DESTINED FOR THE RING OF HONOR: Right or wrong, releasing DeMarcus Ware had to be difficult | Special feature
This was different. Yes, it was still business, no way around that, but this was also personal.
DeMarcus Ware wasn’t other people. He was a face-of-the-franchise guy, one who took that role quite seriously. He was the anti-diva, too, one who almost never declined a charity event or the signing of an autograph. The fans came first.
Ware, as much as any athlete I’ve covered, never forgot who he was. He was the kid no one wanted coming out of high school, the kid who used to clean out chicken coops. There was no diva in Ware. He just wanted a chance.
Amazingly, Ware was offered just a single football scholarship, that being from Troy. We’re talking all divisions, junior colleges and everything in between. Just one school was interested. If not for some former high school teammates already playing there and convincing the Trojans’ coaching staff, who knows what would have become of Ware.
He arrived in the NFL with high expectations and a skeptical head coach in Bill Parcells. It’s no secret that the Tuna preferred Marcus Spears or Shawne Merriman with the 11th overall pick of the 2005 NFL Draft in favor of Ware, and although the Dallas Cowboys were able to eventually land both Spears and Ware, Jerry Jones wasn’t budging on that first selection. The pick would be Ware.
There were many times Jones allowed Parcells to talk him into draft picks, but this wasn’t one of them. Jones and Parcells even made a little wager on how many sacks Ware would have his first five seasons. Jones won.
Parcells was tough on Ware, even more so than other rookies, which is truly saying something. Ware would bring his coach orange Gatorade during breaks in practice. Any other flavor wouldn’t suffice. Parcells would tell him how great Lawrence Taylor was back in his days with the New York Giants and that Ware was no Taylor. Not even close. There were instances Parcells would chew him out, tell him what he did wrong and on the very next snap, Ware would do exactly as Parcells said. Instead of acknowledging the positive result, Parcells would just turn and walk away, a disgusted look on his face. Ware could do no right.
The media would ask a question about Ware, mention a sack in a preseason game or how quick the rookie looked coming off the ball. Parcells would stare as only he could before saying, “Let’s not put him in Canton just yet, OK?”
Ware has told me that no one has ever treated him like Parcells did. He broke him down and built him back up and in the end, Ware gives the Hall of Fame coach a lot of credit for how his career turned out. It wasn’t easy that first season, though. Lot of tough love.
Reminded of that rookie season at his own Canton induction in 2013, Parcells said, “With this media the way it is nowadays and the internet and the social media, we’re quick to anoint these guys. You know, that’s the last thing he needed to hear, in my opinion, at the time because he really didn’t know what the hell he was doing and that was the truth. But he found out and he continued to do it well. I’m proud of him, and he’s turned into quite a football player.”
The numbers would suggest that Ware will one day join Parcells in Canton. And his career isn’t finished. So far, 117 sacks, and 32 forced fumbles. Seven Pro Bowls, four First Team All-Pro nods and a Second Team All-Decade selection for the 2000s. After a few solid seasons in Denver and the body of work should be more than enough.
This has to rank at the top of the list for most difficult decisions Jones has had to make in his 25 years of ownership, right there with allowing Emmitt Smith to sign with Arizona.
Jones adores Ware and vice versa. And they both always hoped Ware would be one of those guys who played his entire career with the same franchise. That is the ultimate honor for any NFL player, to play their entire careers with one team. Ware wanted that, told me on multiple occasions how important that was to him. In a perfect world, one without a salary cap, that would have been the case, too. Jones would have had no problems signing a few checks these last few years when Ware may have been overpaid. Cost of doing business. The salary cap made that difficult, though.
Ware earned all of the $75 million or so he made with the Dallas Cowboys. That’s a lot of dough, of course, but he never missed a practice, was never late to a meeting and never big-timed anyone, teammate, reporter or coach. The man worked every day like a rookie trying to make the team, and nothing more can be asked of an athlete.
He played every snap the same way, and he played hurt. There are at least 10 occasions in the last five years when the overwhelming majority of players would have sat. Instead, Ware took the field, most famously against undefeated New Orleans six days after being carted off the field with a neck injury against San Diego during the 2009 season. He literally cried on the field thinking his career was over and he’d never be able to play with his kids.
Then there was the finale against the Redskins in 2012, a division title on the line. Ware could barely come out of his stance, never mind make a play. There he was on the field, though. Whether he should have been or not is a debate for another day. Ware played 34 snaps and, he somehow, through sheer will, mustered a QB hit and hurry on Robert Griffin III.
Ware is one of those guys who will do anything for the team and on that day, in his mind, all he could do was take the field. Throughout his nine seasons in Dallas, he was always begging offensive coaches to let him take snaps at tight end, H-back, whatever. Let him block someone, throw him the ball, Ware just wanted to help. They never took him up on the offer, but he was willing. He was always willing for the team, for the fans, for the Dallas Cowboys. He was and is a class act.
The reaction Tuesday was rare in sports today. No one blamed Ware for leaving. Was just one of those situations in life. Not fair, not easy, it is what it is.
This was indeed different. DeMarcus Ware was and always will be a Dallas Cowboy, destined for the Ring of Honor a few years after he hangs them up. He’s just going to play for someone else the next few years.
And that sucks. No other way to say it.
Courtesy: Jeff Sullivan
MONMOUTH MAN MILES APART: Dallas Cowboys receiver Miles Austin designated as post-June 1 cut | Release creates cap cash earmarked for 2014 NFL Draft picks
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys parted ways with Miles Austin today, ending several months’ worth of speculation about the veteran wide receiver.
Austin was designated as a post-June 1 cut, which will allow the team to spread his considerable cap hit over the next two years. The move will save the team $5.5 million against the salary cap this season, though that money will be unavailable until after June 1 — the Cowboys would likely use the savings to sign their 2014 draft picks.
However, the 29-year-old veteran will also cost the Cowboys $5.1 million in 2015, thanks to the June 1 designation.
The decision confirms what many had long suspected about Austin since he missed five games and grabbed just 24 catches for 244 yards last season. The undrafted free agent had four seasons remaining on a seven-year, $54 million deal that would been a massive blow to the Cowboys’ future salary cap figures.
Austin earned that big contract with a breakout season for the ages in 2009. Signed out of Division III Monmouth after the 2006 NFL Draft, he earned a place on the Cowboys’ roster for three seasons — mainly as a special teamer.
Following the release of Terrell Owens in 2009, Austin moved into position for more playing time at receiver. After tallying just four catches for 81 yards in the first month of the season, an injury to Roy Williams pushed Austin into the starting lineup in an October 11 matchup against Kansas City, where he exploded for a franchise-record 250 yards, including two touchdowns, on 10 receptions.
Austin tallied a whopping 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns on 81 catches in 2009, and he followed that up with a 69-catch, 1,041-yard, seven-touchdown effort in 2010. He earned Pro Bowl nods in both seasons.
Injuries have either hampered or derailed him in every season since. Austin missed six games and finished with just 579 yards, largely thanks to hamstring injuries — the same injuries that would wreck his 2013 campaign.
Austin did manage 66 catches for 943 yards and six scores in 2012, though injuries again limited his productivity.
All told, the veteran wideout missed 11 games and averaged just 588 yards per season in his last three years as a Cowboy.
The move will likely push second-year receiver Terrance Williams into the starting lineup for good. Williams worked his way into the lineup last fall partly thanks to Austin’s injuries, and he made the most of the opportunity. The rookie started eight games opposite Dez Bryant, and he nabbed 44 receptions for 736 yards and five touchdowns.
IRVING, Texas – Recently released Dallas Cowboys sack leader DeMarcus Ware agreed to a three-year contract with the Denver Broncos today.
The Cowboys released Ware, who was set to make $12.25 million, on Tuesday afternoon following a discussion about renegotiating his existing contract. Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones expressed hope the seven-time Pro Bowler would consider a return to the team if he couldn’t find a better deal as a free agent.
“DeMarcus and I agreed on an understanding that would allow him to explore the options he will have for the 2014 season and beyond,” Jones said in a statement Tuesday. “We were also in very strong agreement that playing for the Dallas Cowboys would be one of the options we would both be exploring.”
Those hopes were dashed decisively less than 24 hours later, as the Broncos’ reported deal with Ware is for $30 million over three years, with a $20 million guarantee. The contract will pay Ware $13 million in his first season – more than he was slated to make with the Cowboys.
Ware becomes the latest big-name free agent to sign up with Denver, last year’s league runner-up, in the past two days. The Broncos signed Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward on Tuesday afternoon, and they added Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib on Tuesday night.
The Cowboys saved $7.4 million in cap space with the decision to release Ware.
Ware jumped out to a fast start with four sacks and an interception in the Cowboys’ first three games last year, before he was hampered by injuries. Ware played through stinger issues and a nagging elbow issue, but a quadriceps injury suffered Oct. 13 against the Redskins forced him to miss the first three games of his career.
Among Ware’s many accomplishments and accolades with the Cowboys are a 20-sack season in 2008, when he was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Year, and a 19.5-sack year just three seasons ago in 2011. Ware and Mark Gastineau are the only two players in league history with two seasons of 19 or more sacks.
One silver lining for Dallas Cowboys fans is that Ware appears likely to finish his NFL career outside the division, and outside NFC altogether. Dallas just played Denver during the 2013 season, which means the Broncos won’t show up on the schedule until 2017 at the earliest – barring a Super Bowl matchup. There was speculation that Philadelphia would attempt to sign the seven-time All-Pro within the NFC East.
DALLAS COWBOYS ROSTER 2014: Dallas Cowboys sign free-agents DT Terrell McClain | Veteran DE Jeremy Mincey
IRVING, Texas – Last year, the Dallas Cowboys picked up a former standout at South Florida who had yet to blossom as an NFL player. But by the end of the season, George Selvie was one of the team’s most consistent and productive players.
Now, the Cowboys are trying their luck again with a similar scenario.
The Cowboys have signed their first free agent of the offseason, picking up defensive tackle Terrell McClain, who played in all 16 last year for the Texans.
Listed 6-2, 300, McClain played the nose tackle last year in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme but is a likely fit for the 1-technique.
He could’ve been a restricted free agent but the Texans opted not to issue him a tender, making him unrestricted.
In 16 games last year as a backup player, McClain was credited with just 10 tackles.
The Cowboys used Nick Hayden as a starter at the 1-spot last year but had little depth behind him, rotating a slew of players the club signed off the street.
A third-round pick (65th overall) of the Panthers in 2011, McClain started 12 games as a rookie, with 19 tackles and one sack. He played four games in 2012 with the Panthers, before he signed with the Patriots for a week and then Houston.
IRVING, Texas– The Dallas Cowboys have agreed to terms on a two-year deal with free agent defensive end Jeremy Mincey, pending a physical.
Mincey’s registered 20 sacks in 66 games since joining the league in 2006, playing seven seasons with the Jaguars and also making brief stops with the 49ers and Broncos.
The defensive end’s most productive season occurred in 2011, when he registered eight sacks in Jacksonville while starting all 16 games. He started all 16 games again the following year with three sacks.
Mincey was originally drafted in the sixth round by the Patriots in 2006 and later joined the 49ers and the Jaguars that year but didn’t make a regular season appearance with any club his rookie year. He spent the next seven years, including a missed 2009 season from an injury, in Jacksonville.
The 30-year-old’s compiled two seasons with at least five sacks and had two sacks in eight games with Jacksonville in 2013 before getting cut by the Jaguars in December. He joined the Broncos less than a week later and appeared in two games.
Oddly enough, that’s also the team that scooped up former star Dallas pass rusher DeMarcus Ware. Mincey won’t be looked at to specifically replace Ware, but rather to provide depth at a defensive end position of need for the Cowboys.
Mincey played in just 10 games total in 2013 as a backup and missed a game after a violation of team rules, but had played in 47 of 48 games with 40 starts his previous three seasons in Jacksonville.