Daily Archives: August 29th, 2012

REFEREE CBA STANDSTILL: NFL to use replacement officials for as long as necessary

SPORT NFL FOOTBALL

NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL will open the regular season with replacement officials.

Replacements will be on the field beginning next Wednesday night when the Cowboys visit the Giants to open the season, league executive Ray Anderson told the 32 teams. Negotiations are at a standstill between the NFL and the officials’ union,

The NFL Referees Association was locked out in early June and talks on a new collective bargaining agreement went nowhere. Replacements have been used throughout the preseason, with mixed results.

In 2001, the NFL used replacements for the first week of the regular season before a contract was finalized.

Anderson, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, told the clubs in a memo Wednesday that the replacements will work "as much of the regular season as necessary," adding that training with each crew will continue.

A request for comment from the NFLRA was not immediately answered. The NFL Players Association, which of course went through a 4 1/2- month lockout last year before settling on a new contract, expressed disappointment about the decision to use replacements.

Colts safety Antoine Bethea said there is a feeling of solidarity with the officials.

"They’ve got to do what they’ve got to do, and we were in a similar situation a little while ago," Bethea said. "So you can’t fault those guys for doing what they have to do."

Anderson said the sides remain considerably apart on economic issues, including salary and retirement benefits. He also told the teams there is a substantial difference on operational issues.

"One of our key goals in this negotiation is to enhance our ability to recruit, train, and replace officials who are not performing adequately," Anderson said. "We believe that officials should be evaluated and performance issues addressed in the same way as players, coaches, club management and league staff. We have proposed several steps to accomplish this, including having a number of full-time officials and expanding the overall number of officials."

The NFL is offering to add three full officiating crews, increasing the total number of officials to 140. The NFLRA insists the compensation being offered with such an increase would reduce their pay.

The league is proposing having seven officials – one per position of referee, umpire, line judge, side judge, back judge, field judge, head linesman – who would train, scout, handle communications, safety issues and rules interpretations year-round. Now, all NFL game officials are part-time employees, with outside jobs ranging from lawyer to teacher to business owner.

In response, the NFLRA has said it is not opposed to full time officials "if they are fairly compensated."

PRESEASON GAME RECAP: Dallas Cowboys 30, Miami Dolphins 13

Dallas Cowboys running back Phillip Tanner (34) breaks free against the Miami Dolphins - The Boys Are Back blog

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys wrapped up the preseason with a 30-13 win over the Miami Dolphins at Cowboys Stadium on Wednesday night. Unlike last season when wide receiver Raymond Radway was injured in the closing seconds of the preseason at Miami, there were no such major health issues coming from this game. This was the last chance for several players to make an impact on the coaches and scouts and join the 53-man roster.

What it means: The Dallas Cowboys finish the preseason 3-1 and have to make some hard decisions regarding the No. 3 quarterback spot, whether or not to keep a fourth running back or which running back to keep, whether Orie Lemon and Mario Butler make the team and should Danny Coale and Matt Johnson earn paychecks in September.

McGee vs. Carpenter: There is this battle for the No. 3 quarterback position. Stephen McGee played the first half and led one touchdown drive and converted 13 first downs. He completed 9-of-18 passes for 124 yards. The Cowboys led 20-6 at the break. Rudy Carpenter also led the Cowboys on a touchdown drive — capped by a a 58-yard run by Lance Dunbar — and finished 4-of-10 for 48 yards. Carpenter also had a 21 yard scramble. But it would appear neither quarterback did enough to secure a shot on the roster.

Only one starter plays: Between both units, only center Phil Costa played. Costa missed the first three preseason games with a strained lower back and the Cowboys wanted to give him some snaps before putting him in a regular season game. Costa didn’t have any bad snaps and it’s unknown if he had any blown assignments. David Arkin replaced Costa.

The running game is strong: There are no questions regarding the status of DeMarco Murray as the starter. Felix Jones has been guaranteed a roster spot by owner/general manager Jerry Jones. We thought the No. 3 running back gig was going to Phillip Tanner, but Lance Dunbar came on strong Wednesday night. Dunbar ran with a burst, scoring on a 58-yard run. Let’s not forget about Tanner, who burst up the middle for a 1-yard score. Dunbar rushed 15 times for 105 yards and Tanner rushed for 48 yards on nine carries.

Dallas Cowboys running back Jamize Olawale (49) has his helmet knocked from his head after being hit by Miami Dolphins linebacker Cameron Collins - The Boys Are Back blog

Orie Lemon made his case: If linebacker Orie Lemon was a bubble player, he should make the roster. He returned an interception 26 yards to give the Cowboys a 10-6 lead in the second quarter. Lemon was also active on defense and, given what he does on special teams, should make the 53-man roster. Adrian Hamilton was also fighting for a roster spot, but he hasn’t shown his pass rush abilities on a consistent basis with the Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Orie Lemon (58) is congratulated by teammates after returning an interception for a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins

Cowboys lose three players: Guard Derrick Dockery left the game for personal reasons and fellow guard Daniel Loper suffered a hamstring injury. Cornerback Lionel Smith departed the game with a concussion. None of the three returned.

Who played well: Tyrone Crawford, Orie Lemon, Phillip Tanner, Lance Dunbar and Dan Bailey.

Who didn’t: Teddy Williams, David Arkin, Stephen McGee.

Bailey is perfect: Kicker Dan Bailey finished the preseason 8-for-8 on field goal attempts. Bailey made kicks of 25, 30 and 26 yards Wednesday night. The Cowboys didn’t have any concerns about him heading into the preseason but unlike last season when the team had a kicking competition, nothing was going on here. It was all Bailey. The longest kick of the preseason by Bailey was 49 yards.

Ryan Tannehill makes the start: The eighth-pick of the NFL draft, quarterback Ryan Tannehill made the start for the Dolphins. He completed 6-of-8 passes for 41 yards. The former Aggie played with a presence and threw some strong passes, but he still has a ways to go to help the Dolphins.

What’s next?: The Cowboys must cut their roster to 53 players by Friday night and then finalize their practice squad roster with as many as eight players. The team will practice over the weekend at Valley Ranch and prepare for the regular season opener at the New York Giants.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Ogletree (85) goes after the ball against Miami Dolphins - The Boys Are Back blog

DALLAS MORNING NEWS HEADLINE: Dallas Cowboys reserves roll over Miami Dolphins, 30-13

Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar rushed for 105 yards on 15 carries with a 7.0 yard average in preseason finale victory over Miami - The Boys Are Back blog

PHOTO: Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar rushed for 105 yards on 15 carries with a 7.0 yard average in preseason finale victory over the Miami Dolphins.  Vernon Bryant |Staff Photographer

ARLINGTON — Orie Lemon returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown, No. 3 running back Phillip Tanner had a 1-yard score and the Dallas Cowboys finished their preseason with a 30-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Wednesday night.

A week before playing in the NFL’s kickoff game against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, the Cowboys (3-1) kept quarterback Tony Romo and most of their front-line starters standing on the sideline.

Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the first-round draft pick from Texas A&M already tabbed Miami’s starter, was 5-of-7 passing for 35 yards playing the first two series. The Dolphins led 3-0 when he was done.

Miami (0-4) finished its preseason winless under new coach Joe Philbin. The season opener is Sept. 9 at Houston.

Undrafted rookie running back Lance Dunbar had 15 carries for 105 yards, including a 58-yard TD run, for Dallas in the third quarter. Tanner started with DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones sitting, and finished with nine carries for 48 yards.

Another former Texas A&M quarterback, Stephen McGee, possibly took his last snaps for the Dallas Cowboys after playing the entire first half and going 9 of 18 for 124 yards.

Two years ago in another preseason finale against the Dolphins, McGee passed for 304 yards while going all the way in the victory that probably assured him the spot as the team’s third quarterback that season.

McGee, a fourth-round draft pick in 2009, has played in only three regular-season games and started one.

With Kyle Orton signed during the offseason to be Romo’s backup, Dallas likely will carry only two quarterbacks on its 53-man roster. Plus, McGee is no longer eligible for the practice squad like Rudy Carpenter would be.

Carpenter was 4 of 10 for 48 yards in the second half.

Even though they were playing at home again only four days after a win over the St. Louis Rams, the Cowboys have already turned their attention to the Giants.

When they get to their Valley Ranch practice facility Thursday, it will be essentially a Monday of game week.

Pro Bowl receiver Miles Austin didn’t play in the preseason because of hamstring issues, and receiver Dez Bryant was held out for the second straight game because of right knee tendinitis. Both are expected to be ready for the Giants, though Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten (lacerated spleen) is less certain for the unprecedented Wednesday night opener.

Dallas Cowboys Orie Lemon capitalizes on an interception by returning it 26 yards for a touchdown - The Boys Are Back blog

Lamar Miller had 17 carries for 60 yards and a TD for the Dolphins.

Miller’s 1-yard run capped a 14-play, 89-yard drive that took exactly half of the third quarter to complete.

Dan Bailey kicked three field goals for the Cowboys while Dan Carpenter had field goals of 21 and 53 yards for Miami less than 2 minutes apart late in the first quarter.

After Carpenter’s shorter kick, Teddy Williams fumbled the ensuing kickoff at the Cowboys 33. That’s when Matt Moore took over for Tannehill, failing to get a first down and leading to the long field goal by Carpenter.

On Dallas’ first snap after that, cornerback Quinten Lawrence was called for pass interference against Kevin Ogletree that was good for 43 yards. That led to a 25-yard field goal by Bailey.

Moore was only 4 of 12, including the pass over the middle early in the second quarter that Lemon picked off and took into the end zone for a 10-6 lead.

The Cowboys had two big passing plays to set up Tanner’s 1-yard score.

Andre Holmes caught a deep pass from McGee for a 32-yard gain. Later in that drive, McGee scrambled and kept avoiding defenders as he rolled to the left. He was near the sideline and threw off one foot, hitting Tim Benford for 36 yards.

MIAMI HERALD: Miami Dolphins fall to Dallas Cowboys in preseason finale

 

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Stephen McGee (7) scrambles and throws for a completion near the goal line in the second quarter as Miami Dolphins defensive end Ryan Baker (90) looks on in NFL preseason action on Wednesday, August 29, 2012, at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

ARLINGTON, Texas — The good news for the Dolphins: Their exhibition season has mercifully come to an end.

But here’s the rub: That might be their bad news, too.

Miami closed out a winless exhibition season with a 30-13 loss to the Cowboys Wednesday. In short, Dallas’ backups were better than Miami’s, since neither team played their starters beyond the first couple of series.

The night’s biggest takeaway: Ryan Tannehill played near-flawlessly in the short time he was in. But there’s a catch: Tannehill only faced Dallas’ backup secondary, and his greatest success came against guys on the fourth line of the depth chart.

Tannehill completed 6 of his 8 pass attempts for 41 yards, but both of his incompletions were on the money. The first hit Legedu Naanee in the hands, but was dropped.

On the other, Tannehill targeted Naanee on fade route in the end zone, but corner Teddy Williams mugged Naanee, preventing him from making a play. Yet the officiating crew – replacements, it should be noted – missed a clear pass interference call.

But even with Tannehill’s solid night, he again couldn’t get the Dolphins into the end zone. Miami has scored just two touchdowns in Tannehill’s 20 drives this preseason. The Dolphins even got a special teams turnover – Dan Carpenter recovered a fumble – but couldn’t advance the ball.

“No touchdowns,” Joe Philbin said at the half. “Our special teams did a great job and got a takeaway for us and we went backwards.”

Tannehill may have been lucky to simply get out of Big D on two legs, considering who he had blocking for him.

The only starter on the offensive line to play was Jonathan Martin – a rookie who has struggled throughout much of the preseason.

Ray Feinga started at left tackle for Jake Long, who hurt his right knee during practice Monday. That at least was expected. But the rest of the changes – Chandler Burden for Richie Incognito, Ryan Cook for Mike Pouncey and John Jerry for Artis Hicks – were a surprise.

Tannehill escaped the night without taking a sack, although he did sustain a pretty nasty late hit, which he shook off.

Tannehill’s replacement, however, wasn’t nearly so lucky. The Cowboys sacked Matt Moore three times, including one by Victor Butler in which the Dallas defensive end completely schooled Feinga.

Not long after that, Feinga got the hook, Martin shifted to left tackle and Andrew McDonald played on the right side.

The constant pressure seemed to get to Moore. A play after taking a sack, Moore threw a horrendous interception that Orie Lemon returned for a touchdown. Moore apparently didn’t see Lemon dropping in coverage, and threw it right to the linebacker.

Moore, who lost out in the training-camp quarterback competition to Tannehill, finished the preseason completing just 20 of his 51 passes for 234 yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns. His quarterback rating: 37.5.

Yet with David Garrard’s knee still not healed, Moore will likely entered the season as Miami’s backup quarterback.

Who Tannehill and Moore will be throwing to remains unclear.

Neither Brian Hartline nor Davone Bess played Wednesday. But both are likely on the team.

Meanwhile, none of the eight other receivers trying to fill out the opening-day depth charts did anything to distinguish themselves. Naanee and Marlon Moore got the start Wednesday, and had identical stat lines: 2 catches for 19 yards.

Rishard Matthews again was the team’s most productive receiver, catching a team-high 3 passes for 47 yards. But Matthews has played mainly in mop-up duty, which doesn’t bode well for Friday’s final cut-downs.

The Dolphins are expected to be very active once hundreds of players released in the coming days hit the waiver wire. General manager Jeff Ireland said on My 33’s pregame show that he was “very excited about what’s going to happen the next three days.”

Thanks to last year’s 6-10 season, Miami should be in good position to capitalize on more than a few castoffs. They have they league’s eighth-highest waiver priority.

Whether or not Pat Devlin makes this team as its third quarterback remains to be seen. Devlin completed 6 of 10 passes for 58 yards Wednesday, and led the Dolphins on their only touchdown drive. The score came on a 1-yard plunge by Lamar Miller, who had 60 yards on 17 carries.

Courtesy: ADAM H. BEASLEY | Miami Herald

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins

Dallas Cowboys vs Miami Dolphins helmets

Preseason.

It’s finally coming to an end.

The Miami Dolphins visit the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium tonight to close it out.

Here’s a preview.

Stephen McGee vs. Rudy Carpenter: The Cowboys are thinking about going with two quarterbacks. Tony Romo and Kyle Orton have guaranteed roster spots. After that, McGee, the third quarterback since 2009, and Carpenter, who is trying to make the active roster, will get a shot Wednesday night. McGee has been inconsistent this summer in camp practices and in three preseason games. Carpenter has led the third unit on a touchdown drive. McGee is the better talent, but roster issues could force the Cowboys to go with just two quarterbacks, unless someone emerges.

Claiborne and Spears should play: First-round pick Morris Claiborne and veteran defensive end Marcus Spears should play a little on Wednesday. Here’s why. Claiborne, who missed the first preseason game with a knee sprain, needs to get more snaps before getting ready for the New York Giants on opening night. Spears is getting snaps with the second team and will most likely get a few snaps just to either keep him sharp or see if the Cowboys still want him on the team.

What’s uncertain?: The third quarterback for one thing. And in reality, it doesn’t matter who the No. 3 receiver is. Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley will make the team, but who gets the sixth receiver spot is the question. Andre Holmes? Danny Coale? Tim Benford? The swing tackle is Jermey Parnell, but who out of Pat McQuistan, Daniel Loper, Derrick Dockery and Ronald Leary make the team? Orie Lemon, Shaun Chapas, Jamize Olawale, Adrian Hamilton, Lance Dunbar and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah are competing for a some of the final three or four roster spots.

The series with the Dolphins: The Cowboys lead the preseason series 4-2 and lost the last meeting 17-3 in South Florida. In that game, Sept. 1, 2011, receiver Raymond Radway fractured his leg on a pass in the end zone at the end of the game. Radway missed the regular season. He was cut this week by the Cowboys.

Connections: Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland was a former executive with the Cowboys, and Brian Gaine, the Dolphins’ assistant general manager, worked in the personnel department with the Cowboys. At one point the Dolphins had many former Cowboys. Now, there are only a few. Linebacker Kevin Burnett, for one, plays for the Fins.

Parking, parking, parking: For the second consecutive time, the Cowboys and Texas Rangers are playing at nearly the same time. Rangers first pitch is around 6:05 p.m. CT. Kickoff is scheduled for around 7:30 p.m. CT. Cowboys Stadium parking lots open at 2:30 p.m. East Plaza is open at 3:30 p.m. and stadium gates to all plazas open at 5:30 p.m. Fans who have pre-purchased parking in the Ranger Lots A-B and M will have their passes honored. Stadium officials ask fans to get their early due to the Rangers game.

By the way: Regular season starters like Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Brandon Carr and Sean Lee won’t play. Just telling you.

Local TV and radio: The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m., on KTVT/Ch. 11 (CBS).

The Dallas Cowboys Radio Network - 105_3 The Fan KRLD

In many markets, you can listen to ‘The Voice of the Dallas Cowboys”, Brad Sham on The Dallas Cowboys Radio Network for pregame, play-by-play action, and post game interviews and analysis.

In the Dallas area, tune to 105.3 FM.  In all other cities, click HERE for more information.

GOING DOWN TO THE WIRE: For 22 men, it’s the last chance to make a good impression

Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks Stephen McGee (7) Tony Romo (9) and Rudy Carpenter (right) during Dallas Cowboys training camp - The Boys Are Back blog

Tony Romo’s mind will be 1,500 miles away tonight. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback and most of the team’s other starters already are thinking ahead to next week when they open the season against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

But for many other players, including third-string quarterback Stephen McGee, this is a last chance to make a good impression. The Cowboys, who have 75 players on their roster, must pare down to a final 53 by Friday night. So jobs are on the line tonight at Cowboys Stadium when they take on the Miami Dolphins:

McGee’s shot

Stephen McGee has started the final preseason game against the Dolphins each of the past two years, completing 48 of 67 passes for 537 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He needs another good outing against Miami to convince the Cowboys he has potential to be something other than a career third-string quarterback. The Cowboys could choose to keep only two quarterbacks, with Rudy Carpenter going to the practice squad. But McGee gets one last shot to try to change the Cowboys’ minds.

Costa’s snaps

Most of the team’s 22 starters won’t play, but center Phil Costa is expected to be an exception. Costa returned to the practice field Monday and, because he hasn’t played this preseason, should get at least a few snaps against the Dolphins. Costa had been out with a lower back strain since Aug. 10. David Arkin had started in Costa’s place in the first three preseason games, but Costa is in line to start the season opener against the Giants.

Receiver watch

The Cowboys like what they have seen from Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley this preseason. They need to see more from Andre Holmes and Danny Coale. Holmes, a favorite of Jerry Jones, did himself no favors when he reported to camp out of shape. A back injury and inconsistency might have done in his bid to make the 53-player roster, as he has six catches for 58 yards this preseason. Coale was drafted in the fifth round with high hopes for his special teams work as much as for his receiving ability. But injuries have prevented him from doing much until now. He made his preseason debut last week and had one catch for 8 yards and one run for 9 yards, but he did not play special teams. Coale, who played 82 snaps on special teams last year at Virginia Tech, is expected to play on kickoff coverage and kickoff return units and possibly on punt returns against Miami.

Third running back

Phillip Tanner earned a roster spot in 2011, as the fourth running back, off his preseason work. He had 24 carries for a team-leading 128 yards in the 2011 preseason. But injuries have slowed Tanner since. A hamstring injury landed him on injured reserve midway through last season, and a broken right hand Aug. 3 has not helped his bid to keep his job this season. He had two carries for 2 yards in his preseason debut last week. He is battling a pair of former North Texas players, Jamize Olawale and Lance Dunbar.

Nose tackle

The Cowboys haven’t ruled Jay Ratliff out of the season opener yet, but the starting nose tackle has only 11 days in which to come back from a high-ankle sprain if he is to play against the Giants. More than likely, Sean Lissemore and Josh Brent will split the job on opening day. This could be the dress rehearsal for Lissemore, who is expected to play in the substitution packages, and Brent, who is expected to play in the base package

DIGITAL CAMPAIGN: Starter releases "Romo Responds" video

Today, Starter released a print and digital campaign featuring Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. The "Romo Responds" campaign addresses the pressure he and his Cowboys’ teammates are under to win a championship.

Romo, 32, has one playoff victory since taking over as the team’s starter during the 2006 season. He has said on multiple occasions he needs to win a Super Bowl to be considered a "great" quarterback.

He intends to win one, before he stops.

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INJURY UPDATE: Jason Witten will get on-field work soon, not cleared for contact

INJURY UPDATE: Jason Witten will get on-field work soon, not cleared for contact

Jason Witten’s lacerated spleen is healing, but apparently, he still does not know when he will be cleared to play a game. Witten had a scan of his injured spleen Tuesday and learned that he can get some on-field work, with no contact, in the next few days, according to Stephen Jones.

Jones told 105.3 The Fan that Witten still hasn’t been ruled out of the Giants’ game. It seems more likely, though, that the Pro Bowl tight end will return for the Sept. 16 game at Seattle given that he has another doctor’s appointment next week.

"He had a good [doctor’s] appointment [Tuesday]," Jones, the team’s executive vice president, told the radio station. "Things are progressing.  …It’s certainly starting to look [like surgery will not be needed]. He’ll go back for another appointment next week and see where it sits."

Witten, who has missed only one regular-season game in his career, lacerated his spleen in the exhibition opener against the Raiders on a hit by Oakland linebacker Rolando McClain. He worked on resistance cords during Monday’s practice as part of his rehab.

John Phillips, who has 22 career catches, or 674 fewer than Witten, for 163 yards and a touchdown in three seasons, has taken first-team reps in Witten’s absence. Rookies James Hanna and Andrew Szczerba both could make the roster initially, with Witten’s status for the opener in doubt.

"You’ve got to be ready to go," Phillips said. "Step in. Next-man-up mentality. Ready to get out there and go."

BASS FISHING FOR A SPOT: Dallas Cowboys rookie DE on the radar

Ben Bass at Texas A&M - The Boys Are Back blog

About four months ago, making the team wasn’t even on the radar.

He probably didn’t even know about the practice squad and the details surrounding it either.

All Ben Bass wanted to do was show up on film. For three days, all he had was a jersey number and was sharing a locker with other rookies.

He wasn’t signed or promised to sign. He was among 15 hopefuls on a tryout basis only, mainly here so the Cowboys could conduct a full weekend of practices in the rookie minicamp.

But somehow in the course of three days without pads, the defensive lineman from Texas A&M showed the Cowboys just enough to be intrigued.

When a roster spot opened up, they signed him with the hopes of watching his development this summer.

Fast forward four months and as the Dallas Cowboys prepare for tonight’s preseason finale against the Dolphins, Bass (6-5, 283) finds himself as one of a handful of players right on the bubble to make this team.

Yes, the practice squad is a possibility, but as this point, it’d be a consolation prize for Bass, who seems to realize just how close he is to reaching his goal.

“When I first got here, I would say I had a practice-squad mentality. I was a tryout guy,” Bass said. “But I am where I am now, and I don’t know exactly where that is, but I know I have a shot to make the team.

“I’m just excited. I’m ready to get out there and show what I’ve got. I’m ready to make my family so proud of me and make the name on my back mean something for me.”

It’s safe to say Bass’ family is already extremely proud of his accomplishments. The Plano West and then Texas A&M standout has come a long way in a short time.

Dallas Cowboys DE Ben Bass (79) grabs Oakland Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor - The Boys Are Back blog

Just the simple fact that he is even on the radar is somewhat surprising considering the depth on the defensive line. Veterans such as Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman are far from locks to make this team, especially Spears, a former first-round pick. Clifton Geathers and Sean Lissemore had a lot of hype around them this offseason and third-round selection Tyrone Crawford is obviously a player that will be heavily in the mix.

But Bass has quietly put together a nice training camp and preseason, which included his debut in Oakland where he was incredibly active in the second half against the Raiders. He recorded five tackles, including two for loss, with a sack and three quarterback pressures in helping the Cowboys preserve a shutout in a 3-0 win on Monday Night Football.

Bass has also played well in reserve roles the last two games against San Diego and Miami.

But, he says the turning point for him didn’t come in one of the last three games, or even at training camp. In fact, it was about three months ago when he was sitting in the locker room at Valley Ranch after a workout.

“I was sitting here in my locker and Jay Ratliff came by and introduced himself. Of course, we’re like “Yeah, we know who you are,” Bass recalled. “He was asking us questions. I told him I was from A&M and I was a workout guy and he said, ‘You can make this team.’ He hasn’t seen me play or knows anything about me, but he just said if you work your tail off and make plays, you can make the team. It doesn’t matter where you’re from.”

Bass said Ratliff told his own story of being a seventh-round pick in 2005 who has not only overcome being a late-round selection, but has defied the odds of being a relatively smaller nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, making the Pro Bowl four straight years.

“When someone of his level tells you that you can make the team, you start to believe it and start to play like you belong here,” Bass said.

Bass has definitely shown he belongs. He’s hoping it’s just enough to stick around on the 53-man roster. But as long as he sticks around, period, Bass said he’ll be excited.

“Even on the practice squad, all it takes is one guy goes down and you’re activated and then it’s time to play,” Bass said. “Wherever I’m at, I’m obviously shooting for the 53-man roster, but I’m happy to be here. This is the team I grew up wanting to play for and the team I love.”

INJURY UPDATES: Key players ready to come back or making significant progress (Bonus Video)

Jenkins doctor visit Thursday, hopes to be cleared for practice

Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Mike Jenkins still doesn’t know when he will play his first game, but he hopes to get cleared to return to practice this week. Jenkins said he will visit Dr. James Andrews in Florida on Thursday.

Jenkins’ surgically repaired right shoulder failed a strength test the last time he visited Andrews, in early August, so the former Pro Bowler has continued rehabbing. He now is lifting weights.

It is unlikely Jenkins will play in the season opener against the Giants on Sept. 5.

Jenkins, a first-round pick in 2008, is in the final year of his rookie contract that will pay him a base salary of $1.052 million this season.

Jason Witten has scan of his spleen and will get results later today

Dallas Cowboys Tight end Jason Witten expects to hear Tuesday evening what a scan of his injured spleen shows. Witten had a scan Tuesday morning. He said he will get the results when he meets with the doctor later today.

Witten lacerated his spleen in the exhibition opener against the Raiders on a hit by Oakland linebacker Rolando McClain. He worked on resistance cords during Monday’s practice as part of his rehab.

The Cowboys are hopeful their All-Pro tight end can play in the season opener against the Giants, but he has to be fully cleared before stepping on the field.

Miles Austin has no doubt he’ll play in opener; Ratliff on crutches

Dallas Cowboys receiver Miles Austin gave the expected answer when asked if he has any doubt he will play in the season opener.

"No," Austin said.

Austin has been out since straining his hamstring Aug. 4. The Cowboys have taken their time nursing Austin back to health considering he had two separate hamstring injuries last season.

Austin missed six games in 2011, finishing with 43 catches for 579 yards and seven touchdowns.

Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff‘s status for the game against the Giants on Sept. 5 is more in doubt. He is not in a boot but is on crutches while hoping his high-ankle sprain will heal quickly. Ratliff attended the team’s kickoff luncheon but did not participate in the introductory walk across the field to the head table. 

The Cowboys have not ruled him out of the opener, and owner Jerry Jones spoke of Ratliff’s toughness during his speech at the kickoff luncheon. But a high-ankle sprain typically is a 2-4 week injury, and Ratliff has only 11 days from the day he was injured — Saturday’s preseason game against the Rams — until the season opener.

DeMarcus Ware won’t promise five sacks, vows hamstring ready

Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware will get a chance to do what the woman on the NFL’s "Back to Football" commercial wants him to do: Sack Eli Manning five times.

Ware said he practiced Monday and "a little bit" Tuesday and vowed himself ready to go for the season opener against the Giants on Sept. 5. Ware hurt his left hamstring in practice Aug. 16 and missed the past two preseason games. He and most of the team’s other starters will not play Wednesday night against the Dolphins.

"It’s good," Ware said of his hamstring."… We practiced [for] New York today, did some things, so I’ll be good."

Ware said he shot the NFL commercial at MetLife Stadium and didn’t know how it was going to turn out until he saw the finished product. He called the exchange with Manning and a couple — the man a Giants fan and the woman a Cowboys fan — "funny." The woman tries to make Ware promise to get five sacks of Manning.

"They can expect what they want to expect," Ware said, with a smile, when asked if fans should expect five sacks from him. "We have to be able to get some pressure on the quarterback to win that game."

Ware has sacked Manning more than any other quarterback, with 10.5 of his career 99.5 sacks coming against the Giants quarterback. He has never had more than four sacks in a game, though.

During his acceptance speech Tuesday for team defensive MVP honors, Ware said he was "up here shaking" because he is so excited for the Giants game. The Cowboys have anticipated the rematch with the Giants since the schedule was released. They lost the regular-season finale at MetLife Stadium on New Year’s Day, an elimination game that propelled the Giants into the playoffs and onto the Super Bowl title.

"I think the Giants have been on my mind since the end of the season, because you think about how you lost," Ware said of the 31-14 defeat. "That sort of motivates you to get you through the off-season and carry you through training camp and now that’s our first game. We’ve been preparing for it the whole time, and we want to make a statement the first game … I think everybody’s ready."

DOUBLE TAKE: Tony Romo wins 2011 offensive MVP award and Ed Block Courage Award (Bonus Video)

Dallas Cowboys 2012 - 2013 Kickoff Luncheon - The Boys Are Back blog

Kickoff Luncheon

Watch the Dallas Cowboys annual Kickoff Luncheon LIVE from Cowboys Stadium as the players and staff all join together in benefit of the special programs at Happy Hill Farm Academy.

The Ed Block Courage Award - The Boys Are Back blog

Tony Romo was twice honored Tuesday. He won the team’s Ed Block Courage Award, which was announced earlier this year but awarded Tuesday, and his teammates voted him offensive player of the year for 2011.

"I didn’t know I’d have to give two speeches, so I’m not as well prepared this time," Romo said during the team’s kickoff luncheon benefiting Happy Hill Farm. "As appreciative as [I am], this is the ultimate team sport and there’s really no MVP when you play football, because my job has no chance if I don’t have five guys up front blocking their butts off and all being one cohesive unit, having a tailback who knows what he’s doing, a fullback who knows where he’s going, a wide receiver making a great play, a tight end making a guy going a different direction and beating a double team. All these things go together, and it’s not just the offensive side of the ball."

The Ed Block Courage Award is an annual award NFL teams give to honor players who "exemplify commitments to the principles of sportsmanship and courage. Recipients are selected by their teammates for team effort, as well as individual performance."

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo broken ribs 2011 - The Boys Are Back blog

Romo had one of his best seasons with 4,184 yards, 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions despite playing through two separate, significant injuries. He had a broken rib and a punctured lung in Week 2, never missing a game, and had a severe hand contusion in Week 16 before playing in the season finale against the Giants.

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo hand injury 2011 - The Boys Are Back blog

"[This award] is a great example to show the people behind the scenes that allow us to come out and compete and play a game that we love, that we would get out there and do for nothing if we had to," Romo said, pointing out the training staff.

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

Linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who had 19.5 sacks, was named the team’s defensive MVP, and kicker Dan Bailey, who went 32-of-37 with a long of 51, was voted special teams MVP.

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Former offensive lineman John Niland took home the Tom Landry Legend Award.

RELATED: John Hugh Niland G 1966-1974 Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys Guard John Niland - 2012 Tom Landry Award - The Boys Are Back blog

John Niland was an All-State fullback at Long Island’s Amityville Memorial High School. He played college football at the University of Iowa where he started out as a fullback, before switching to guard during his junior campaign. He was an All-American selection his senior year in (1965) and also a Second-team All-America selection in 1964.

John Niland Guard Dallas Cowboys - 50th Anniversary Team - The Boys Are Back blog

Niland was drafted in the first round (fifth overall) of the 1966 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. He became the starting left offensive guard for the Cowboys from 1966 to 1974. One of the top offensive lineman of his era, he was particularly excellent as a pulling guard.

Practicing against Bob Lilly since his rookie year, helped him become a Pro Bowler and solidified an offensive line that won 3 NFC Championship Games and 1 Super Bowl. He was nicknamed Johnny Nightlife by his teammates, because of his thirst for the nightlife.

As a rookie in the 1966 NFL Championship Game and later in the 1967 NFL Championship Game, the so-called Ice Bowl, Niland played next to left offensive tackle Tony Liscio and opposite right defensive tackle Lionel Aldridge of the Green Bay Packers.

The Dallas Cowboys won the NFC Championship Game during the 1970-71 NFL playoffs against the San Francisco 49ers, thanks in great part to Duane Thomas’s 143 yards on the ground, but lost in Super Bowl V to the Baltimore Colts. However, in the following year, they defeated again the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game of the 1971-72 NFL playoffs and then the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI. In the latter game, Niland and Liscio overwhelmed Bob Heinz and Bill Stanfill, respectively, leading Duane Thomas and others to a whopping 252 yards on the ground.

Along with Rayfield Wright, Nate Newton and Larry Allen, Niland is one of only four offensive lineman in team history with at least six Pro Bowl selections. He was selected to six consecutive Pro Bowls from 1968 to 1973 and was a three-time All-Pro selection, while only missing two games in his nine seasons with the Cowboys

Courtesy: Charean Williams

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