IRVING, Texas – Dallas Cowboys players and coaches had plenty of time to organize their thoughts of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jay Ratliff in the hours between his release Wednesday and Thursday’s open locker room session.
Aside from the medical and financial implications surrounding Ratliff’s release, members throughout the Cowboys organization were quick to point out the defensive tackle’s value and impact within the playing field.
Ratliff appeared in 104 games and started 85 as a seventh round pick by the Cowboys in 2005. He notched 27 sacks and 317 total tackles in his eight seasons with the team. His efforts earned him four straight Pro Bowl trips from 2008-11 and established him as one of the league’s best 3-4 nose tackles in that time period.
“Heck of a player — I keep going back to that, because he played the right way for the Cowboys. He was always a guy who practiced hard, he played hard, the game was important to him. Anybody that was around him knows the demeanor that he played with,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. “He was an intimidating figure. He was an incredibly productive player for us, a Pro Bowl player, and a great example to his teammates about how to play the game.”
Of any teammate that saw that example, DeMarcus Ware stands out. Following Ratliff’s release, Ware is the final member of the Cowboys’ 2005 draft class on the roster – Ware was taken 11th overall, in the first round, while Ratliff’s seventh round selection came all the way at No. 224.
Ware said it’s odd looking around the locker room and seeing only long snapper L.P. Ladouceur remaining from the team’s 2005 rookie class.
“When you talk about just the business of the game, things happen for certain reasons, reasons I don’t know. You’ve just got to keep playing,” Ware said. “He came in with me. I feel like now, me and L.P., we’re the last Mohicans here. You’ve just got to look at it as a business. I know Jay, he’s going to end up going to another team because he’s a great player like that.”
Having spent nine seasons on the defensive line with him, Ware is well qualified to talk about Ratliff, but several other Cowboys veterans had thoughts to offer.
As of Thursday afternoon, Ratliff’s locker had yet to be cleaned out. Jason Witten, whose locker sits our feet away, said he’ll remember the high level of play evidenced by the Pro Bowl sticker’s adorning Ratliff’s area.
“He’s a guy I’ve known for a long time. We played together a long time – a core group of us, and he’s a guy you wanted on your side on Sundays, that’s for sure,” Witten said.
In Ratliff’s official statement, delivered by his agent Mark Slough on Wednesday, he was sure to thank Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones for taking the chance of drafting him. In addressing the decision to release him Thursday, Jones repaid those thanks to the veteran.
“You know, I have a long history of having an appreciation for guys who give it up and work and play through pain, and I do with Jay. So it is disappointing that that great career of his has to end. As it turns out, all great players have to have a time,” Jones said. “Now, his career has maybe not ended, but I know he gave us great effort. He’s a tremendous competitor. I don’t look at anything but positives, I really don’t. We needed him when we had him, and we need him now that we don’t have him. But that’s just not the way it is – that’s the reality of it. We do, as I certainly would, wish him the very best and a speedy rehab and hope for him that he has more career.” (Watch video | Play audio)
RELATED: Jason Garrett, Jerry Jones discuss details of Jay Ratliff’s release
IRVING, Texas – One day after their decision to release Jay Ratliff, the Cowboys spoke about the implications and issues surrounding the move.
Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones, as well as coach Jason Garrett spoke to the media about the past year of uncertainty around Ratliff. Jones said the decision to release the veteran involved a number of variables – most notably, consideration of the salary cap and the team’s prospects this season.
“This was a decision that certainly had salary cap implications – every decision does in this day and time,” Jones said. “But it also had immediate consideration for what it’s going to mean for this season, and we’re excited about what our opportunities are here. So both of those things were part of this decision.”
The decision to cut Ratliff will save the team the cost of paying him had he been moved to the injured reserve. That raises the question of why the Cowboys placed him on the Physically Unable to Perform List to start the season. But Garrett said he still had hope of using Ratliff after he strained his hamstring during his pre-training camp conditioning test.
“I think you’re always hopeful about the health of every player and you make designations accordingly,” he said. “I can give you 50 examples of decisions we’ve made as to when to put someone on IR and why, when to put someone on PUP and why, and when to keep someone on the active roster and why. That was the decision we made.”
The matter of Ratliff’s debilitating injury, not the hamstring strain but the one suffered against Cleveland in 2012, remains confusing. Mark Slough, Ratliff’s agent, said Wednesday that his client’s lower body injury had been mischaracterized as a sports hernia, when it in fact involved severe ligament and muscle damage.
Neither Jones nor Garrett would speak in specifics, as a matter of legal obligations. But both supported the reliability of the team’s medical staff in its evaluations.
“I can’t comment on the medical aspects of this thing. Without being trite, I don’t want to be because this is not a trite matter,” Jones said. “It’s a sad matter, because we do need him and he wants to be out competing and helping his teammates and helping us win. But I can’t operate in a world where I go back and take today’s information and apply it to decisions made one year ago.”
Garrett added: “We have a tremendous amount of confidence in our medical staff, and the only way that I can answer that is injuries are challenging and you don’t always know how a player’s
going to respond. The ability for him to come back in a timely manner – you make a lot of highly educated guesses about the status of a player based on the player, based on what the injury is, what particular position he may play. So you’re always doing that. We do that every day.”
That extends to the conditioning test, which both Garrett and Jones said is only ever performed at the discretion of the player involved. Again, though, few specifics were provided.