the decision, Rosenhaus said. The league hopes it will dissuade future college players who run afoul of the NCAA from trying to use the NFL as a means of escaping punishment. But it also creates this dilemma: Does the NFL have the authority to suspend a player who doesn’t even work for the NFL yet?
“I know players are concerned about the message this sends,” said Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, a member of the players’ executive committee. “Granted, making this `deal’ was an individual decision made by a player with counsel from his agent and lawyer. They have every right to make whatever deal they want for his personal future. That being said, the general concern now is how far into Pandora’s box this may go.
“This raises so many questions, and I think players are rightfully concerned.”
The league informed clubs that Pryor “made decisions that undermine the integrity of the eligibility rules for the NFL draft.” Among those actions, the league said, were the hiring of an agent in violation of NCAA rules and a failure to cooperate with the investigation that cost Ohio State coach Jim Tressel his job. The NCAA committee on infractions is working to determine the school’s final penalties.
League spokesman Greg Aiello tweeted you can’t break the rules as Pryor did “and get a free pass into the NFL.”
Goodell did not confer with NCAA President Mark Emmert on the decision, said Bob Williams, a spokesman for the college sports governing body. The commissioner “called Mark to inform him of his intent. Nothing more,” Williams said.
One of the points of contention during negotiations for a new NFL labor agreement was the authority given to the commissioner to hand out punishment. In the end, there were no changes to Goodell’s position, but his decision to suspend Pryor worried players.
“I don’t understand,” said Bills safety George Wilson, an NFLPA representative. “My question is, with this Miami probe, are those players who took those gifts, are those guys — guys that violated NCAA regulations — are they subject to his discipline as well? Is it retroactive? This opens up a big can of worms.
“You can’t pick and choose when you want to apply, when you don’t want to apply, who you stick it to, who you don’t stick it to,” Wilson said. “It needs to be clearly defined. I don’t agree with it. But we have to see how he chooses to proceed as well as the union. It’s just setting a whole totally different precedent. ”
David Cornwell, Pryor’s attorney, said he was pleased that quarterback is eligible for the supplemental draft — which was his “primary objective” — although having to sit out five games was not the ideal situation.