Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones is close friends with Cowboys tight end James Hanna. The former college teammates played three seasons together with the Sooners.
When Jones got married in Fort Worth on July 6, Hanna, the Cowboys’ sixth round pick in April, was one of his groomsmen.
So it only seems obvious that the two would joke around about the possibility of playing together on Sundays.
“It’s a huge joke because I’ll never go to the Cowboys,” Jones said Monday during Big 12 media days at The Westin Galleria hotel. “That would be so fun to be able to go back and play with him. I wish him nothing but the best at the Cowboys, but I don’t know if there’s ever a chance that me and him will ever play together. They got a pretty good guy down there that’s going to be playing there for a long time.”
Tony Romo is certainly a very good NFL quarterback, but he’s 32 and the Cowboys could always use a young, strong-armed passer to learn under a veteran quarterback.
However, that would likely come from a draft pick in the later rounds. Most likely, Jones won’t be available at that time. The Oklahoma quarterback nearly entered the NFL Draft this year, filling out the paperwork that allows experts to project were a prospect would be chosen. Jones said he was informed that he would go in the first round.
Even though there are no guarantees, it was enough to make Jones put serious thought into foregoing his senior season.
“I remember the day, I was praying about it and then just kind of had a peace about staying,” Jones said. “I felt like that was what the Lord wanted me to do.”
Coming back for a shot at a national championship also played a significant role. The Sooners lost three of their last seven games last season and Jones’ numbers dipped from an outstanding sophomore campaign that included 4,718 passing yards and 38 touchdown passes. Jones threw for 4,463 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2011.
But Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops doesn’t blame that finish on his starting quarterback. Stoops said Monday that he didn’t ask Jones to improve on anything during the off-season. Instead, Stoops said he asked 10 other players on offense to improve.
“Everybody (said), ‘Landry struggled,’” Stoops said. “No, he didn’t. The offense struggled. He had more dropped passes in the last three games, we couldn’t even keep track of how many. Didn’t run the football as effectively as we needed to at all.
“All of that goes together. And so to me, it’s more of an issue of the offense and the offense around him than it is him.”
If the Sooners are to reach the national title game for the first time since January 2009, Jones will likely have to be as effective as past Sooners quarterbacks Josh Heupel, Jason White and Sam Bradford. Stoops sees many similarities between Jones and those other three. Pretty good company considering Heupel won a national championship and White and Bradford each won a Heisman Trophy.
A good work ethic, size, talent and toughness are some of the traits that Stoops says his current quarterback shares with the other standouts he’s coached at Oklahoma.
According to Jones, the measurables, comparisons and statistics don’t matter this season. Getting the Sooners into the national title game like Heupel, White and Bradford did is what he cares about most.
“I don’t want to be just somebody that has a lot of good stats,” Jones said. “I want to be somebody that gets to play in that national title game, and actually win one.”
The play ended before Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter could reach the end zone with his interception, whistled to a stop by coaches to keep drills moving in a timely manner.
But Carter’s pick against quarterback Tony Romo, and other plays like it during the early stages of training camp, have cast the second-year pro in a different light with coaches and teammates than the rookie who played sparingly last season while recuperating from major knee surgery.
"He’s night-and-day different than what we had last year," said defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who lists Carter as a second-teamer on the depth chart but has him splitting first-team reps with Dan Connor at one inside linebacker spot. "His work ethic’s improved. So he’s really ready to make a big jump, and we’re excited for him. The game is slowing down for him, and when it slows down for a really good athlete like him, good things are coming… He’s going to have a much bigger role this year."
Carter, a three-year starter and 2010 Butkus Award finalist at North Carolina, had been projected as a first-round pick until he tore the ACL in his knee during the final regular-season game of his senior season. That dropped his stock heading into the 2011 NFL Draft, in which the Cowboys took him with a second-round pick. They did so with the knowledge that he would spend much of his rookie season rehabilitating the knee and learning the playbook.
For Carter, the fruits of those efforts are coming into focus. Carter (6-foot-2, 240 pounds) has drawn praise from owner Jerry Jones for his training camp progress and is expected to push Connor for the starting job.
Carter’s first opportunity to turn heads in a high-profile setting comes in Monday’s preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders in Oakland, Calif. (7 p.m., ESPN, KTVT/11).
"The hardest thing for me has been taking it from the playbook to the field, at game speed," said Carter, who downplayed concerns about living up to the preseason praise from Ryan and Jones.
"I don’t think it puts any pressure on me," Carter said. "I’m just excited to get out there. It feels like forever for me since I even played football. To get out here and showcase myself is nice. I’m a playmaker. I like to show my talents off and make plays."
Carter displayed a knack for blocking kicks in college, leading the nation in blocked kicks (5) as a sophomore. He blocked three punts in one quarter during a game against Connecticut and, as a Cowboys rookie, deflected a punt that set up a touchdown in last year’s 20-7 loss to Philadelphia on Dec. 24.
But he made only one tackle — an assisted one, at that — during a handful of snaps as a defensive player. Now that Carter is healthy and claims to understand Ryan’s defensive scheme "like the back of my hand," Cowboys coaches expect much more in 2012.
Asked if he is starting to see glimpses of the Carter who made 190 tackles during his final three seasons in college, Ryan nodded his head.
"And then some," Ryan said. "He was outstanding athletically. But his scheme [in college] was a little different. I think he’ll make more plays for us than he did for them. We’ve put him inside. I think he’ll be a better factor inside than outside."
Carter agreed. At North Carolina, he played outside linebacker and teams often ran away from him. Under Ryan’s scheme, he is listed as an inside linebacker but will have flexibility to line up in other spots.
"Rob’s system is kind of multiple. You can play [inside], you can play at defensive end, anywhere," Carter said. "With that type of scheme, it allows me to use my ability. I feel like I’m an athletic type of linebacker, and I can do a lot of things."
Carter’s emergence has struck a chord with fellow inside linebacker Orie Lemon, who is listed as the backup to starter Sean Lee. Lemon, a second-year pro from Oklahoma State, said Carter has reached the point at which he reacts naturally on the field because he’s comfortable in the scheme.
"He knows everything and he’s blowing plays up and making plays," Lemon said. "I’m trying to get to that position, too. But I’ve still got a lot of work to do."
Carter, from all indications, is there. That is why Connor offered a quick "no" when asked if he felt like he had separated himself from Carter based on the initial depth chart of training camp.
"He’s a great athlete," Connor said of Carter. "He’s young but he’s got a ton of potential. He’s big, he’s strong and he’s fast. There’s not much more you could ask for out of a linebacker."
Lee, who made a monumental jump in production in his second season as a Cowboy, indicated a similar spike could be possible for Carter.
"The sense of urgency from year one to year two has picked up. He wants to find a way to get better every day," Lee said. "That’s how I was. It’s a matter of time before he’s going to be a really good football player and he’s showing it right now."
Courtesy: Jimmy Burch
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Rudy Carpenter, who is competing with Stephen McGee for the No. 3 QB spot, said he looks forward to getting his first live action in a Dallas uniform in Monday’s pre-season game at Oakland.
During last week’s Blue-White scrimmage, Carpenter threw an interception and led a drive to a field goal. McGee, a former Texas A&M quarterback, had three consecutive three-and-out possessions.
Carpenter knows the stakes will be higher Monday because of the limited reps that go to quarterbacks other than starter Tony Romo and backup Kyle Orton.
“The pre-season games are always important, especially when you’re battling for a job,” Carpenter said. “For me, personally, I try not to worry about that stuff. I’ve bounced around a little bit. I’ve felt like I’ve won some jobs and didn’t. And I’ve felt like the other way around as well. To be truthful, I just want to go out there and focus on executing the offense, running the plays the coaches are calling and … moving the chains. There’s nothing worse in the pre-season than going three-and-out on every drive.”
Courtesy: Jimmy Burch
After two weeks of training camp, the Dallas Cowboys are ready to hit someone else. They will get that chance tonight in their preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders. Don’t expect to see many of the front-line players on the field for more than a series, because this game is more about the backups and young players.
- The Cowboys had planned to take an extended look at the backup receivers battling for the No. 3 job even before Dez Bryant and Miles Austin suffered hamstring injuries. Look for Kevin Ogletree and Dwayne Harris to start with the starters sidelined. But the question is whether Cole Beasley, Andre Holmes and Tim Benford, who have played the best in camp, can continue to perform under the lights and the pressure of a game.
- Who’s at center? With Phil Costa nursing an ailing back and Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski sidelined indefinitely, it will be mystery meat for the Cowboys at the position. David Arkin is expected to start, but he has struggled with snaps all camp. Linemen Harland Gunn and Pat McQuistan also have been cross-trained at center and will play there tonight.
- Bruce Carter, who has had a strong camp, is the favorite to win the inside linebacker job opposite Sean Lee. But the starting spot will not be given to Carter. He will share first-team reps against the Raiders with veteran Dan Connor as they have done in practice the past two weeks. Carter has shown range, coverage ability and a nose for the football, but must show it in a game.
- Rookie defensive end Tyrone Crawford had been one of the raves of camp because of his quickness and pass rush skills. Thought to be a project, Crawford has been a quick study and could vie for immediate playing time. He will get a look at left and right end and tackle on passing downs.
- Quarterback Tony Romo and the first-team offense and defense likely will go one series, or certainly no more than eight or nine plays. The Cowboys don’t want to risk injuries to their front-line players. Several starters are not expected to play due to injury, including Austin, Costa, nose tackle Jay Ratliff and defensive end Jason Hatcher. Bryant’s status is a game-time decision.
Courtesy: Clarence E. Hill Jr.
The regular season starts for the Dallas Cowboys in just a few weeks. Here’s our first of weekly projections on how the 53-man roster will shake out.
Tony Romo Kyle Orton
Comment: Teams that keep three like the third to be a young quarterback that can one day develop into a starter. Does Stephen McGee still fit that profile? Cowboys could save a roster spot here and try to slip Rudy Carpenter by on the practice squad for protection.
Running backs (5)
DeMarco Murray Felix Jones
Phillip Tanner Lance Dunbar Lawrence Vickers
Comment: The Cowboys like Dunbar, but he picked a bad time to get injured. He needs to get on the field soon to earn a spot.
Wide receiver (5)
Dez Bryant Miles Austin
Andre Holmes Danny Coale Cole Beasley
Comment: Even though Kevin Ogletree is starting now that Austin is injured, it’s not a lock he makes the team. If the team adds a veteran here as the season nears, a distinct possibility, he could lose his spot to a younger player with more upside. If the Cowboys decide to keep six here it will likely be at the expense of a running back.
Tight end (3)
Jason Witten John Phillips James Hanna
Comment: No intrigue here.
Offensive line (10)
Tyron Smith Doug Free Phil Costa Mackenzy Bernadeau Nate Livings
Ronald Leary David Arkin Jeremy Parnell Pat McQuistan Derrick Dockery
Comment: There remains a lot to sort through here but injuries to Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski have thinned the field.
Defensive line (7)
Jay Ratliff Kenyon Coleman Jason Hatcher Tyrone Crawford Sean Lissemore
Josh Brent Clifton Geathers
Comment: One veteran is likely to go as the Cowboys try to get younger in the line. Marcus Spears is odd lineman out at this stage but it could be Coleman.
DeMarcus Ware Anthony Spencer Sean Lee Bruce Carter Dan Connor
Victor Butler Kyle Wilber Alex Albright Orie Lemon
Comment: Who excels on special teams will have an edge on the final couple of spots.
Morris Claiborne Brandon Carr Mike Jenkins Orlando Scandrick
Mario Butler Barry Church Gerald Sensabaugh Matt Johnson Danny McCray
Comment: Mana Silva is still in the running for a spot. He makes plays.
Dan Bailey Chris Jones LP Ladouceur
Comment: Jones is no Mat McBriar as a punter, but he’s the best the team has in camp. It wouldn’t hurt to watch the waiver wire here.
Courtesy: David Moore
Editors Note: RED indicates an injury concern going into the season.
The August issue of The Dallas Morning News style magazine, FD Luxe, dips back in time to Dallas’ fabled Playboy Club. The club lasted from 1977 to about 1982 on the second floor of Expressway Tower at Central Expressway and SMU (formerly Yale) Boulevard. The Dallas Cowboys team offices shared the same building — and yes, they were regulars. Superstar players Tony Dorsett and Ed “Too Tall” Jones were frequent patrons, according to Karen Kurch, better known in those days as Bunny Twinky.
One surprise I found was that, according to former bunny Karen Drennan, there was a well-known rivalry between the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and the Playboy bunnies: “It became a little war. They were jealous of us. You could do a job that paid $15 a game or $300 a night. You pick.”
I’m visualizing pompoms and cocktail glasses being hurled back and forth.
PHOTO: The Dallas Playboy Club at Expressway Tower, near SMU, in 1980. The Dallas Cowboys team offices were also there. The building now houses SMU school offices. (Eliot Kamenitz | Dallas Morning News)
Courtesy: Christopher Wynn
RELATED: An insiders’ view of the frisky club from 1977 to 1982 —
Smoke curled in the air. The neon bunny sign was lit. Buxom beauties adjusted their satin ears. Dallas’ fabled Playboy Club was a surprisingly wholesome pleasure den (no nudity or touching allowed) that lasted five years on the second floor of Expressway Tower at Central Expressway and SMU (formerly Yale) Boulevard. The Dallas Cowboys team offices shared the same building — yes, they were regulars. Superstar players Tony Dorsett and Ed “Too Tall” Jones were especially frequent patrons, recalls Karen Kurch, better known in those days as Bunny Twinky. Now in her 50s and living in Ohio, Twinky says it was the best gig of her life, and lucrative: “Getting hundred-dollar-bill tips was commonplace.”
Twinky used a nickname because Dallas already had a Bunny Karen — Karen Criswell Drennan, whose father is former TV news anchor John Criswell. Karen was only 17 when she lied about her age to get into the open casting call. She beat out hundreds of women from across Texas to snag a spot when the club opened in 1977. “In the years I was there, I only had my tail grabbed twice,” she says, “and both times the bouncers threw those customers out on their ears.”
In its heyday, the Dallas club reportedly had more than 50,000 key holders. West Coast real estate mogul (and former Marine Corps sniper) Carroll Davis bought the Dallas franchise in 1981 and later the San Diego club. Both closed in bankruptcy in 1982. For a time, Davis was reportedly the only person besides Hugh Hefner to own more than one Playboy Club. These days, SMU owns Expressway Tower and uses it for office space. And Bunny Karen? She left Dallas for Hollywood when the club shuttered, snagging small bits in films, such as Scarface. (“You see me get shot in the Babylon Club.”) Today, she teaches algebra at a private Christian school in Flower Mound. Karen doesn’t shy away from her Playboy past. “It was such good money for such little work. Except for the shoes — oh, pointed toes, spiked heels. We used to pay the busboys to massage our feet at the end of the night.”
THE NAUGHTY BITS: Former Dallas bunnies and the longtime Playboy Club maître d’ spill it.
- “When Hugh Hefner visited the club, he had his entourage stand around and flash him with strobes so that when they shot video, it looked like he was being mobbed by photographers.” — former maître d’ “Big” Dan Nolte of Plano
- On the famous rivalry between the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and the Playboy bunnies: “It became a little war. They were jealous of us. You could do a job that paid $15 a game or $300 a night. You pick.” — Bunny Karen
- Sure, the signature Bunny Dip was a ladylike and cleavage-protecting way to serve cocktails, but Bunny Twinky (who shared a house off Greenville Avenue with bunnies Crystal and Cinnamon) says there was also a ritual for presenting cigarettes on a tray: “Open the pack, light one up and slip it halfway back into the pack, filter side in.”
- The most generous tip the maître d’ ever received was a gold watch. He later sold it to buy a wedding ring for his future wife.
Courtesy: Christopher Wynn
RELATED: Former Dallas Cowboys player recalls Playboy Club romps
Former Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Ralph Neely, also known as number 73, played 13 seasons and 172 games for the Cowboys from 1965 to 1977. And he apparently loved to burn off steam after a night on the field.
According to his email to me: “We had parties there after games, wives included!”
You have to love a supportive spouse. What’s he up to these days? Neely writes: “Trying to do as little as possible. My wife and I spend our free time scuba diving all over the World. … Feel free to use my statement, most of us are so old we can’t remember. Or is it the concussions?”
Courtesy: Christopher Wynn