Monthly Archives: May, 2012

Fourth-round pick Kyle Wilber has pins removed from his finger

Wake Forest outside linebacker Kyle Wilber drafted by the Dallas Cowboys

Outside linebacker Kyle Wilber had the pins removed from his right index finger Wednesday. He now can start conditioning, even though he will wear his plastic cast for another week.

Wilber, a fourth-round draft pick, was injured during the rookie minicamp earlier this month. He said he could return for the team’s mandatory minicamp in two weeks while wearing a club on his hand to protect his finger. Veteran linebacker Sean Lee played part of last season while wearing a club to protect his dislocated left wrist.

Wilber said he has experience playing with a club on his hand, having briefly done it in high school.

"It’s definitely frustrating," Wilber said. "All I can do is get mental reps, but physical reps are the most important things. You get muscle memory from it and get in condition. Just knowing different things on the field when it happens. So it really hurts not to be out there."

Wilber said the hardest part has been trying to take notes in meetings. He is right-handed.

"I’ve been getting my left-handed signature down," Wilber said. "Eating is pretty easy. The hardest thing actually is just taking notes during meetings and stuff, because everybody is writing fast,and I’m just kind of scribbling words down on paper. They just gave us these Ipads, so now I can just use my fingers."

Wilber, who played 2 1/2 seasons at defensive end at Wake Forest before moving to outside linebacker, will compete for time at strong side linebacker behind Anthony Spencer. He also is expected to play special teams.

Popularity contest: NFC East teams rule

    Dallas Cowboys Star

    Puff out your chests, NFC East fans, because you have the most popular division in football. According to the first quarter 2012 ESPN Sports Poll of fans’ favorite teams, three of the top nine play in the NFC East. Here are the top 15 teams in popularity according to the poll, sorted by percentage of respondents who identified that team as their favorite:

    1. Dallas Cowboys: 8.8

    2. Green Bay Packers: 7.2

    3. New York Giants: 7.1

    4. Pittsburgh Steelers: 7.1

    5. New England Patriots: 6.8

    6. Chicago Bears: 4.2

    7. New Orleans Saints: 4.1

    8. San Francisco 49ers: 4.0

    9. Philadelphia Eagles: 3.9

    10. Denver Broncos: 3.8

    11. Indianapolis Colts: 2.8

    12. Oakland Raiders: 2.5

    13. Washington Redskins: 2.4

    14. Minnesota Vikings: 2.2

    15. Detroit Lions: 2.2

    Some thoughts:

    • You wonder why we have an and an This is part of the reason why. The Cowboys remain the most popular team in the NFL in spite of two straight non-winning seasons, not having won the Super Bowl in 16 years and only having won two playoff games in that time. That star still means something to a lot of people.

    • The Giants play in the New York market, which is home to many millions of people, and so they’re drawing from a vast reservoir. However, the Jets came in 19th in this poll, which tells you (a) that the Giants just won the Super Bowl, and (b) that the Giants are the No. 1 team in the market by a fair margin.

    • The Eagles also have a large and passionate fan base, but I believe a lot of their popularity is built on (a) consistently contending for and reaching the playoffs during the Andy Reid era, and (b) Michael Vick, who is one of the league’s most popular players.

    • It might be a hopeful time for Redskins fans, but sheesh, look at the damage done by the Daniel Snyder era. There’s no way, if you took this poll in the mid-1990s, that they wouldn’t have been among the top teams in it. There are no fans anywhere as loyal and passionate as Redskins fans, but the mediocrity of the past decade and a half has really robbed them of their national following. Note: ESPN Sports Polls contacts Americans year-round via land line and cell phones in English and Spanish, reaching 390,000 Americans since 1994.

    Calvin Watkins: Why the Cowboys won’t trade Mike Jenkins

    The Indianapolis Colts are interested in cornerback Mike Jenkins. I heard the Detroit Lions are, too. But there are other teams that want nothing to do with him.

    Reality set in for me Friday when I was told, again, the Dallas Cowboys are not interested in trading Jenkins.

    There are several reasons why. Let’s explore.

    1. Injuries. Jenkins battled through shoulder, neck and knee issues last season and still tied for the team lead with 10 pass breakups. In some ways, Jenkins was the Cowboys’ best corner last season given how badly Terence Newman played down the stretch and Orlando Scandrick’s own inconsistencies. But the Cowboys played five cornerbacks last season. The names? Jenkins, Newman, Scandrick, Alan Ball and Frank Walker. Newman, Jenkins and Scandrick — the top corners on the team — missed a total of nine games due to injuries last season. You can never have enough cornerbacks on your team considering how fragile the position can be. Morris Claiborne, Dallas’ first-round pick, hasn’t practiced yet with his new team while he recovers from wrist surgery. Scandrick battled ankle problems last season. You need depth on your team, and keeping Jenkins adds that.

    2. Jenkins was good. He did make the Pro Bowl in 2009 as an injury replacement, so the Cowboys know he can play at a high level. His inconsistencies bother them, but Jenkins is good in man and zone coverage. He’s got the speed to run with speedy receivers and his size is good enough to take on taller receivers, too. The issue Jenkins faces is not being a physical corner. Jenkins isn’t afraid to mix it up with receivers and tight ends in tight spaces, but he doesn’t do it as much as he used to. Some NFL teams wish he would do it more. The question you have to ask yourself is, is Jenkins better than Scandrick?

    3. The Cowboys’ trade needs. A front office source said the Cowboys want something significant for Jenkins if they deal him. What does significant mean? A fourth-round pick? Fifth round? Seventh round? It’s doubtful the Cowboys are getting a first- or second-round selection for Jenkins. Not because Jenkins isn’t worth it, but because he’s in the final year of his contract and he’s coming off shoulder surgery. The Cowboys don’t have much leverage. If you just want to give him away, you can always get a seventh rounder for him. But keeping Jenkins could also mean gaining an compensatory pick in next year’s NFL draft.

    Calvin Watkins |

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    VIDEO: Roger Goodell addresses NFL changes from Spring League Meeting

    Video - Roger Goodell NFL Commissioner press conference - The Boys Are Back blog

    02:10 – NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell talks to the media at the NFL Spring Meeting about the latest hot topics surrounding the league.


    COMPLAINT FILED: NFLPA files collusion suit against NFL over 2010 season

    The NFL Players Association filed a collusion complaint against the NFL in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota on Wednesday, alleging the league imposed a secret $123 million salary cap during the uncapped year of 2010.

    The NFLPA’s complaint points to the league’s punishment of the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints and Oakland Raiders as proof that restraints were in place to suppress salaries during that year. The filing also alleges that internal NFL calculations showed that Washington was $102,833,047 in excess of the secret cap, Dallas was $52,938,774 over, Oakland was $41,914,060 over and New Orleans was $36,329,770 over.

    On Tuesday, system arbitrator Stephen Burbank upheld a league decision to take $36 million of cap space from the Redskins and $10 million of cap space from the Cowboys as a result of contracts that the league has said violated the spirit of competitive balance. The league, by owner vote, agreed to take that cap space and spread it among 28 other teams, excluding the Raiders and Saints as beneficiaries as a result of their 2010 actions.

    NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith

    "When the rules are broken in a way that hurts the game, we have an obligation to act," said NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith in a statement. "We cannot stand by when we now know that the owners conspired to collude."

    NFL spokesman Greg Aiello responded to the players’ claims with a comment:

    "The filing of these claims is prohibited by the collective bargaining agreement and separately by an agreement signed by the players’ attorneys last August. The claims have absolutely no merit and we fully expect them to be dismissed. On multiple occasions, the players and their representatives specifically dismissed all claims, known or unknown, whether pending or not, regarding alleged violations of the 2006 CBA and the related settlement agreement. We continue to look forward to focusing on the future of the game rather than grievances of a prior era that have already been resolved."

    Continue reading →

    INJURY UPDATE: Mackenzy Bernadeau undergoes hip surgery, out until at least training camp

    Guard MacKenzy Bernadeau suffered a set back in his return from a hip flexor injury, forcing him to undergo hip surgery on Saturday to repair a torn labrum, multiple sources said.

    He will be sidelined up to 12 weeks, including the rest of the off season program, organized team activities and the June minicamp. The Cowboys are hopeful he will be able to return for the start of training camp, tentatively set for the last week of July.

    Bernadeau signed a four-year, $11 million free agent contract to join the Cowboys in March after spending the last four years in Carolina. He was expected to compete for a starting spot at guard or center.

    According to the Cowboys, he initially suffered the hip flexor injury working out in the offseason program. The Cowboys had given him some time away to rehab and were hopeful he could return for the June minicamp.

    But that was before he was forced to undergo surgery on Saturday.

    RELATED: Mackenzy Bernadeau’s injury likely to keep him at right guard

    Now that hip surgery will keep him out until at least training camp, Mackenky Bernadeau likely will concentrate on right guard. The free agent signee had been a candidate for the starting center job if one of the team’s young guards emerged.

    “I think we would be less inclined to play him at a couple of different spots initially because he’s losing this off-season work,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “…We’re disappointed that he got banged up. He’s not going to be a part of this thing, but like with all our injured players, he has to stay close to it – be engaged in the meetings, be engaged in the practices and get as much information as he can – so when he comes back for the start of training camp, he’s ready to roll.”

    Bernadeau, who signed a four-year, $11 million deal in March, is expected to miss 10-12 weeks after having surgery last week to repair a tear in his hip.

    The Cowboys are hoping to provide Phil Costa with competition at center. Costa started every game there last season but struggled. Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski will get some work at the position.

    "Obviously, we would rather him not be hurt," Garrett said. "But he did have that hip injury and had the surgery last week. He just has to be aggressive in his rehab and get back as quickly as he can. We have a number of other options in the offensive line, and we’re excited to see those guys."

    BACK2BACK: Twice, Dallas Cowboy Top-10 picks have been foundation for winning

    Twice, Dallas Cowboy Top-10 picks have been foundation for winning - The Boys Are Back blog

    The Dallas Cowboys don’t often pick back-to-back in the top 10, but twice before, it has meant something ‘Super’

    When the Cowboys selected Morris Claiborne two weeks ago in the NFL draft, it marked only the fourth time in club history that they made back-to-back picks in the top 10.

    The team picked Claiborne at No. 6. It followed the previous April selection of offensive tackle Tyron Smith at No. 9.

    Two selections in a row that high could be a sign of good things to come.

    In 1974 and ’75, the team took defensive end Too Tall Jones at No. 1 and defensive tackle Randy White at No. 2. Those choices served as the foundation for two Super Bowl teams and a 68-27 record over the next six years.

    In the 1960s, the Cowboys had four consecutive top-10 picks. They took linebacker Lee Roy Jordan at No. 6 in 1963, then defensive tackle Scott Appleton at No. 4 in 1964, quarterback Craig Morton at No. 5 in 1965 and guard John Niland at No. 5 in 1966.

    The Cowboys made the playoffs every year from 1966 to ’73, reaching six conference championship games and two Super Bowls.

    MOTIVATED VETERANS: Dallas Cowboy DeMarcus Ware leading the way; ready for a championship

    Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware - The Boys Are Back blog

    Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware didn’t come out and say the word Super Bowl but as he said “you know what I’m talking about” when he said his teammates have been motivated in off season workouts to do more than just make the playoffs and just win the NFC East Championship next season.

    “We are not just looking for the playoffs,” Ware said. “We are not just looking for the NFC East championship. We are looking for the big thing that really quantifies what a team means. You already know what I’m talking about.”

    Ware said the Cowboys are motivated by the bitterness of 2011 when they finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs. The Cowboys lost five games after taking a lead into the fourth quarter, including an NFL-record three by 12 points or more, and were blown out by the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants in a winner take all game for the division title and the playoffs in the season final.

    Ware said Cowboys can learn from the Giants and what happened to them “could have been us.”

    He says that’s the focus of the team’s offseason workouts where the Cowboys are not just working hard but showing more leadership than in the past.

    The leadership issue is a buzz word for the Cowboys because of the late season and late game collapses in recent years. Instead of being defensive, Ware, whose leadership has been criticized in the past, said everybody is stepping up because they are tired of losing.

    “It’s just that,” Ware said. “It’s been eight years. Guys are tired of losing. Guys are trying to step up. It’s lead by example and it’s vocal. It’s a lot of young guys coming in so we go tot lead by example. We also go to say what needs to be said.”

    TURNING THE CORNER: Mike Jenkins returning soon | Cowboys expect CB depth to pay off

    Head coach Jason Garrett said the Dallas Cowboys are in touch with cornerback Mike Jenkins, who has been working out in Florida instead of at Valley Ranch during the voluntary offseason program.

    Dallas Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins - The Boys Are Back blog

    “We’d like to have all our players here, involved in our offseason program, but we’ve been in communication with Jenks all throughout the offseason,” Garrett said. “It is voluntary. We can’t make anybody be here. And really, we’re fortunate as a team that we have so many guys who live in Dallas and really embrace what we’re doing in the offseason program.

    “We’ve been in communication with Jenks. We’re excited to get him back here and get back to work.”

    Three OTA sessions are scheduled beginning May 22. Jenkins doesn’t have to return to Irving until a three-day mandatory minicamp June 12-14.

    When he comes back, he’ll face competition at the cornerback spot. The Cowboys signed free agent Brandon Carr to a $50.1 million deal, and they moved up eight spots to take the top corner available in the draft, Morris Claiborne of LSU.

    “I think the most important thing for Jenks is to get healthy,” Garrett said. “He had the offseason surgery. He’s down in Florida trying to get his rehab right and get his shoulder right. So that’s Line 1 for him, to get himself healthy and then come back and compete.”

    Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he is not interested in trading Jenkins, who is entering the last year of his four-year rookie contract, calling him a vital part of the short- and long-term plan.

    “We certainly have some options, and we have the numbers there to plan on playing a lot of corners out there,” Jones said. “Because of that kind of depth, with where the league is right now, it’s good.”

    Keeping Jenkins beyond this year will likely require a heavy investment. If the Cowboys gave Carr a $50.1 million contract and he has not made a Pro Bowl, Jenkins could ask for something similar or greater, considering he does have a Pro Bowl on his resume.

    Besides Claiborne and Carr, the Cowboys are also invested in another corner. Last August, the Cowboys gave nickel corner Orlando Scandrick a five-year extension worth $27 million.

    “We’ve got the resources to have three top corners, and Scandrick, which would be, in my mind, a fourth corner,” Jones said. “But we can do it there. That area of your money allocation just happens to be an area where, if you plan right – to get strong at corner and strong at pass rusher – you’re going to spend some money out there. And so we really went through that process real good when we drafted Claiborne, to really think that through and look ahead. But Jenkins is not only this year, but a long-term player here as far as I’m concerned.”

    But Garrett made clear Jenkins, like everyone else, has work ahead of him to earn his keep on the roster.

    “What our job is as coaches and as an organization is to always try to make our team better,” Garrett said. “One of the ways we do that is we bring people in, personnel, players to create competition to try to make our team better. And guys who play at this level, who play in the NFL, understand. They’ve been competing their whole life. Guys compete to make football teams. Guys compete to be starters. Guys compete for roles on the team, and Jenks is part of that, just like everybody else is.”

    CENTER OF ATTENTION: Phil Costa works towards Pro Bowl status

    Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa - The Boys Are Back blogDallas Cowboys center Phil Costa said he is watching a lot of tape of New York Jets center Nick Mangold.

    That is the model for Costa as he works under new Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who helped develop Mangold into a Pro Bowl player.

    “I’ve watched tons of tape of Mangold,” Costa said Wednesday at Cowboys Golf Club, where he was set to play in the Cowboys’ annual sponsor appreciation golf tournament. “It’s fun to watch him. He does all the calls that we are using now. Watching him on the field and how he applies them and his technique. He’s a great player, so it’s fun to watch him on tape.”

    Costa started every game at center for the Dallas Cowboys last year, but he is expected to have competition for the spot this year. Free agent signee Mackenzie Bernadeau and second-year guards Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski have played center.

    “He certainly faces competition,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We have a lot of guys, some young guys who we like there, but Phil did a good job for us last year. He’s another one of those guys who came into last season and earned that position – undrafted free agent two years ago, undersized, too this, too that, too much the other, but just said, ‘Hey, I’m a good football player,’ and tried to show us that everyday. He’s a serious-minded kid. He works hard. He’s tough. I think he’s an underappreciated athlete. We’re seeing that more and more now.

    “I just think the experience of playing will help him. Having said all that, he’s got to compete every day to earn that job.”

    Last year, Costa benefited from the experience of right guard Kyle Kosier. They shared the line-calling duties. But with Kosier’s release, that part of the game falls to Costa now.

    “The center definitely takes a lot of responsibility with making all the calls and reading the safeties,” he said. “It’s important you know. We’re watching tons of film right now, just trying to learn everything that we’re putting in. In the long run, it’s going to be pretty good.”

    With Callahan, Costa said he is learning more about the center position than he ever imagined.

    “You can be in there for days and weeks and months, you can always learn something new,” he said. “That’s what’s fun about it.”

    O-LINE CHANGES: Doug Free moving to right tackle, says this is the best time to make changes

    Doug Free said the move back to right tackle is going well for him, and that this is the time to do it.

    “It’s nice doing it in the offseason. Everybody’s got a chance to figure it out, go through training camp, compared to doing it during the season,” he said Wednesday at the Dallas Cowboys’ annual golf tournament.

    “This last year, we had a lot of rotation with guys and stuff, so getting the lines set early, getting the training camp under our belt with everybody together, definitely should help.”

    Free and second-year tackle Tyron Smith are switching places. Smith, who started all 16 games at right tackle as a rookie, is going to the left side.

    That’s not the only change. Free agent signees Mackenzie Bernardeau and Nate Livings are expected to be plugged in at the guard spots. Last year, the Cowboys used four players – Bill Nagy, Kevin Kowalski, Montrae Holland and Derrick Dockery.

    Free said he has enjoyed meeting the new additions, Bernardeau and Livings.

    “I hadn’t met them before they came here, but both of them seem to have great personalities, be great guys in general, hard workers, quiet guys,” Free said. “I think they’ll fit right in our group. They’ll be a great fit.”

    So it sounds like Free is the veteran statesman of the offensive line now, with Kyle Kosier having been released. In  the space of a a calendar year, the Cowboys also parted ways with veteran tackle Marc Colombo, veteran guard Leonard Davis and veteran center Andre Gurode.

    “I’m up there in age now, I guess,” Free said, smiling at a question about whether he’d be the one giving the orders now. “But Livings has got a lot of years under his belt, too. He’s also a veteran player.”

    Free, a fourth-round pick in 2007, hasn’t forgotten the education he got from Kosier, Colombo, Gurode, and Adams.

    “You learned a lot from those guys, getting a chance to come in here, just learning some of their techniques, how they handle situations, how they work. A lot of great workers I got to work under.”

    Free played right tackle late in 2009 when he filled in for an injured Colombo, so the transition for him isn’t abrupt.

    “It’s mainly just thinking everything different, opposite, just kind of getting settled over there, used to how everything is called,” he said. “Instead of being on one side, you’re on the other. But getting this time to get used to it is definitely a positive.”

    ARBITRATION: Jerry Jones ready for appeal on salary cap charge, still says team did nothing wrong

    Jerry Jones - Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager - The Boys Are Back blog

    Jerry Jones said the Dallas Cowboys have been able to adjust and accomplish everything they wanted to in free agency despite being stripped of $10 million in 2012 and 2013 by the NFL for alleging violating the spirit of the salary cap in the uncapped season of 2010.

    Jones feels the Cowboys did nothing wrong and will continue the fight to get some salary cap space for this future since this year is essentially lost.

    The next phase of the appeal by the Cowboys and Redskins, who were stripped of $36 million for same violation, occurs Thursday when they face off before a special arbitrator to determine if the grievance should proceed.

    The NFL has filed a motion to dismiss the case, saying that it doesn’t under the jurisdiction of special Special Master Stephen Burbank because the NFL Players Association agreed to the sanctions. If the appeal is allowed to go forward, it will be heard at a different time so the case is far from coming to a resolution.

    “We have an opportunity to present it to a mediator,” Jones said. “That is what tomorrow is all about is whether or not we do have the opportunity to be before him. “That’s period what it is about. That will not resolve the issue. It will help decide whether we can go before a mediator.”

    The contract at issue for the Cowboys is the six-year, $57 million deal the team gave receiver Miles Austin that included an unprecedented $17 million base salary.

    The team thinks it has a good case largely because the NFL management council originally approved the contracts in 2010.

    The league warned teams to not use the year as a financial dumping ground to preserve future competitive balance but there was no rule prohibiting teams from doing so.

    “We followed the rules,” Jones said. “The league has not said we didn’t follow the rules. Those were approved contracts. But this is a complicated issue.”

    The good news for Jones is the Cowboys have been able to adjust successfully and have a strong offseason despite the shocking cap charge.

    The team signed a record seven players in free agency, including giving cornerback Brandon Carr a whopping $50.1 million contract.

    “Certainly we have been able to adjust,” Jones said. “It was a big surprise to us to have that downward adjustment in our cap.  It was very meaningful to us cause we are always looking for room under the cap. It was tough to make that adjustment. We had to go into the future to get some of those dollars to get some of those dollars that we wouldn’t have had to do had we not had that adjustment. That will create a challenge for u sin the future.”

    DIGGING IN: New Dallas Cowboys secondary coach Jerome Henderson demonstrates technique

    Dallas Cowboys secondary coach Jerome Henderson - The Boys Are Back blog

    Last weekend was not only the first chance for the Cowboys’ rookies to be seen on the field, it was also the first on-field action for the new assistant coaches.

    New secondary coach Jerome Henderson stood out.

    He wore cleats, he was demonstrative, and he came off the field brimming with enthusiasm to reporters.

    “I’m just excited to be here in Dallas,” he said Saturday after one of the practices at Valley Ranch. “It’s been a great offseason so far. We made some really good additions to the secondary, to our team. I’m excited to be a part of it. I’m excited to get in here and start working with the guys and getting my hands on them as far as starting to teach them how we want to play this year and what our new philosophy will be and our thought process as we play.

    “I’m just excited to start working with the guys.”

    To that end, the 42-year-old coach wore cleats and ran around showing exactly the technique he wanted.

    “I do, just because some times, when I’m trying to show something in a drill and I’m trying to move and you have tennis shoes on, I just can’t move or can’t react like I want to help them,” he said. “Like right now, as I get going, hopefully I’ll move around a lot more, and I’ll work one-on-one with guys because I know what an NFL corner feels like when he jams you. I know how strong he is, and I know his punch. So I want to feel that, so I can correct it one-on-one and I’m not looking at it saying, ‘Well, OK, that looked like a good punch.’ It’s a good punch because my chest hurts. I know what it feels like.”

    Henderson played cornerback eight years in the NFL. He was a second-round pick of the New England Patriots in 1991, and he played for their Super Bowl team in 1996. He also played in a Super Bowl for the Buffalo Bills and played for the Eagles and Jets.

    He spent the two years before coming to the Cowboys as secondary coach for the Cleveland Browns, where he developed cornerback Joe Haden (who had six interceptions as a rookie in 2010) and safety T.J. Ward (who led the Browns in tackles as a rookie the same year).

    With the Cowboys, he now has a chance to work with the team’s No. 1 pick, cornerback Morris Claiborne. The Cowboys also return a former first-round cornerback, Mike Jenkins, veterans Orlando Scandrick and Gerald Sensabaugh and signed one of the top free agent cornerbacks available in the past offseason, Brandon Carr.

    So, Henderson was asked: Is this the best secondary, on paper, he’s worked with?

    “You know, on paper, you look at things on paper and you may say it is,” he said. “But again, we don’t play football on paper. We play out there on Sundays. It’ll be the most talented if we play that way. Whether we will or not, we’ve got a lot of work.”

    Henderson said he has to put a mentality in his group.

    “The mentality we’re going to try to build is that we fight; we scratch, and we claw, no matter what the situation,” he said. “It may not be pretty all the time, and it’s not going to be perfect. But the one thing you know – and this is our expectation, and this is what we’ve been talking about – is this group will play smart, and they will compete, down in and down out.”

    DALLAS DEFENSE 2.0: Rob Ryan going back to coaching basics again

    There are many changes this year as opposed to last, and Rob Ryan might be the first one to admit it.

    The Cowboys’ defensive coordinator finished his first practice of the 2012 season on Friday morning to start a three-day mini-camp. There’s one difference right there, considering it’s early May.

    Last year, Ryan’s first as defensive coordinator was the first training camp practice in San Antonio because of the NFL lockout.

    And while Ryan isn’t one for excuses, he tried not to say that played a part in last year’s struggles, seeing they were installing a new defense on the fly.

    “I think our guys played hard, but we weren’t always smart and on the same page,” Ryan said on Friday. “We want to eliminate some bad football. When we look back at ourselves and re-evaluate, I think I started a little too fast and put in the accelerated program without the English 101, which I struggle a little bit with. We’re excited about this. I think taking the time to re-teach everything and work on the fundamentals here, I know for a fact we have great defensive coaches, so it’s going to be great. We’re taking our time to teach defense the way it needs to be taught. I think we’re going to be fine.”

    And getting some defensive help is a big plus. In free agency, the Cowboys signed Brandon Carr, Brodney Pool and Dan Connor. And then in the draft, they traded up for their top defensive player on the board in LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, not to mention picking defensive players in the first four picks of the draft.

    So, is that more pressure for Ryan or a luxury? Ryan went with the latter.

    “I know one thing, when you really add some excellent players like we’ve done, it makes my job a lot easier,” Ryan said. “We’re looking forward to it. I might not say as much this year, but I think we’ll be better than I think. We’re going to be damn good.”

    Dallas Cowboys like young WRs, still keeping “Eyes Peeled”

    IRVING, Texas — With no clear No. 3 receiver on the roster right now, it’s understandable that observers listed Dallas as a potential landing spot for five-year veteran Jacoby Jones after the Texans waived him Wednesday.

    Raymond Radway likely "would have been on the 53 (man roster)" last season if not for a season-ending leg injury in the preseason finale

    For now, the Cowboys seem to be taking a similar approach to last year, when Roy Williams’ release created an opening for the No. 3 spot: they want to see how their young receivers progress this offseason, but they won’t pass up a chance to add a veteran player if they believe it’s a good fit.

    “For the most part, we’re patient right now. We feel comfortable," Stephen Jones said when asked about the depth behind Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. "We’re not against adding somebody, but we kind of want to see how these young guys do. And if they don’t do the work or if it doesn’t pan out or if we’re not pleased, player acquisition is 365 days a year. I say that; I believe it.

    “You never know when something’s going to come up and you get an opportunity to get a Laurent Robinson or somebody like that. We have to keep our eyes peeled and if the right guy comes up and he’s better than what we have, we’ll make a move.”

    Robinson was the among the team’s biggest surprises last season. Signed on two separate occasions in early September, he stuck on the roster and caught a team-high 11 touchdown passes. In March, the Cowboys chose not to match an offer from Jacksonville that will pay Robinson more than $6 million per season.

    As for those young wideouts currently on the team, Jones said fourth-year veteran Kevin Ogletree "has a ton of talent" and could have a Robinson-like breakout season if he continues to work at it. He said Raymond Radway likely "would have been on the 53 (man roster)" last season if not for a season-ending leg injury in the preseason finale, and Andre Holmes is a guy “everybody’s looking forward to seeing” in the upcoming workouts.

    MINICAMP UPDATE: Jerry Jones names standouts on Day 1

    MINICAMP UPDATE: Jerry Jones names standouts on Day 1

    It’s hard to gather a whole lot of information from one measly practice on the first day of rookie minicamp, when top picks square off, mostly, against players who were undrafted in shorts and no pads.

    Still, Dallas Cowboys owner and GM Jerry Jones was keeping close watch, looking for any positive sign.

    "I liked the way those D-backs moved around today, and those are the things that really stand out," Jones said. "Of course, your offensive linemen got a lot of reps. (Ron) Leary didn’t disappoint. I liked the way Leary moved out there. He’s not my pet cat, but it sounds like it, and I did like the way he moved.

    "And then I thought (Danny) Coale had a good day out there, and (James) Hanna caught some good balls. And then those quarterbacks through the ball pretty good."

    Two quarterbacks are in the minicamp on a tryout basis, Nathan Dick of Central Arkansas and Larry Smith of Vanderbilt.

    "We’ll take the film of the drills and practices, and that’s where I’ll get my best look," Jones says. "But you just like to see quickness, and you can see that with these receivers and these D-backs … it’s hard to tell without pads on with these linemen."

    Two undrafted cornerbacks had interceptions on consecutive plays late in the workouts, Troy Woolfolk of Michigan and Lionel Smith of Texas A&M.

    Jones also mentioned third-round pick Tyrone Crawford by name, saying he was pleased with the kind of shape the defensive lineman was in, weighing a solid 281 pounds.

    TWEEK TALK: Jay Ratliff-to-DE has been discussed before

    IRVING, Texas — One of the most frequent fan questions we get on "Talkin’ Cowboys" is whether the Cowboys would consider moving four-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff to defensive end.

    Many seem to think the move would help Ratliff, considered undersized at under 300 pounds, remain more durable throughout games, the season and maybe even his career as he approaches age 31.

    It’s something the Cowboys have in fact discussed, executive vice president/chief operating officer Stephen Jones said. The key, though, would be finding a true space-eater in the middle.

    Dallas Cowboys would consider moving four-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff to defensive end.

    “If the right time ever presented itself and we could get one of those mammoth nose tackles that take two guys to block in the running game," Jones said on the show Thursday. "And they have their way of putting pressure in the passing game when they walk those guys back there. The (Haloti) Ngatas of the world, the (Vince) Wilforks, they’re a pain in the butt."

    The other side to the argument is Ratliff’s production over the years. He’s been the defense’s most consistent playmaker besides DeMarcus Ware, using his quickness to create mismatches in the middle. Why change that?

    “He does his job against the run because he’s elite with his quick twitch and his first step coming off the ball," Jones said. "And of course he’s very good in the pass rush. . . . I think he enjoys being quicker than those interior guys. It’s an advantage.”

    The Cowboys do have two younger, bigger nose tackles in Josh Brent and Clifton Geathers. Sean Lissemore did a nice job filling in for Brent while he had a knee injury last season, but he’s a smaller, quicker nose tackle too.

    If and when the Cowboys find a more traditional nose, Ratliff to end probably will be discussed again. LSU’s Michael Brockers might have been an option if the Cowboys had stayed put at No. 14 and taken him in the first round.

    "It’s certainly been talked about, thought about," Jones said, "but so far the way the chips have fallen, we’ll probably be pretty much the way we’ve been."

    Jerry Jones describes how he nearly purchased the San Diego Chargers

    If his father wouldn’t have talked him out of it, Jerry Jones would have likely purchased the San Diego Chargers when he was only 25.

    young Jerry Jones.jpg

    The Cowboys owner and general manager recently wrote a 1,300-word story about his life as a 25-year-old for an upcoming issue of ForbesLife Magazine.

    In his entry, Jones describes how his passion to own an AFL team was so great that he would frequently fly to Houston, sit around the lobby of a hotel where the AFL owners met and when they exited, Jones would introduce himself.

    During those meetings, Jones met Miami Dolphins owner Joe Robbie, who was aware that Barron Hilton was looking to sell the San Diego Chargers.

    Hilton wanted $5.8 million for the franchise.

    Jones was convinced that he wanted to make the purchase but his father talked him out of it.

    "He asked me what in the world I was doing," Jones recalled. "He told me I was supposed to be working in the insurance business and that I still had the pizza-parlor deal to work out. He told me to let football go, that by my own admission the Chargers wouldn’t work financially. He told me, ‘I hate to see you start life behind the eight ball.’"

    Although Jones had the financing in place, he decided to take his father’s advice.

    "Now, of course, just a few months later, the AFL and the NFL merged. The value of the Chargers skyrocketed," Jones wrote. "What I could have had for $5.8 million was then sold for over $11 million.

    "My dad told that story for the rest of his life, how he had talked me out of earning millions at age 25."

    Jones gave the magazine a few photos to run with the story. Here is one with his son Stephen and wife Gene in the Jones’ Fayetteville, Arkansas, apartment:

    How would you do on the Wonderlic test? Try these sample questions

    How would you do on the Wonderlic test?

    Sample questions

    So, you think you’re smarter than an NFL rookie? Here are just a few of the type of questions you might find on a Wonderlic test. (Answers, 3C).

    1.Assume the first two statements are true. Is the final one: 1) True, 2) False, 3) Not certain: The boy plays baseball. All baseball players wear hats. The boy wears a hat.

    2.A train travels 20 feet in one-fifth of a second. At this same speed, how many feet will it travel in three seconds?

    3.Preserve/Reserve. Do these words: 1) Have similar meanings, 2) Have contradictory meanings, 3) Mean neither the same nor opposite?

    4.In printing an article of 48,000 words, a printer decides to use two sizes of type. Using the larger type, a printed page contains 1,800 words. Using smaller type, a page contains 2,400 words. The article is allotted 21 full pages in a magazine. How many pages must be in smaller type?

    5.When rope is selling at 10 cents a foot, how many feet can you buy for 60 cents?


    1. True

    2. 300 feet

    3. Have similar meanings

    4. 17

    5. 6 feet

    56-year-old grandmother trying to be Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader gets tryout (and marriage proposals)

    .A new season means new faces. But that doesn't apply to just the Cowboys football team. The world famous Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders also have new faces. MICHAEL AINSWORTH / Staff Photographer

    Sharon Simmons, a grandmother of two from Carrollton, hopes at age 56 to be the oldest Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader when she tries out with hopefuls half her age Saturday at Valley Ranch, according to But even though she seeks a spot on one of the most popular entertainment group’s in the world, she couldn’t believe the attention her quest received when she made it public months ago.

    "Holy cow, in less than 24 hours after that story broke, it was everywhere!" Simmons said to the site. "No, I was not prepared for that."

    With three marriage proposals coming from the popularity of the story, Simmons decided to limit the publicity of her attempt but not her fitness preparation. She attends weekly dance classes at Plano’s KJ Dance Studio, learning from a former Cowboys cheerleader who knows how difficult the process is. She also takes on a private lesson a week and a weekly trip to another studio for more training.

    The physical commitment is nothing new for the author and fitness expert, but the choreography is a unique challenge.

    "It’s nothing like fitness, nothing at all," Simmons said. "With this, the choreography is so fast. Our instructor will show us two or three times, and then it’s like, ‘Okay, let’s get it!’"

    Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders - 56 year old tryout - The Boys Are Back blog

    Click PLAY to watch video (external site). Opens in a new page.

    Junior Seau found dead at California home

    Junior Seau found dead at California home

    OCEANSIDE, Calif. (AP) — Former NFL star Junior Seau was found shot to death at his home Wednesday morning in what police said appeared to be a suicide. He was 43.

    Police Chief Frank McCoy said Seau’s girlfriend reported finding him unconscious with a gunshot wound to the chest and lifesaving efforts were unsuccessful.

    A gun was found near him, McCoy said. Police said no suicide note was found and they didn’t immediately know who the gun was registered to.

    "We believe it was a suicide," said Oceanside police Lt. Leonard Mata. "There is no indication of foul play."

    Seau’s mother appeared before reporters, weeping uncontrollably.

    "I don’t understand … I’m shocked," Luisa Seau cried out.

    Her son gave no indication of a problem when she spoke to him by phone earlier this week, she said.

    "He’s joking to me, he called me a `homegirl,’" she said.

    Continue reading →

    BOUNTYGATE RULING: Four Saints players get punishments; Jonathan Vilma won’t face Dallas Cowboys

    New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was suspended without pay for the entire 2012 season by the NFL, one of four players punished Wednesday for participating in the team’s cash-for-hits bounty system.

    New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was suspended without pay for the entire 2012 season by the NFL

    Defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, now with the Green Bay Packers, was suspended for the first half of this season; Saints defensive end Will Smith was barred for the opening four games; and linebacker Scott Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, will miss the first three games. All of the suspensions are without pay.

    All four players have three days to appeal NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s ruling.

    An NFL investigation determined that the Saints had a bounty system from 2009-11 that offered thousands of dollars to players for big hits that knocked opponents out of games. In March, Goodell suspended Saints head coach Sean Payton for all of next season, and levied other penalties against the club.

    But no players were punished until Wednesday. Originally, the league said that 22 to 27 defensive players were involved in the illegal scheme, which was orchestrated by then-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and started in the season New Orleans won its only Super Bowl championship.

    Targeted opponents included quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Brett Favre and Kurt Warner. “Knockouts” were worth $1,500 and “cart-offs” $1,000, with payments doubled or tripled for the playoffs.

    “In assessing player discipline, I focused on players who were in leadership positions at the Saints; contributed a particularly large sum of money toward the program; specifically contributed to a bounty on an opposing player; demonstrated a clear intent to participate in a program that potentially injured opposing players; sought rewards for doing so; and/or obstructed the 2010 investigation,” Goodell said in a statement.

    According to the league, Saints defensive captain Vilma offered $10,000 in cash to any player who knocked then-Cardinals QB Warner out of a playoff game at the end of the 2009 season, and the same amount for knocking then-Vikings QB Favre out of that season’s NFC championship game. The Saints were flagged for roughing Favre twice in that game, and the league later said they should have received another penalty for a brutal high-low hit from Remi Ayodele and Bobby McCray that hurt Favre’s ankle. He was able to finish the game, but the Saints won in overtime en route to the NFL title.

    According to the NFL, Fujita “pledged a significant amount of money to the prohibited pay-for-performance/bounty pool during the 2009 NFL Playoffs when he played for the Saints.”

    Hargrove “actively participated in the program while a member of the Saints,” the league said, adding that he “submitted a signed declaration to the league that established not only the existence of the program at the Saints, but also that he knew about and participated in it.”

    The NFL said that “multiple independent sources” said Smith “pledged significant sums to the program pool.”

    In March, Goodell made Payton the first head coach suspended by the league for any reason, accused of trying to cover up the system of extra cash payouts. Goodell also indefinitely banned Williams, who was hired in January to run the St. Louis Rams’ defense.

    In addition, Goodell suspended Saints general manager Mickey Loomis for the first eight regular-season games next season and assistant coach Joe Vitt for the first six games. The Saints were fined $500,000 and lost two second-round draft picks.

    Fujita, Hargrove, and Smith are allowed to participate in offseason activity, including preseason games, before their suspensions take effect. Vilma, though, is suspended immediately and will be reinstated after the coming season’s Super Bowl — which, coincidentally, will be played in New Orleans.

    Associated Press | National Football League

    Minicamp dates announced

    Today, the league put out a press release announcing the dates of offseason team activities and minicamps. The full list can be found here. The rules state that teams may hold a rookie minicamp on one of the first two weekends after the draft and may also hold a mandatory camp for veterans. New head coaches can hold one additional voluntary camp for returning players, but there are no new head coaches in the NFC East this year, just as I continually assured you there would not be when you kept asking me that question throughout the 2011 season.

    Here are the offseason schedules for our teams:

    Dallas Cowboys
    OTA: May 22-24, May 29-31, June 4-7
    Minicamp: May 4-6 (rookies), June 12-14
    New York Giants
    OTA: May 23-24, May 30-June 1, June 4-5, June 7-8
    Minicamp: May 11-13 (rookies), June 12-14
    Philadelphia Eagles
    OTA: May 22-24, May 30-June 1, June 4-7
    Minicamp: May 12-14 (rookies), June 12-14
    Washington Redskins
    OTA: May 21, May 23-24, May 29-31, June 4-7
    Minicamp: May 4-6 (rookies), June 12-14

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