Arlington paved over Fred Jackson’s neighborhood and put up a parking lot.
Photo: Mark Mulville /Buffalo News
Running back Fred Jackson will feel right at home Sunday when he and the Buffalo Bills go to Dallas to face the Cowboys.
That’s because he literally will be playing in his old backyard.
The house in which Jackson grew up was located on what now is one of the parking lots for the massive new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“It will literally be home-field advantage for me,” Jackson said.
Jackson said he and his family lived in the house from the time he was in fourth or fifth grade through his senior year of high school. Jackson then went off to Coe College in Iowa, and his parents moved to a different home in the Dallas area shortly thereafter. The City of Arlington eventually had to arrange for the purchase of about 168 properties to make room for the 140 acres needed for the stadium and surrounding parking lots.
“They were clearing out all that stuff five to six years in advance of the building of the stadium,” Jackson said.
This will be Jackson’s first professional game in Dallas.
“I’m excited,” Jackson said. “I grew up a Cowboys fan. I think it’s every boy’s dream if they live in a place where there’s a professional team, you either want to play for that team or play against them.”
Jackson, of course, is making a hero’s return. He currently is the No. 3 rusher in the NFL, with 803 yards, behind only Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy (825) and Chicago’s Matt Forte (805). Jackson is second in the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,194 yards, behind only Forte (1,241).
At his current pace, Jackson would break O.J. Simpson’s single-season team record for yards from scrimmage of 2,243, set in 1975.
No one saw such success coming when Jackson was playing for Lamar High School, about 5 miles from the current Cowboys Stadium, in Arlington. He was a late bloomer.
“I went back [to Lamar] a couple years ago, and people didn’t even recognize me,” Jackson said. “I was a minute person in high school. I was 5-8, all of 140 pounds. So to come back 6-1, 220, is completely different.”
Jackson barely played for Lamar, which is a prep football power and had about 4,000 students when he attended. He was the third-string running back entering his senior year. He moved up to second string after the season opener but still managed only about five carries for 40 yards for the season. The first stringer, Tommicus Walker, went on to play for Nebraska. Jackson and his Lamar team did make it to the Cowboys’ old home, Texas Stadium, for the state playoffs his senior year.
Jackson was a big Cowboys fan growing up, and Dallas Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith was his favorite player. But he never attended a Cowboys game as a kid. This will be Jackson’s first trip to the new Cowboys Stadium, built at a cost of $1.1 billion and opened in 2009. Jackson gave his parents his two tickets to the Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium, played last January.
Jackson said he has 25 tickets for Sunday’s game, and he knows too many people in the area to try to accommodate more friends at the game.
“Just family — mom, dad, brothers and sisters,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. It’ll be fun to see a lot of different people. I’m sure I’ll see a lot of them in pregame in the stands hooting and hollering.”
Courtesy: Mark Gaughan | The Buffalo News
IRVING, Texas — Sometimes the best moves you make are the ones you don’t make at all.
The Dallas Cowboys desperately wanted Dave Rayner to be their kicker. They signed the veteran the last week of the preseason and had him attempt two field goals at Miami’s Sun Life Stadium. He missed them both, including a badly hooked 36-yarder off the infield dirt to close the game. He missed a 51-yarder in the third quarter.
Because Rayner missed his attempts, the Cowboys were forced to go with Dan Bailey, and the undrafted rookie has been spectacular. He has made 20 of 21 tries this year, including 19 in a row, which is a team rookie record.
Incredibly, his only miss is a 21-yarder in Week 2 at San Francisco.
As for Rayner, he will be at Cowboys Stadium Sunday with Buffalo. The Bills signed him Tuesday with Rian Lindell suffering a shoulder injury against the New York Jets.
IRVING, Texas – Tight end Scott Chandler bounced between the bottom of the roster and the practice squad during his tenure with the Cowboys.
Now he’s near the top of the NFL leaders in touchdown catches.
Buffalo picked up Chandler off waivers when the Cowboys tried to move the Southlake Carroll product back to the practice squad in December last year. He’s blossomed with the Bills this season.
The 6-foot-7, 263-pound Chandler is a major reason the Bills rank second in the NFL in red-zone efficiency, having scored on six of his 18 receptions for the Bills this season. Detroit’s Calvin Johnson is the only player with more touchdown catches.
“He is very smart about how to play the game,” Bills coach Chan Gailey said of Chandler. “He’s a huge target. He runs the routes the way we ask him to run them and he’s in the right spot. When you’ve got a big target that can catch the ball, you can put it in a lot of places and he’ll come down with it. He’s been able to fool them and get in the right spots and make plays.
“I don’t think I envisioned that to be honest with you, coming into the season. I hoped he might be a weapon down there, but he’s turned out to be even better than I thought.”
Chandler has turned into the type of weapon the Cowboys, who rank second to last in red-zone efficiency, expected Martellus Bennett to become. Bennett, by the way, has four touchdowns in 54 career games and none since 2008.
IRVING, Texas — Sean Lee’s club for a left hand has already earned a nickname from his teammates.
“He was going pretty good with his Q-tip of an arm he had on that,” safety Barry Church said. “He was catching some passes out there.”
Outside linebacker Anthony Spencer said, “I would think it that would be hard just in living. Playing the game? He’s moving around pretty good. You can’t tell until the plays get to flying around and things happen, but I’m sure the more practice the more comfortable he’ll be with it.”
Lee said he would take advantage of the club somehow Sunday against Buffalo, and he tested it out some on Spencer.
“That’s what it looks like, a big Q-tip,” Spencer joked. “Until he hit me in the face with it. It’s hard.”
San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis played two games with a club-like cast on his right arm last year to protect a broken hand.
“He’s obviously a fantastic linebacker and he was effective with it, so it shows you a guy can play with it,” Lee said. “He’s a ridiculous athlete too. I don’t know that that’s the comparison, but it definitely can be done.”
IRVING, Texas — On Monday coach Jason Garrett said the offensive coaching staff would look at things the Dallas Cowboys have done in the past successfully in the red zone as well as look at what other teams do well in order to correct a flaw.
If Garrett wants, he can look at what Buffalo has done inside the opponents’ 20 for a guide.
Only Tennessee has a better touchdown percentage in the red zone than the Bills. Buffalo has scored a touchdown on 18 of 28 red-zone drives for a 64.3 percentage. Tennessee has scored touchdowns on 14 of 19 tries.
Buffalo is even better on goal-to-go situations, scoring a touchdown on 12 of 14 times.
The Dallas Cowboys have scored touchdowns on just 10 of 26 trips inside the opponent’s 20. Only Tampa Bay (3.4%) has a worse percentage than the Cowboys. In goal-to-go situations, the Cowboys have scored touchdowns on eight of 19 tries. Only Jacksonville has a worse percentage at 37.5.
“Your quarterback has to play good in the red zone,” Gailey said. “Your receivers have to go to the right place and you’ve got to have some guys down there who make some plays. [Ryan Fitzpatrick] and the receivers have done a great job of making plays in the red zone. We were fortunate early in the year to play extremely well there, and we’ve done OK lately. We need to get back to where we were earlier this season.”
IRVING, Texas — More than a few times Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has told the story about how Joe Gibbs told Jones about the importance of having a coach with a specialty on one side of the ball.
Jerry Jones isn’t a fan of a “walk-around” head coach. It’s why Jones wanted Wade Phillips to call the defense when Phillips was the coach and why he wants Jason Garrett to call the offense.
On Sunday Jimmy Johnson, who was a “walk-around” head coach, said on Fox’s pre-game show that Garrett would be better off with an offensive coordinator, even if Sean Payton and Mike McCarthy served as head coaches and play callers for the last two Super Bowl teams.
“I do have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Johnson,” Garrett said. “I had the good fortune of playing for him for two years and have learned a tremendous amount of football from him when he was a head coach, just seeing how he operated. And since then, in many conversations that he and I have had. That could be an opinion he might have and other people might have. But right now, we feel good about the structure we have on our staff and that is what we will do going forward.”
Does it ever get to be too much for Garrett?
“I think the biggest thing that we do pretty well is we communicate during the game, and that’s within the offensive staff,” Garrett said. “I also think it’s among all of the guys on the staff. I think our communication is good. Obviously, Rob [Ryan] is calling the defense, but as a head coach you have to be involved in all three phases and I think we communicate well, we communicate quickly and it’s been an effective way to do it.”
Clearly former Penn State linebacker Sean Lee has respect for his former college coach Joe Paterno and his alma mater.
But in the wake of the child molestation charges against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and Paterno’s announcement on Wednesday he will retire at the end of the season, Lee’s focus was on justice for the victims.
“It’s obviously an extremely sad and shocking situation up there,” Lee said. “You just pray for all of those children. You pray for the victims. Obviously, you pray for the families and you hope that justice is done.
“Then hopefully, once justice is done, Penn State can move on and be the great university is has been. There are a lot of great people up there, and I’m very proud to come from Penn State.”
Lee was the Cowboys second round pick in 2010 after earning all-Big 10 honors as a senior at Penn State, where he played four years under Paterno. Asked about Paterno’s retirement announcement, Lee again turned the attention to the victims and his former teammates who are having to deal with the controversy while getting ready to play a game against the Nebraska on Saturday.
“I’m not really going to speculate on that too much,” he said. “I don’t have too much of a comment on that. I just know it’s a tough situation up there right now. You feel for the victims.
“Obviously, I talked to some of my teammates and they’re trying to rally that team and trying to get them on track through a tough situation.”