Even though Phil Dawson has become the face of the Browns as their longest-tenured player during the expansion era, he will always have a special place in his heart for his first love — the Dallas Cowboys.
Dawson, the Browns’ reliable kicker, grew up a die-hard football fan in Dallas. In the mid-to-late 1980s, Dawson’s father received Cowboys season tickets for a few years in exchange for his services as an accountant. The father-son duo attended virtually every home game when Dawson was in middle school. They were at legendary coach Tom Landry’s final game in 1988 at the old Texas Stadium.
“I can remember taking history books and having to do my homework and claiming I was doing it because I took my book with me,” Dawson said Wednesday after practice. “I have some very good memories. I learned the game of football from my dad and a lot of that was sitting there watching Cowboy games. He taught me a few things and helped me look at things and explain things. Those were some good memories.”
Dawson, 37, is eager for his homecoming Sunday, when the Browns (2-7) visit the Cowboys (4-5). It will be the Browns’ first appearance at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, which opened in 2009, and Dawson hopes the retractable roof is closed so he can play in favorable kicking conditions. Since the Browns’ rebirth in 1999, the only time they have played the Cowboys on the road was in 2004.
“It’s fun to share it with family and friends and go back to my hometown,” said Dawson, whose wife, Shannon; sons, Dru and Beau; and daughter, Sophiann, live in Austin, Texas. “I know they’ll all enjoy it, which makes it special for me. But I’m going down on a work trip. I have plenty of time in the offseason to enjoy friends and family and the environment and the cuisine and the whole deal. But when I get off the airplane, it’s all business, and I’ve got a job to do.”
Dawson’s job this week has included playing the role of a ticket agent. He expects more than 30 friends and relatives to attend the game.
“[The list is] growing each and every day,” he said. “I’m about to close down the ticket office. I can’t afford many more.”
Dawson’s family has strong allegiances to the Cowboys. His son, Dru, is not an exception.
“My son, Dru, has a Cowboys room,” Dawson said. “His bedroom is blue, all the Fathead stuff all over the walls. He’s got the star [logo], the NFL emblem. He’s got the stadium. I don’t know if he has any of the players. He has the mural-type stuff all over the place. And then there’s obviously Browns helmets.”
The setting isn’t unlike that of the bedroom Dawson had as a youngster.
“I had a Doomsday Defense poster on my wall,” Dawson said. “I’m kind of dating myself. Obviously, my high school years were the dynasty with the three Super Bowls. I was pretty spoiled as a football fan.”
Dawson was a huge fan of special-teams standout and safety Bill Bates, who played for the Cowboys from 1983-96.
“I loved Bill Bates,” Dawson said. “I didn’t know I’d wind up being a special-teams guy, but I always kind of pulled for the underdog and he was an undrafted guy that was supposed to be too small and too slow but played forever down there, was just a special-teams ace and even when he got in on defense, he did a tremendous job. I’ve always pulled for guys like that.”
When Dawson was an offensive tackle and kicker for Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, he even tried to adopt the style of his favorite player.
“I can remember playing in high school and everyone wanting to look like Bill Bates — the neck roll and the gloves and the wrist bands and the towel, all that stuff,” Dawson said. “… Football is king down there. Unless you grow up in Houston, the rest of the state is Cowboys, and that’s all you did was follow the Cowboys.”
Dawson, of course, won’t be cheering for the Cowboys this weekend. He has made 23 consecutive field goals dating to last season and hopes to keep the streak alive at the expense of his hometown team.
“We’re off to a good start,” Dawson said of his streak. “I certainly don’t want to diminish that, but there’s still seven games to go. So I could screw this whole thing up pretty quick. I like where I am right now, but I’m only as good as my next kick, and the last thing I want to do is to go home to my hometown and poop the bed, so to speak.”
At times this season, the Cowboys’ pass protection has been suspect and the run-blocking has been subpar. Most point to the interior of the Cowboys’ offensive line as the source of the problems. The center position has been destabilized with starter Phil Costa suffering multiple injuries and backup Ryan Cook getting hurt as well. The guard spots, occupied by free-agent acquisitions Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau, are also viewed as weak areas.
Will the Cowboys be on the lookout for interior line prospects in the upcoming draft? That seems to be a certainty.
Here are three players they may target.
Chance Warmack, Alabama; Head coach Jason Garrett has close ties to Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban and the 6-3, 320-pound Warmack (jersey number 65 above photo) has distinguished himself on one of the country’s best offensive lines. This season, the left guard has been named SEC offensive lineman of the week twice. Alabama plays Western Carolina on Saturday at 11:21 a.m.
Cyril Richardson; Baylor; In the preseason, the 6-5, 335-pound fourth-year junior from Fort Worth was named as one of the contenders for the Lombardi and Outland Trophies. Richardson, whom Kansas coach Charlie Weis described as “by far” Baylor’s best offensive lineman, has a bit of a nasty streak. The left guard got ejected from a game against Iowa State earlier this year. Baylor faces Kansas State at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Barrett Jones; Alabama; The 2011 Outland Trophy winner, the 6-5, 302-pound senior is about as accomplished a lineman as there is in the college game. He’s also extremely versatile. After playing right guard and left tackle he is now Alabama’s center. That Jones has shown the ability to play all of these positions is not surprising. He graduated in August with an accounting degree and a 4.0 grade point average. Based on his track record, this is the kind of player head coach Jason Garrett covets. Alabama plays Western Carolina on Saturday at 11:21 a.m.
IRVING, Texas — Before Cowboys practice on Friday, coach Jason Garrett said starting running back DeMarco Murray was doubtful for Sunday’s game against Cleveland.
Well Murray didn’t practice on Friday at Valley Ranch and he most likely will miss his fifth consecutive game with a sprained foot.
"He is doing more and more each day," Garrett said. "Ran a little bit more yesterday so that’s a positive thing."
Cornerback Mike Jenkins (back) and center Ryan Cook (knee) also missed practice.
Cowboys centers Ryan Cook and Phil Costa were not seen on the field at practice Friday.
Cook, who wasn’t in uniform, headed into the team’s weight room wearing a brace on his right knee. He has missed practice the last two days because of a sore knee.
Costa has been out since injuring his ankle Oct. 21 in a victory over Carolina. With Cook and Costa sidelined, the Cowboys are expected to slide Mackenzy Bernadeau over from right guard. Bernadeau’s spot, in turn, would likely be filled by reserve Derrick Dockery.
With Jenkins out, it allows the Cowboys to give Vince Agnew more snaps in some passing situations.
Tight end John Phillips (ankle) and fullback Lawrence Vickers (knee) were expected to practice. Defensive end Sean Lissemore (ankle), center Phil Costa (ankle) and safety Matt Johnson (hamstring) didn’t practice.
|Name||Position||Injury||Practice Status||Game Status|
|Sean Lissemore||DT||—||Did Not Participate In Practice||—|
|Matt Johnson||S||—||Did Not Participate In Practice||—|
|Mike Jenkins||CB||—||Did Not Participate In Practice||—|
|Dan Connor||LB||—||Full Participation in Practice||—|
|Phil Costa||C||—||Did Not Participate In Practice||—|
|Lawrence Vickers||RB||—||Limited Participation in Practice||—|
|Jay Ratliff||DT||—||Full Participation in Practice||—|
|DeMarco Murray||RB||—||Did Not Participate In Practice||—|
|Ryan Cook||C||—||Did Not Participate In Practice||—|
|John Phillips||TE||—||Limited Participation in Practice||—|
To see the Cleveland Browns injury update, click HERE