AROUND THE NFL: Former Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa retires
Former Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa surprised everyone Monday by retiring from the NFL at only 26 years old.
This morning, Costa released a statement via his agent explaining his decision to retire after just signing a two-year contract last month with the Indianapolis Colts.
“Unfortunately, the day-to-day physical rigor of the NFL season has taken a toll on my body and has been a driving force behind my decision,” Costa said in his statement.
Costa, who started all 16 games in 2011 for the Cowboys, played in only three games each of the previous two years. A dislocated ankle caused him to miss the majority of the 2012 season.
Costa also thanked the Cowboys, Colts, his coaches, teammates, family, friends and the fans for all of their support throughout his career.
“As I look forward to the next chapter of my life, I will always be grateful for the opportunity to have played in the league,” Costa said.
GETTING BACK ON THE SADDLE: What’s next for former Dallas Cowboys DT Josh Brent (extensive coverage)
IRVING, Texas – Former Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent was sentenced today to 180 days in jail and 10 years of probation after the jury found him guilty two days prior of driving drunk in a car crash that resulted in the death of his teammate and friend, Jerry Brown Jr.
Brent was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine after being convicted of intoxication manslaughter Wednesday for the December 2012 wreck.
The jurors were sequestered Tuesday before Brent was convicted a day later. The sentencing phase began Thursday to determine the punishment for Brent, who faced up to 20 years in prison. Police said Brent’s blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit at the time of the incident. Brent was driving at least 110 miles an hour on an Irving service road when he flipped his white Mercedes. Neither man wore a seatbelt and the momentum if the crash threw Brown on top of Brent and cushioned Brent from serious injury.
Photo: The jury in the Josh Brent intoxication manslaughter trial came in with sentencing after deliberations this morning, January 24, 2014. The former Dallas Cowboys player received 180 days and 10 years probation. Defense attorneys George Milner III, center, Kevin Brooks, left, and David Wells, right, spoke with the media following the jury’s decision. (Mona Reeder/DMN)
Prosecutors Heath Harris, Jason Hermus, Becky Dodds and Gary McDonald are asking jurors for prison time. Brent faces up to 20 years in prison but is also eligible for probation.
Photo: Assistant District Attorney, Heath Harris, spoke to the media following the sentencing of former Dallas Cowboys player, Josh Brent. (Mona Reeder/DMN)
Defense attorneys George Milner III, Kevin Brooks and Deandra Grant made a plea for probation.
Photo: Josh Brent stands with one of his lawyers Kevin Brooks while the punishment for his intoxication manslaughter conviction is read in court. Dallas, Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Pool/LM Otero, Pool)
The the jury deliberated less than an hour before being sequestered for the night at a hotel.
The trial has attracted national attention and has lasted longer that most trials in Dallas County except for those where prosecutors are seeking death in a capital murder case. Jury selection began Thursday, Jan. 9. Testimony began the following Monday.
After reading the sentence, state District Judge Robert Burns scolded Brent for his actions. “You are not the first Dallas Cowboy to kill someone with a vehicle,” the judge said, “but I hope you’re the last.”
Dallas Cowboys players Barry Church and Danny McCray were among the people to testify during the trial. Brown’s mother, Stacey Jackson, also testified during the sentencing phase and has repeatedly stated she’s forgiven Brent for what took place.
Photo: LaTasha Brent, the mother of Josh Brent, is helped from the courtroom following the punishment decision. (Mona Reeder/DMN)
Photo: Former Dallas Cowboys NFL football player Josh Brent, center, is lead away from the Dallas courtroom into custody after his sentencing. (AP Photo/Pool/LM Otero, Pool)
Brent, who last played with the Cowboys in 2012 and totaled 1.5 sacks in 12 games, has retired since the incident. The Cowboys still retain his rights. Executive vice president Stephen Jones wouldn’t address the possibility of Brent returning to the team as he spoke from a Senior Bowl practice in Mobile, Ala., prior to Wednesday’s conviction.
Linebacker Sean Lee attended the trial Tuesday and was in the courtroom to provide support for Brent. Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett have also offered their support for Brent since the accident occurred.
“We understand the very serious nature of this situation and express our concerns for all of the families and individuals that have been affected by the tragedy of Jerry Brown’s death,” owner/general manager Jerry Jones said in a statement after the conviction.
THE PATH BACK TO VALLEY RANCH: Josh Brent’s to return to the NFL, and the Dallas Cowboys rights
Former Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent will have the chance to restart his NFL career one year after he retired if he chooses to pursue professional football again.
And it’s possible Brent could again play with a star on his helmet less than two years after he was responsible for the death of a teammate.
Brent retired from the NFL on July 18 with an NFL suspension looming and less than 24 hours before the Dallas Cowboys were to report to training camp.
Brent could face some hiccups in his path back to the NFL. He’d have to apply for reinstatement, and any request has to be reviewed and approved by the league. If he were reinstated, Brent could still be suspended by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for his conviction under the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy.
Such a decision would hinge on how the league ultimately views Brent’s one year away from football. If Brent returns, he would have missed a year by his own choice, and the league could decide not to pursue a suspension. Or, because Brent is a repeat offender with a previous DWI arrest in Illinois, his suspension could be longer than that of a first-time offender.
The Dallas Cowboys retain Brent’s contract rights, however, and he should be out of jail before the team reports for training camp in late July in Oxnard, Calif. Brent’s time served began Friday, and 180 days from today would put his release date at July 23.
Whether the Cowboys would welcome Brent back isn’t clear. But they’ve fully supported him since the tragic crash, even helping him get a job at a warehouse after he retired from the league. And, on Wednesday, before Brent was convicted of the second-degree felony, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones didn’t exactly close the door on Brent.
Asked if he’d ever consider Brent playing again for the Cowboys, Jones said, “I wouldn’t address that right now.”
The Dallas Cowboys declined to comment today after Brent was sentenced.
Peter Schaffer, Brent’s agent, was asked today if his client has completely closed the door on a future in the NFL.
“Haven’t thought about that,” Schaffer said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Brown family.”
Defense attorneys George Milner III and Kevin Brooks acknowledged that Brent could play pro football again. But Milner said Brent has never mentioned playing again and doesn’t talk about football unless he’s asked about it. They did not know if Brent still worked out.
“That road is not foreclosed,” Brooks said.
First Assistant District Attorney Heath Harris, the lead prosecutor in the case, said he would not begrudge Brent for returning to football. But he said Brent needs to get treatment and serve as an example to other players about the consequences of drunken driving.
“As long as he’s not out drinking and driving, I don’t have a problem with anybody doing his occupation,” Harris said. “Everybody has a right to earn a living.”
Other NFL players have continued their pro careers after being responsible for someone’s death.
Cleveland Browns receiver Donte’ Stallworth struck and killed a pedestrian in March 2009 while driving drunk. Five months later, Goodell suspended Stallworth the entire 2009 season without pay. Stallworth, who received 30 days in jail and eight years’ probation, was reinstated by the NFL the next season and went on to play in 20 games from 2010 to 2012 for three different teams.
After leaving a birthday party in 1998, then-St. Louis Rams defensive end Leonard Little crashed into and killed a woman in St. Louis while driving drunk. Little received four years’ probation before going on to a 12-year career with the Rams.
Brent will spend his 26th birthday Thursday in jail. Though still young, what kind of shape he’s in when he’s released will play a part in teams’ possible interest in him. And he isn’t exactly an ideal fit for the Cowboys since they’ve switched defensive schemes.
Also, he had only 31 career tackles in three seasons with the Cowboys before his arrest.
ATTORNEY’S LIVE INTERVIEW: Testimony from Jerry Brown Jr.’s mother brings leniency in sentencing for Josh Brent
Photo: A packed courtroom listens to Judge Robert Burns III, right, admonish former Dallas Cowboys Josh Brent as he stands with his lawyers after Brent’s sentencing for his intoxication manslaughter conviction was read in court Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, in Dallas. Brent was sentenced for a drunken car crash that killed his friend and teammate, Jerry Brown Jr. He could have been sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. (AP Photo/Pool/LM Otero, Pool)
One of Josh Brent’s attorneys, Kevin Brooks, joined KRLD-FM today. Here are some highlights from the interview.
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW
On Josh Brent’s feelings right now:
“Josh is not the person that some folks have made him out to be. The people that know Josh will tell you that and if you ever spend any time around him you would see that he’s a very private person. In a lot of ways he’s an extremely shy guy, which would be surprising for someone his size and his physical presence. When we went back in the holding cell after the verdict Josh wasn’t jumping up and down happy. He was still extremely somber. I told him, ‘You’ve got a lot to process,’ because as I said during closing arguments this is something that he has lived with since December 8.”
On how this has changed Josh Brent:
“I can only go — in terms of how he was before this accident — by what people have told me. They described him before this accident as a very upbeat, positive, happy-go-lucky kind of guy. Since then they’ve noticed that he’s become extremely reserved, which is not surprising knowing that he’s had this thing hanging over head for almost a year a half. But he is still a fairly reserved, quiet, private individual.”
On the 10-year probation:
“For him to get probation in this case the jury had to come back with a sentence of 10 years or less. Anything above 10 years, they could not recommend probation so the 10 years was the starting point. And obviously the next point was do they recommend probation, which they did. The judge sentenced him to 10 years of probation. In the state of Texas that’s the maximum amount of time a person can be placed on probation is 10 years. If he were to violate he’s looking at 10 years.”
On returning to football:
“As far as the Cowboys or going back to the Cowboys or anything like that, that’s never been part of our discussions.”
On people saying Josh Brent got off light:
“They weren’t privy to the evidence that the jury saw and heard, particularly during the punishment phase. They were not there to witness the real grace and forgiveness that Jerry Brown’s mom came across with it. It’s pretty clear from here testimony to the jury that she did not want Josh going to prison and Josh was a second son to hear. And then the other thing that I think most citizens don’t know is there are people on probation for that same offense and one of the things that we brought out during the punishment phase is that presently there are 34 people on probation for that offense. One of the things we did not bring out, the year before there was 55 people on probation for that same offense. So in terms of painting this probation as something that’s unusual or unheard of, I think we were able to show that’s simply not the case.”
On the terms of Brent’s probation:
“There are a lot of terms and conditions. Generally there are 17 that are standardized and they can be as simple as pay your probation fee each month, perform a number of community service hours as determined by the judge, attend alcohol or drug treatment classes, restitution payments if necessary. Things of that nature. Any of those things are what you called technical violations. They rarely result in a person’s probation being revoked. The main thing would be continuing to test positive for any drugs or committing a new offense whether it’s alcohol-related or not.”
On what his restrictions are on driving:
“Those are the types of things that fall under terms and conditions of probation for him and those are things that the judge can add or takeaway. I have no doubt that at the point he’s released at the end of the 180 days, he’s going to put him on a monitor. He’s going to put him on what’s called a ‘SCRAM’ which will let the court know if he’s using alcohol. He’s not going to be allowed to drink alcohol while on probation, so there’s going to be a lot of restrictions on him and there’s going to be a lot of technical devices to monitor him and what he’s doing or consuming.”
Media Coverage immediately following the sentencing of Josh Brent
Try this link for Dallas/Ft Worth breaking news coverage (NBC DFW)
COWLISHAW EDITORIAL: Will fans be as forgiving if Dallas Cowboys bring Josh Brent back?
A light sentence handed to Josh Brent on an intoxication manslaughter charge Friday — 180 days in jail plus 10 years’ probation — was no great surprise. This is Texas. If you’re going to be convicted of manslaughter on a drinking-and-driving charge (after you have already been convicted of another DUI), this is one of the better states to avoid doing hard time.
A recent case in which a 17-year-old was basically deemed too spoiled to be responsible for having killed four people while driving drunk — he received no jail time — still boggles the mind. Against that backdrop, finding a jury quick to sympathize with Brent after he had jeopardized the holiest of careers — playing for the Dallas Cowboys — must not have been overly difficult.
And yet I believe the idea of Brent jumping right back into a Cowboys uniform and playing next season — he will be free from jail in plenty of time — would repulse much of the fan base. Cowboys fans have long accepted a reasonable amount of aberrant behavior from their heroes as long as they produced titles. Such a quick willingness to forgive and forget here could be the last straw for many struggling to maintain ties with a team so far removed from its championship glory.
A DMN survey suggests a majority of fans will be ready to see Brent back in cleats this fall. We shall see on that.
The problem for me is that giving Brent probation has proved to be a failed cure. He received probation for a DUI charge at the University of Illinois and, yet, there he was in the wee hours of Dec. 8, 2012, finishing off about 17 drinks (according to the evidence) before climbing into his Mercedes, driving recklessly and killing his friend and teammate, Jerry Brown Jr.
Brown’s mother forgave Brent long ago. Is that really all that matters? If the victim’s family forgives, does that mean a serious crime was not committed?
A disturbing but not overly surprising sentence was handed down by a jury Friday.
Time will tell whether the Cowboys — desperate for anyone to play the role of defensive lineman — forgive as quickly and how their fans cope with that decision.
THE BUDGET IN REVIEW: Managing the Dallas Cowboys roster and contracts 2014 2015 NFL season | Roster tweaks, restructuring, and salary cap
The Dallas Cowboys (and most NFL teams) will be handcuffed this off-season while trying to upgrade their roster while maneuvering through the NFL’s salary cap restraints.
They won’t have much money to work with in free agency, similar to last season when they were only able to add complementary pieces at the right price — like linebacker Justin Durant and safety Brodney Pool.
That means the Dallas Cowboys must draft well. They did for the most part in 2012, highlighted by key additions in center Travis Frederick (first round) and receiver Terrance Williams (third round).
A fourth consecutive year with no playoff game leaves the Cowboys facing another long off-season. Below, we take a look at some of the key issues the Dallas Cowboys must address before training camp begins in late July:
Getting under the salary cap
The NFL’s 2014 salary cap is projected to be $126.3 million. The Cowboys are projected to be a league-high $31 million over the cap.
But the club’s salary cap woes aren’t anything new. They’ve pushed off their problems year after year as they try to cash in on their aging core before it’s too late.
Teams continue to restructure veterans’ contracts each off-season. They reduce players’ salaries down to or near the veteran minimum and turn the rest into bonus money to create more cap space. The downside, however, is that it increases the players’ cap figures in future years.
It’s a common practice around the league and makes the salary cap more of a charade because of the way NFL executives can manipulate contracts.
Executive vice president Stephen Jones is in charge of the Dallas Cowboys salary cap. When it comes to free agency, the Cowboys believe they will be able to do what they need.
The NFL free agency period opens March 11, which is when the Dallas Cowboys have to be under the 2014 salary cap.
Free agent strategy will include bargain hunting
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett says the most important task his staff has each off-season is to evaluate the players Dallas already has. The coaches and scouting department will also be busy looking for new faces to upgrade the roster.
That process begins in earnest with the start of Senior Bowl practices Jan. 20 in Mobile, Ala., and continues at the NFL Scouting Combine Feb. 19-25 in Indianapolis.
The Cowboys will need to draft well considering their tight salary cap. The Cowboys will have to decide who they re-sign among their free agents and be bargain shoppers in pursuing other free agents across the league.
Starting defensive linemen Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher aren’t likely to be re-signed by the Cowboys unless they come at the right price.
The Cowboys used their franchise tag on Spencer for a second consecutive season but he played in only one game. Spencer underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee Oct. 1 and is still recovering.
Hatcher is coming off of his best season with the Cowboys, recording a career- and team-high 11 sacks, but he said a week ago he’ll go to the highest bidder this off-season as he tests the market for likely the last time in his career.
The Cowboys obviously won’t be in great position to outbid teams in free agency, especially for defensive linemen in their 30s.
Drafting soundly will be critical
The Cowboys will have a few extra weeks to prepare for what will be an important draft for them as they look to upgrade their roster.
The NFL draft has been pushed back this year from late April to May 8-10.
Over the next few weeks, the Cowboys will evaluate their biggest needs for 2014 before the front office, coaching staff and scouting department heads to Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 20 for the start of Senior Bowl practices.
The No. 1 need area for the Cowboys is clearly their defensive line. Three of the team’s four projected defensive line starters in 2013 aren’t likely to return, leaving end DeMarcus Ware as the lone man standing.
At minimum, the Cowboys will need to add potential starters at defensive end and tackle. The Cowboys’ defense, which finished last in the NFL this season, also needs help at outside linebacker, safety and cornerback.
Some would like to see the Cowboys draft a quarterback to begin developing, Dallas defense is flawed in several areas and needs immediate help.
On offense, the Cowboys could look to draft a receiver if they part ways with veteran Miles Austin this off-season. Considering the Cowboys’ youth at receiver, perhaps a veteran receiver via free agency would be a better fit if Austin doesn’t return.
Adding depth along the offensive line would also be smart for the Cowboys, especially if six-time Pro Bowl right guard Brian Waters decides to retire.
The Cowboys were one of six teams that finished 8-8 this season. They will draft either 16th or 17th overall based on a coin flip with Baltimore that will take place in February at the NFL scouting combine. The Dallas Cowboys selected 14th overall in last year’s draft.
Cleaning up contracts — a vicious cycle
The Cowboys have some difficult decisions ahead of them with how to handle the current contracts of some aging veterans.
Though getting under the salary cap by March 11 looks daunting now, the Cowboys can make it happen with relative ease.
They can cut more than $35 million off of their 2014 salary cap by restructuring the contracts of quarterback Tony Romo, defensive end DeMarcus Ware, linebacker Sean Lee, tight end Jason Witten, cornerback Brandon Carr and cornerback Orlando Scandrick and making wide receiver Miles Austin a post-June 1 cut.
The Cowboys would save $5.5 million in cap space by making Austin a post-June 1 cut. Austin and Ware both restructured their contracts last off-season, but the Cowboys could ask each to take a pay cut this off-season to save money, the same way right tackle Doug Free did in 2013.
Austin, who will be 30 this summer, is coming off of his worst season as a starter with the Cowboys. He again struggled to stay healthy, finishing with only 24 catches for 244 yards and no touchdowns. His base salary in 2014 is scheduled to be $5.5 million with a salary cap hit of $8.25 million.
Ware said Monday he’s not interested in taking a pay cut but would again restructure his contract to help the Cowboys’ free up some cap space. Ware, who will be 32 next season and finished with a career-low six sacks in 2013, is scheduled to make $12.2 million in 2014 and has a cap hit of $16 million.
Key off-season dates – NFL Dallas Cowboys calendar 2014
Jan. 20 — Week of Senior Bowl practices begin in Mobile, Ala.
Jan. 26 — Pro Bowl in Honolulu, Hawaii
Feb. 17 — First day for clubs to designate franchise or transition players
Feb. 19-25 — NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis
March 3 — Deadline for clubs to designate franchise or transition players
March 11 — First day of the 2014 league year; all clubs must be under the 2014 salary cap; 2014 free agency period begins.
April 21 — Clubs with returning head coaches may begin off-season workouts
May 8-10 — 2014 NFL Draft in New York City, N.Y.
Dallas Cowboys free agents
Here’s a look at the 2014 Dallas Cowboys free agents:
Exclusive rights (Two years of experience; can’t negotiate with other teams)
Chris Jones – punter
Restricted (3 years of experience, can negotiate with other teams; Cowboys right to match)
Dan Bailey – kicker
Phillip Tanner – running back
Unrestricted (can negotiate with any team, Cowboys don’t have right to match)
Ryan Cook – center
Jason Hatcher – defensive tackle
Edgar Jones – defensive end
Jon Kitna – quarterback
Danny McCray – safety
Ernie Sims – linebacker
Anthony Spencer – defensive end
Brian Waters – right guard
Jarius Wynn – defensive end
TWO SIDES OF THE FENCE: Tony Romo’s NFL legacy is still being written
On a picture-perfect Southern California afternoon, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo took a break from the daily grind of training camp to chase 16-month-old son Hawkins around the field.
A few days after Romo’s family left training camp, news broke that his wife, Candice, is expecting the couple’s second child after the season.
Five months ago, Romo signed a six-year, $108 million contract extension to make him the highest-paid Cowboys player in franchise history. In Jerry Jones’ office that day at Valley Ranch, a photographer captured Hawkins taking a pen out of the Cowboys owner’s hands, with Hawkins’ smiling parents holding him.
For Romo, it seems, life couldn’t get much better. He has it all: faith, family, football, fame and fortune.
But one dream has proved elusive for Romo: a Super Bowl.
He hasn’t even taken baby steps to approach the milestone. He has one playoff win in his 6 1/2 seasons as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback.
At 33, the oldest player in the Cowboys’ locker room, Romo knows he must strike quickly. He has never wanted it more, but not just for himself.
“When you’re young, you want to be the best, you want to be the starter, you want to do these things to get to that point to win a championship,” Romo said. “And when you’re older, you want all those same things, but you want it for a lot of other people as well, because you see all the people that have put so much into it and it really matters to them as well.
“That’s where I’m at. It’s not just for me. It’s about a lot of other people. I see it with the fans.”
Recent history says Romo isn’t likely to lead the Cowboys to their first Super Bowl win since the 1995 season.
Only one starting quarterback in the last 14 seasons has won the Super Bowl at 33 or older. That was 34-year-old Brad Johnson in 2003, but he was just a game manager for Tampa Bay’s defensively led team.
Romo isn’t paid to be a game manager.
Only 11 quarterbacks in NFL history have won a Super Bowl at 33 or older. One of those happens to be an unabashed Romo supporter: legendary Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach.
When he was 35, Staubach led the Cowboys to a Super Bowl win in 1978.
Thirty-five years later, Staubach believes Romo can do the same.
“If you’re in your 30s and you’re a quarterback, it’s not like other positions,” Staubach said. “He’s at the prime of his career right now.”
The Cowboys have gone all-in on Romo. They’re not only paying him as an elite quarterback, they’ve given him more say-so than ever in the offensive game plan.
In training camp, Romo often held teaching sessions with receivers and running backs. During the season, he’ll be in coaching meetings early in the week to help formulate game plans.
Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson, who spent 19 years as a quarterback in the NFL, said Romo has “always had input on things” but never to the point that he was side-by-side with coaches.
In fact, Wilson said he’s never been involved with a similar situation in his almost 35 years in the NFL as a player and coach.
Wilson said Romo always offered ideas, but now the process is streamlined.
“Any ideas that he’s had, they may show up later in the week,” Wilson said. “But now, with him in those meetings, he’s watching it with us and we’re talking about things. Maybe those ideas come earlier in the week and we get a chance to practice them.”
The Cowboys view Romo as a “young” 33 by NFL standards, because most starting quarterbacks his age have more mileage on their throwing arms. The Cowboys signed the undrafted Romo in 2003, but he didn’t attempt his first NFL pass until midway through the 2006 season.
“He started later and he takes real good care of himself,” Wilson said. “He plays the different sports in the off-season. He’s in great condition and he’s very instinctive, and those things will stay with you throughout your career.”
Sure, Romo’s arm is fine. But he’s withstood much abuse over the last six seasons — particularly the last three — because of the team’s poor offensive line play.
Romo didn’t participate in the Cowboys’ off-season workouts because he had back surgery to remove a cyst. Two years ago, he played a game with a broken rib and a punctured lung.
Soon to be 71, Jones has said he doesn’t have time to wait for the Cowboys to show improvement.
That also holds true for Romo. But for better or worse, Jones is committed to Romo, thanks to the quarterback’s new contract.
Romo is 1-6 in win-or-go-home games, and hasn’t been able to get it done in the regular-season finale the last two seasons in games that could have given the Cowboys the NFC East title.
For one of the league’s most talented quarterbacks, Romo is aware his legacy will ultimately be defined by his playoff success.
“It’s not fair, but that’s just the way it is,” Staubach said of how Romo will be judged. “I really feel it’s important to him. The most important thing for him is to win and to get to that playoff level where he can win some playoff games. But you can’t do it by yourself. It’s not a one-man game. It’s a team game. Dallas has a quarterback who can be a franchise quarterback. But you need other pieces, too.”
What will be Romo’s legacy? Will he be the next Staubach or Troy Aikman — who have combined for five Super Bowl wins — or will he fall woefully short?
Aikman has said Romo is a better quarterback than he was and believes Romo will lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl win one day.
Pro Football Hall of Famers Aikman and Staubach believe in him. But time is running out on Romo to make believers out of his critics.
“This team is going to win a Super Bowl at some point. It’s going to be exciting when that time comes,” Romo said. “And when we look back, we know who was on what side of the fence during the tough moments.”
LIVING LEGEND: Roger Staubach makes his prediction for the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys
Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach talks to current quarterback Tony Romo during practice at the Silver and Blue Debut, in Arlington on August 22, 2013. (Michael Ainsworth/DMN)
ARLINGTON – Legendary Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach isn’t down on his former team despite back-to-back 8-8 seasons and a three-season playoff drought.
In fact, Staubach feels even better about this season’s team than he did last year’s.
Almost a year to the day, Staubach predicted the Cowboys would make the playoffs last season and finish either 11-5 or 10-6. And this time around?
“We can be 11-5 in a second with a little luck and keeping people healthy, maybe 12-4,” Staubach said Thursday night at AT&T Stadium. “And I think we’d take 10-6 right now, wouldn’t we? You just want to get in the playoffs.”
Staubach was among several Cowboys alumni to watch the team practice for two hours Thursday night in the team’s only open practice in Texas. Others included fellow Pro Football Hall of Famers Mel Renfro and Rayfield Wright and Ring of Honor members Cliff Harris, Lee Roy Jordan and Charles Haley. A crowd of 10,234 watched the players practice without pads after paying $10 for parking.
The Cowboys alumni attended a dinner with the players and coaches at the stadium after the practice. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett asked Harris to address the team.
Staubach said the Cowboys have upgraded the offensive line – he really likes rookie center Travis Frederick – and if they can improve their running game should post a winning record for the first time since 2009.
Oh, and Staubach is still an unabashed Tony Romo fan.
“If there’s a bigger Romo fan in town, I don’t know who it is,” Staubach said. “I want to argue with all my negative Romo fans and tell them how great this guy is. He makes plays. He’s got a strong arm, and he just does a lot of good things out there that only a few quarterbacks in the league can do.”
Staubach spent some time Thursday throwing passes to one of Romo’s favorite targets: wide receiver Dez Bryant.
“They weren’t quite as hard as Tony Romo’s but I was having some fun,” Staubach said. “If he stays healthy, there won’t be a better receiver in the league than Dez Bryant. I was throwing to him tonight, so I tested him out. He’s a great receiver.”
SPRINTS, NOT SQUATS: Dallas Cowboys safety Matt Johnson adjusts fitness program to reduce hamstring issues
IRVING — In examining why he had reoccurring hamstring injuries last year, Dallas Cowboys second-year safety Matt Johnson said he realized it could have had something to do with his weight room routine. Johnson said he cut back this off-season on the amount of weight he was squatting.
“We’ve done more hamstring work instead of putting on 400 pounds and squatting,” Johnson said Tuesday after the Cowboys’ first organized team activity practice. “When I was in college, I did that some. When you get to the pros, and playing at safety, I don’t need to squat 500 pounds. We did more position specific and more dynamic work. You don’t need to be a bodybuilder to play football. I was big enough.”
Johnson said he’s lost three or four pounds and weighs about 212 now.
“I feel better at that weight. This league is all about running,” Johnson said. “Obviously you have to be big, too, but on the back end, you have to run a lot.”
Johnson – a 2012 fourth-round pick out of Eastern Washington – is competing this off-season for a starting safety spot against veteran Will Allen, who joined the Cowboys as a free agent addition after starting seven games for Pittsburgh last year, and rookie third-round pick J.J. Wilcox from Georgia Southern.
Johnson injured his left hamstring in June last year and missed most of training camp. He did get in a few padded camp practices and was in for about a dozen plays in the Cowboys’ third preseason game against St. Louis.
However, on his first play against the Rams, Johnson felt pain in his right hamstring.
Johnson’s right hamstring injury kept him out until mid-October. He returned to practice and was set to appear in his first NFL regular-season game Oct. 21 at Carolina when – two days before the game – he again injured his right hamstring in practice.
Last year at this time, Johnson wasn’t allowed to participate in the Cowboys’ OTAs because he was still finishing school at Eastern Washington.
In mid-March, Cowboys radio announcer Brad Sham called Johnson “the greatest safety to ever play” in an interview on KRLD-FM.
“The reason I know that is I’ve been doing this 35 years,” Sham said, “and he’s the only guy I’ve ever seen make the team practicing once, so he must be the greatest safety to every play.”
Through all the hamstring injuries, the Cowboys stuck with Johnson last season. They carried him on the active roster most of the year before finally putting him on injured reserve in mid-November.
Johnson, however, wouldn’t have survived on the Cowboys’ roster if they didn’t believe in his potential.
“His ball skills are incredible,” Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne said. “When the ball is in the air, he knows how to go up and play it.”
INSIDE THE HELMET: Tyron Smith’s generosity turns to family battles over money
For the first time, in an hour-long interview with The Dallas Morning News, Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith opened up to share his cautionary tale about how money changes people and how greed can run rampant around NFL players who become instant millionaires. Smith’s story is a must-read for any college football player drafted last month. Here are some of the more stunning revelations from Smith’s interview with DMN Cowboys beat writer Brandon George.
MORE, MORE, MORE
Smith, the first offensive lineman selected in 2011 when the Cowboys drafted him ninth overall out of USC, signed a four-year, $12.5 million contract. He gave his family a substantial amount of money, agreeing to pay his parents in four installments. But Smith’s stepfather, Roy Pinkney, his mother, Frankie Pinkney, and some of his siblings kept coming back for more.
“There was a certain amount I agreed to give them, but it went way beyond that and I was just like, ‘I’m done,’” Smith said. “I feel like I shouldn’t have given them so much. There was nothing wrong with helping them out and making sure they were taken care of, but not something to where they live the same lifestyle as you.”
HARRASSMENT PROMPTS 911 CALL
On the final weekend of October last year, while Smith was at the Cowboys’ team hotel preparing for a Sunday afternoon home game against the Giants, two of Smith’s sisters showed up from California unannounced at his North Dallas home, leading his girlfriend Leigh Costa to dial 911. According to a Dallas police report, the sisters were there to “harass and torment” him “in the pursuit of collecting financial gain.”
And it wasn’t the first time some of Smith’s family had shown up in Dallas and left in fury.
PHYSICAL THREATS RESULT IN RESTRAINING ORDER
Last October, John Schorsch — Smith’s Dallas-based attorney at the time — said Smith’s “mom and/or the stepdad threatened the physical well-being of Tyron and the life of his girlfriend.” Smith filed a protective order against his parents last summer to keep them from having any contact with him. The order also prohibits contact from Smith’s parents through his siblings.
During training camp last year in Oxnard, Calif., one of Smith’s brothers whom he said he hadn’t talked to “in a long time” showed up and had to be removed from the facility.
MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION
Six months ago, Schorsch said Smith’s family had not only continually demanded money from Smith but also took more than $1 million from him.
During a phone interview with The News last October, Frankie Pinkney strongly denied the family took any of Smith’s money without his authorization or harassed or threatened him in any way.
Smith said that when the money went missing, he was using a financial adviser his parents had recommended before the draft.
“There was money missing, but I just don’t know where it went,” Smith said. “There were times I would check my statements and it wouldn’t make sense and I hadn’t authorized it at all. I just felt betrayed and I was like, ‘Who can I trust?’”
DALLAS DAY WORKOUTS: Top 30 local prospects spending the day at Valley Ranch (Special Feature)
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys’ scouts will take a break from putting their draft board together today (Wednesday) to take part in the annual scouting combine known as Dallas Day.
The scouts and coaches will put local college players through a Combine style workout at Cowboys Stadium. The workout will allow Jerry and Stephen Jones and Jason Garrett to interact with those college players that might not have received an opportunity to play in an All Star game or attend the Combine.
College Scouting Coordinator Chris Hall historically has done an outstanding job of putting together a group of players that have Dallas as their hometown, along with players from SMU and TCU who are close to the complex at Valley Ranch, and this year is no different.
Each year, Dallas Day has produced better talent because of the job that programs like SMU and TCU have done with their overall program, and also because of the types of kids that are leaving the area and attending schools across the country.
From the Pro Days I was able to attend at SMU and TCU, players like
- defensive end Margus Hunt,
- running back Zach Line,
- receiver Josh Boyce and
- running back Matthew Tucker
will get their opportunity to visit with the club. Players with hometown ties to Dallas include
- quarterback Kyle Padron from Eastern Washington,
- Baylor wide receivers Lanear Sampson and
- Terrance Williams and
- Texas A&M receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu.
- Defensive ends RJ Washington of Oklahoma and
- DeMontre Moore of Texas A&M will be in as well.
When I worked in the scouting department here, Dallas Day was one of my favorite events because it gave you an opportunity not only to meet some of the top players in the area, but to see some players that might be sixth or seventh round considerations on the board. They could also be players that could become desired priority free agents after the draft. With the success that this team has had with those types of players after the draft, this day has always held great importance.
Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Scout
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys work out local players at annual Dallas Day event
The Dallas Cowboys will host players with local ties today (Wednesday) at their annual Dallas Day at Cowboys Stadium for workouts and meetings.
Here’s a list of some players scheduled to attend the event:
FLASHBACK- 2012 NFL DRAFT: Cowboys believe Matt Johnson has the potential to start at safety
2012 NFL Draft Prospect Scouting Report:
Eastern Washington safety Matt Johnson was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys with the No. 135 overall pick in the fourth round. His senior season ended abruptly after sustaining a biceps injury. Johnson isn’t likely to start in his rookie season but he will compete for a role on the team. The Cowboys had their eye on Mark Barron and athletically, Johnson is comparable on paper.
Johnson ran a 4.54 40 yard dash and bench pressed 225 pounds 18 times at his pro day. That is quite a performance for a defensive back. Johnson is quick to diagnose plays and reacts well instinctively. He plays physical to the whistle and wraps up cleanly. He’s at his best playing downhill which likely limits him to the strong safety position.
When in man to man coverage, he lacks the footwork to keep up with precise route runners. His feet will get tangled and he’ll fall back on his speed to make up for it.
Fourth round: S Matt Johnson from Eastern Washington
How he fared: Johnson missed the entire season and didn’t even practices much because of injuries to both hamstrings.
How he rates: He hasn’t played in a game yet, but the Cowboys believe he has the potential to start at safety for them in 2013.
College: The Dallas Cowboys aimed at bolstering their defense through the 2012 NFL Draft and hope they landed another defensive back to accomplish the task when they selected Matt Johnson with their second fourth round pick (135th overall). Johnson started every game he played (45) while at Eastern Washington, having his senior season cut short after seven games with shoulder surgery. During his time at EWU, Johnson amassed 341 tackles – fifth all-time in school history – 22 tackles for losses, 30 pass breakups and 17 interceptions – one shy of the school record – while exiting as the university’s all-time leader with six forced fumbles. As he makes the jump to the pro level, Johnson looks to pick up where he left off before the injury as he posted back-to-back 100-tackle seasons as a sophomore and junior.
COWBOY FOR LIFE: Tony Romo agrees to six-year, $108 million contract extension
Good Friday has turned into a great Friday for Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
The Dallas Cowboys and QB Tony Romo have reached agreement on a six-year, $108 million deal that would make him the highest-paid player in club history. More than half, $55 million, is guaranteed.
Romo is scheduled to make $11.5 million in 2013.
The contract will likely make Romo a Cowboys player for life and provides Dallas with a franchise quarterback through 2019. Romo, 32, will turn 40 years old the April after he plays the last season of his new contract.
Romo becomes the highest-paid player in Cowboys’ history and receives the second-most guaranteed money in NFL history at $55 million. New England quarterback Tom Brady received $57 million guaranteed, and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees received $55 million guaranteed.
The contract extension will also significantly reduce Romo’s 2013 salary cap hit of $16.8 million, giving the Cowboys more money to possibly sign other free agents in an effort to upgrade their roster.
Romo’s new contract was negotiated by Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones and Romo’s agent, R.J. Gonser, at Creative Artists Agency.
GEARED UP WIDE RECEIVER: Anthony Armstrong is back home with the Dallas Cowboys
IRVING — Former Carrollton Newman Smith receiver Anthony Armstrong said Monday it feels good to be back home and playing for the Cowboys.
The Cowboys released wide receiver Andre Holmes and signed Armstrong to fill the roster spot. Armstrong immediately becomes the Cowboys’ fastest player.
Armstrong was asked Monday what’s the fastest 40-yard dash time he’s ever run and he said it was a 4.25. He said he did it in 2007 and it’s what helped him catch the eyes of Dallas Desperados coach Will McClay, who is now the Cowboys’ director of football research. McClay helped get Armstrong a workout with the Cowboys last week.
But what is Armstrong’s 40 time now?
“Well, it’s still fast enough,” Armstrong said. “I wanted to get to the point where I didn’t have to run the 40 in a workout. I can still run down the field and actually catch a deep ball, so we’re looking to do that again.”
Armstrong is expected to immediately help the Cowboys on special teams and work his way into the offense.
“I hold myself to a pretty high standard. I think I can catch on to the offense pretty well,” Armstrong said. “From what I’ve seen so far, the way the system is, it makes it easy to catch on and hopefully I’ll be able to get plugged in right away and make an impact soon.”
Armstrong said that when he played college football at West Texas A&M, Cowboys assistant offensive line coach Wes Phillips was an assistant coach for the school (2004-05).
Armstrong said that when he saw Cowboys receiver Miles Austin leave Thursday’s game with a right hip injury he knew that he could soon get a call to join the Cowboys.
“I saw that and I started stretching actually,” Armstrong said. “I was eating Thanksgiving dinner and I was like, ‘This happened, and I might be participating a lot sooner than some may have expected.’ But I’m ready for the challenge. It’s always exciting to go to a new team and learn new things. I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
Armstrong said he still has gear from his Dallas Desperados days. Armstrong played for three previous NFL teams in Washington, Miami and — most recently — Jacksonville.
“I have gear from everywhere still,” Armstrong said. “I figure if I’m going somewhere I might as well swipe some shirts while I’m there. It makes for good pajamas.”
RIVAL GAMEPLAN: Cleveland Browns RB Trent Richardson is teams best shot vs. Dallas Cowboys
The Cleveland Browns asked rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden to win games for them through the first seven games of the NFL season.
But a 1-6 start convinced the Browns to shift the offensive focus to another rookie — running back Trent Richardson.
Richardson joined the Browns as the third overall pick of the 2012 draft but missed the preseason following an arthroscopic scope of his left knee in early August. Richardson was ready for the start of the season, but the Browns brought him along slowly, never handing him the ball more than 19 times in any of those first seven games.
Richardson did post a 100-yard game against the Bengals in September. But Weeden was the focal point of the offense, throwing 50 passes against the Ravens, 40 more against the Bills and Colts and in the 30s against the Eagles, Giants and Bengals.
But in the last two games, the Browns have returned to their rushing roots. This is a franchise that sent running backs Marion Motley, Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Cleveland handed Richardson the ball 24 times against San Diego and 25 times against Baltimore. The second best running back ever to come out of Pensacola (Fla.) Escambia High School rewarded the Browns with a pair of 100-yard games — and he scored the game’s only touchdown in a 7-6 victory over the Chargers.
The Browns are coming off a bye, and you can bet Richardson will be the feature attraction when they visit Cowboys Stadium on Sunday.
The Cowboys have been stout against the pass but pedestrian against the run this season. They rank 13th in the NFL in run defense, allowing an average of 105.2 yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry. Marshawn Lynch and Michael Turner rushed for 100 yards in victories over the Cowboys this season.
The Cowboys also will be down two of their best run defenders, end Kenyon Coleman and linebacker Sean Lee, who are on injured reserve.
The Browns like to pound the 5-9, 230-pound Richardson inside — much like the Cowboys pounded their Escambia product Emmitt Smith inside during their Super Bowl era. Richardson left Alabama as the school’s all-time leading rusher and this season ranks third among rookie NFL rushers with his 575 yards and second among rookie scorers with his six touchdowns.
If the 2-7 Browns have a shot against the Cowboys, it’s with the ball in Richardson’s hands.
Related: MATCHUP – Cowboys Dez Bryant vs. Browns CB Joe Haden
Haden is the Browns’ best cornerback and will likely see his fair share of Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant on Sunday. Haden played in Cleveland’s season opener against Philadelphia – he had an interception and made six tackles – and then was suspended by the NFL for four games for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances. Haden (5-11, 190), who reportedly tested positive in the off-season for the stimulant Adderall, has made 27 tackles. The Cowboys have four interceptions as a team. The Browns have four players who have made two interceptions apiece, including Haden. The former Florida standout has eight interceptions in only 27 career starts over three seasons.
Bryant doesn’t have a catch in the fourth quarter of five of his nine games this season, but unlike last year when he didn’t consistently impact games in the second half, it hasn’t been an issue. That’s because Bryant is making big plays at key times, such as his diving 30-yard touchdown catch on the final play of the third quarter Sunday at Philadelphia that tied the score at 17. Bryant has 45 catches for 590 yards and three touchdowns, but the Cowboys would like to see him be more consistent. The Cowboys just concluded a five-game stretch in which they played four road games, and Bryant was either hit or miss every other game.
Brandon George | DMN contributed to this post
STEPPING UP: Teary-eyed mother thanks Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware for his generosity
LANCASTER – With tears flowing down her face and her voice trembling Tuesday afternoon, JoAnn Trevino stood outside the Lancaster football field house asking to speak to Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware.
Trevino wasn’t a rabid football fan looking for an autograph or a photo opportunity. All she wanted to do was tell Ware thanks for what he had done for her family two months ago.
On Sept. 3 – Labor Day night – Trevino; her husband, Joe; daughter, Clara Coco; and 4-year-old autistic grandson, David Lopez, lost everything they owned when their rental home in Hutchins – a city just south of Dallas – was totally destroyed by a fire.
The family woke up about 2 a.m. with the home fully engulfed in flames but was able to escape. However, the family pet – a dog they’ve had for six years – died in the fire. Without any insurance coverage, it was a total loss.
Ware learned of the family’s situation through a friend who tweeted about the fire who was also a friend of the family’s.
Two days before the Cowboys season opener at the New York Giants, Ware immediately reached out to the family, buying five complete outfits (from a Reebok outlet in Allen) for each family member, blankets, towels, toiletries and even toys for Trevino’s grandson. Three days after the fire, one of Ware’s assistants delivered all the items to the family at a hotel in Cedar Hill.
“It was overwhelming, just overwhelming,” Trevino said of Ware’s generosity. “I have on pants right now that he bought me.
“He just saw a family in need and a need he was able to take care of. There was nothing in return. There were no news cameras out there. We’re just all lower-middle class, our whole family. Of course we’re going to share what we have, but there is not money to do stuff like that. And DeMarcus Ware doesn’t know who we are. There were no ulterior motives, nothing but out of the kindness of his heart that he did that for us.”
For two months now, Trevino said she’s been trying to figure out how to get in touch with Ware to say thanks. On Tuesday, she just happened to be in Lancaster on business when she heard that Ware was at the high school to encourage students to achieve their goals, visit with the football team that’s in the playoffs and be part of Duracell and Texas Instruments donating 35 TI-84 handheld calculators.
Trevino raced over to the high school – and finally – was able to express her appreciation to Ware.
Ware was touched that Trevino dropped by to say thanks.
“It’s just a great thing. It lets you know that it wasn’t short-lived and it was very important to them,” Ware said. “Sometimes in life you have opportunities to sort of spread your wealth and things aren’t as important to you but they can be very important to somebody else and that’s what is so good about the gift of giving. It’s not about what you have but the memories you can make with what you’ve got.”
Photo Courtesy: D Magazine article – Click HERE to read story
FOLLOWUP – REX RYAN: Sean Lee injury caused brother, Rob Ryan, to cry during phone conversation (UPDATED)
IRVING — Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said he didn’t cry over linebacker Sean Lee’s season-ending toe injury, “but I probably should have.”
On Wednesday, while discussing Jets linebacker Bart Scott’s toe injury, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan said that his brother was “crying, literally, on the phone because they just lost their great linebacker to a toe injury.”
“That guy’s so full of crap,” Rob Ryan said Friday. “Was I [griping] to him? Sure. We have so many damn injuries, of course I was. He did talk me off the plank. But I wasn’t crying tears, actual tears. I save that for the movies I watch with my wife. You know, Lifetime. My god, you guys ever watch Lifetime? Don’t. Trust me, don’t.”
Rob Ryan said moving on without Lee won’t be easy, especially against the high-scoring Giants. Lee had 14 tackles in the Cowboys’ season-opening 24-17 win at the Giants.
“I understand we played the Giants before and the only reason we stopped them was their lack of execution,” Rob Ryan said. “It had nothing to do with our players or our scheme. We got the message. And like [the Giants] said before, it was all them. That’s the only reason they self-destructed, apparently, against us last time,” Rob Ryan said. “So hopefully they have another bad game. It would take another miracle and it’d be great, though.”
SOURCE: Rob Ryan Press Conference – How Do You Replace Lee?
Rob Ryan Press Conference: How Do You Replace Lee?
Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan answers questions about the look of the Cowboys defense without middle linebacker Sean Lee. Duration: 9:28
Click on photo above to watch video. Enjoy!
COMMENTARY: Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee is not replaceable; Dan Conner expected to start
The Dallas Cowboys are bracing for rotten news on inside linebacker Sean Lee, who could need season-ending surgery on his right big toe. Lee injured the toe in the third quarter of Sunday’s victory over the Panthers in Carolina and said after the game that he expected to be fine. But he had an MRI on Monday, and it sounds as though the results were quite discouraging.
There are plenty of people on the Cowboys’ roster who can play linebacker:
Dan Connor would replace Lee in the starting lineup, and he earned praise from coach Jason Garrett for his work against the Panthers, which included a third-down stop of Cam Newton and a pass deflection, after taking over for Lee. Second-year linebacker Bruce Carter would become the defensive signal caller. The Cowboys have Orie Lemon and Alex Albright as backup inside linebackers on the 53-man roster but could look to add another inside linebacker.
However, in spite of the depth the Cowboys have at the position, Lee is not a replaceable player for them. Not only is he their defensive captain and one of their most important leaders, he has played consistently better this year than has any other player on their defense, including superstar outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware and either of their two new and very talented cornerbacks. Lee’s instincts and playmaking ability cannot be replicated by players like Carter or Connor, no matter how capable they are.
When you’ve watched the Cowboys’ defense this year, you’ve generally been impressed. And I believe they’ll continue to cover receivers well with Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, continue to rush the passer well with Ware and Jason Hatcher and continue to defend the run capably with the help of Anthony Spencer. They have more good players on defense at this point than they do on offense, and I think they will still play fairly good defense the rest of the way.
But Lee has been playing at a transcendent, superstar-type level — one of the absolute best defensive playmakers at any position on any team in the league this year. The closest comparison of which I keep thinking is the Steelers’ Troy Polamalu in his prime — the way he was always able to be around the ball, whether it was due to speed, instincts, pre-snap positioning or a combination of everything. That’s what Lee was delivering this year — a player who at times made it look as though the Cowboys were playing with an extra man on defense. They simply don’t have anyone else on the roster who can play football the way Lee has been playing it. Few teams, if any, do.
Courtesy: Dan Graziano | ESPN Dallas
RELATED: Free Agent signee Dan Connor will replace starting LB Sean Lee
IRVING — Now that we know the Cowboys could be without starting inside linebacker Sean Lee the rest of the season, the team’s free agent signing of Dan Connor this off-season looks more important than ever. Lee and Connor are both Penn State products.
First off, Lee isn’t replaceable. He’s perhaps the Cowboys’ best defensive player. He leads the team with 77 tackles. He’s a defensive captain, a team leader and he relays the play-calls on the field.
An MRI on Monday revealed ligament damage in his toe and he could be facing season-ending surgery. The Cowboys are still trying to decide whether they’ll go ahead and have Lee undergo the surgery that would end his season. Lee was on crutches Monday at Valley Ranch. When he left the locker room Sunday at Carolina, Lee was wearing tennis shoes with his suit instead of dress shoes and had a slight limp.
Connor replaced Lee in the third quarter Sunday against his former team, Carolina, and finished the game. Connor has struggled early in the season in his limited playing time, but he was solid Sunday against the Panthers.
Connor said Monday that he knows he has to be ready for more playing time. He’ll start Sunday against the Giants alongside Bruce Carter. Connor said “that’s how the NFL goes” when he was asked about getting more playing time because of another player’s injury.
“It’s a long season. It’s a grind and guys get nicked up,” Connor said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been on a team where everyone is able to stay healthy every play the whole year. So, it’s all about being ready and waiting on your opportunity pretty much and helping the team however you can, getting your role and taking advantage of your role but always being prepared to go in there and play.”
Connor said playing at inside linebacker isn’t old hat for him.
“I’ve mostly been the middle [linebacker[ wherever I’ve been, so it’s a little adjustment,” Connor said.
Remember this about Lee and the possibility of season-ending surgery before going to bed tonight.
Last year, Lee was facing season-ending surgery on his dislocated left wrist. Lee, however, ended up missing only one game and he played the remainder of the season with a cast. If there’s any chance Lee can play through the injury at some point, he’ll certainly want to give it a shot.
But the Cowboys also have to be smart and safe with Lee’s health. He’s still a young player and will be the centerpiece for the Cowboys’ defense for years to come.
IT’S GIVE AND TAKE: Dez Bryant needs to quit petitioning refs for flags
IRVING, Texas — There is a consistent trend with Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant that probably needs to stop: He’s arguing with the referees. Too much.
Bryant wants calls. He says his jersey is getting pulled by defensive backs and that there are push-offs. On his second touchdown catch against Baltimore, Bryant pushed off cornerback Cary Williams. But Bryant wanted a call made when he failed to catch a potential game-tying two-point conversion when he felt Williams made contact before the play.
Said Williams: "He needs to step up and be a man. You can’t be a baby about stuff. You’ve got to man up. It’s one-on-one. Mano-a-mano. I got you. Sometimes you’re going to win. Sometimes you’re going to lose."
Coach Jason Garrett said the arguing with the officials has to stop and Bryant has to concentrate and move to the next play.
"Absolutely. We try to emphasize that to everybody on our team," Garrett said. "There’s certainly a natural reaction that a lot of guys have. You see it all around the league. There’s an attention to the officiating, and you’ve just got to make sure to focus on doing your job. Obviously he felt a couple of different occasions where he was getting held, he was a little bit restrictive."
Bryant is a talented player who wears his emotions not just on his sleeve, but on his entire body.
In pregame warm-ups, he’s bouncing around catching passes from anybody who will throw them. During the game, there is a natural chirping that goes on between players. Bryant is almost always in the middle of it. At times Bryant has to be pulled away by a teammate after complaining to a referee. Sometimes he’s the only offensive player on the field still barking at the refs.
After Bryant caught a 1-yard pass in the closing seconds of the Cowboys’ loss to the Baltimore Ravens, he was complaining to the referee.
"But again, we emphasize to him, get that guy off of him and go make the play," Garrett said. "At times (in the Baltimore game) he did an outstanding job of that. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out on the two-point play. But Dez is getting better and better every week. We’re excited to have him on our football team."
RELATED: INJURY UPDATE – Dez Bryant expected to play at Carolina
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is expected to play today at Carolina.
Bryant, who has been battling groin soreness, didn’t practice Friday and was officially listed as questionable. He will test his groin in pre-game warm-ups and – if he doesn’t have a setback – will start for the Cowboys.
Bryant is coming off the best two-game stretch of his career and leads the team with 34 catches for 364 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Tony Romo has targeted Bryant a combined 28 times over the last two games compared to 11 times to Miles Austin.
The Cowboys, however, could take Bryant off of punt returns and use Dwayne Harris in his place to help manage the injury throughout the game.
HOMECOMING HONOR: Dallas Cowboys WR Cole Beasley’s No. 11 high school jersey number retired
IRVING, Texas — On Friday night, Cole Beasley’s No. 11 jersey was retired at Little Elm High School.
Beasley, the Cowboys’ rookie wide receiver, rushed for 1,184 yards and 12 touchdowns while also passing for 1,570 yards and 12 touchdowns in his senior season at Little Elm.
In his last three high school games, Beasley rushed 60 times for 430 yards and five touchdowns.
"It’s an honor to get your jersey retired from any place really," Beasley said prior to the ceremony. "It’s a great opportunity to go back to my high school …"
Beasley chose the bye week to get his jersey retired and his school responded with a solid 49-14 homecoming victory over Frisco Liberty.
Beasley was in Monday night’s game against Chicago for 13 plays and had a pair of 7-yard catches, his first receptions of his NFL career.
“It was great to finally get my feet wet and get on the field,” Beasley said.
INJURY UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys vs Seattle Seahawks
IRVING — Cowboys Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff and starting center Phil Costa won’t play Sunday at Seattle. Rookie safety Matt Johnson has also been ruled out.
Ratliff and Costa haven’t practiced all week because of injuries. Ratliff suffered a high ankle sprain in the preseason and didn’t play in the season opener at the Giants.
“He’s making progress. He’s getting better every day and trying to do more and more,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Friday. “He’s done a real good job with his treatment and his rehab. We’re hopeful as it goes he’ll get some work in practice and be back sooner rather than later.”
Ratliff will be replaced by a combination of Josh Brent and Sean Lissemore, who just signed a three-year contract extension with the Cowboys on Thursday.
“We certainly love his work ethic and what he brings to our team,” Garrett said. “He’s just a good football player. He’s a very versatile guy for us on the defensive line. He plays a couple of different spots for us in our base defense. He’s a good run defender. He can rush the passer at different times. He’s the right kind of guy.”
Costa aggravated a lower back injury in the first series against the Giants on Sept. 5 and didn’t return. He was replaced by Ryan Cook, who will start Sunday at Seattle.
CENTER OF ATTENTION: Late trade for depth already pays dividends, Ryan Cook steps up
IRVING, Texas – For all the talk about the Dallas Cowboys’ starting offensive line not having time to work together in practice enough heading into Wednesday’s opener at New York, at least they had a week.
But after starting center Phil Costa went down with back tightness, the new front five really did have zero experience together, with new addition Ryan Cook taking over the duties, really only five days after being acquired in a trade from Miami.
However, Cook finished the game and held his own against the Giants’ dominant pass rush. Tony Romo was sacked only once after Costa went down, and DeMarco Murray was given the room to run for 131 yards.
Some coaching staffs would have been hesitant to activate a player who was barely familiar with the offense in the middle of a crucial Week 1 game. In the locker room after the 24-17 win, the 29-year-old Cook explained that in his few practices, the Cowboys staff watched closely to determine if he would be ready to have his name called if needed.
“I think they gauged it in practice the first couple days of me being in the facility,” Cook said. “I guess they were comfortable with me and my progress thus far.”
Cook’s ability to jump in at center is all the more impressive when he revealed how few snaps he had taken with Tony Romo prior to the game.
“The first day I was here I took two or three in the walkthrough,” Cook said. “But that’s about it.”
As Costa’s cramping on Wednesday was simply an aggravation of the injury that knocked him out of the first three preseason games, the Cowboys need reliable depth at center.
While the bottom line shows Cook he was able to get the job done, he was surprisingly not very pleased with his own performance. When asked to rate his time on the field, he was not exactly quick to pat himself on the back, calling it instead “average at best,” and indeed the game was not flawless, but Cook and the Cowboys overcame the situation
“The adversity issue comes up when your starting center goes down after play three and you bring a guy in who just got here,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “I thought our team handled that well. First of all, that’s the reason he is here. He is a veteran player, he is a smart guy, he has handled the ball a lot in his career, so we thought that was an important thing for us and he went in and played like a veteran. I think the guys around him played well and communicated well. It wasn’t perfect, but I thought they handled it as well as they could.”
Cook, too, chose to defer some of the credit to his fellow offensive linemen, who along with Tony Romo took over a significant part of making the pre-snap calls.
“Communication is a huge factor,” Cook said. “The other guys did a great job of helping me out with certain situations and we made sure that everyone was on the same page.”
A seemingly small move like the trade of a seventh-round pick for Cook shows ample foresight in the Cowboys’ front office.
Though an under-the-radar trade, the move already has provided depth, was exactly what the Cowboys needed to help them start off the season 1-0.
RELATED: Phil Costa hurt, Arkin inactive, newcomer Ryan Cook holds his own
The Dallas Cowboys chose to make offensive center/guard David Arkin, who started three preseason games, inactive. That left newcomer Ryan Cook to play most of the game after starting center Phil Costa re-injured his back.
Costa strained his lower back Aug. 10. He returned to practice Aug. 27 and played 12 snaps of the preseason finale against the Dolphins. But he lasted only three plays Wednesday.
Cook, acquired in a trade from the Dolphins on Saturday, played the rest of the game at center. He had been beaten out for the backup center job by undrafted rookie Josh Samuda in Miami and was destined for the waiver wire before the Cowboys relinquished a seventh-rounder for him.
"I thought our team handled that well," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "First of all, that’s the reason he is here. He is a veteran player. He is a smart guy. He has handled the ball a lot in his career, so we thought that was an important thing for us, and he went in and played like a veteran. I think the guys around him played well and communicated well. It wasn’t perfect, but I thought they handled it as well as they could."
RELATED: Phil Costa hurts his back again; Jerry Jones says it’s cramps
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dallas Cowboys starting center Phil Costa lasted only three plays Wednesday night against the Giants, leaving the game after the first offensive series after he aggravated a back injury.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Costa is “fine” and he only had back cramps.
“I would assume it’s the same thing he had and we’re going to have to continue to work through it so he doesn’t continue to get that back cramping up,” Jones said.
Costa injured his back during training camp and missed the Cowboys’ first three preseason games before starting and getting in for 12 plays in the preseason finale against Miami.
Costa was replaced at center by Ryan Cook, who joined the Cowboys on Friday via a trade from Miami for a seventh-round draft pick in 2013. Cook had only three practices with the Cowboys last week.
ROSTER UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys cut QB Stephen McGee, sign TE Colin Cochart
IRVING — The Dallas Cowboys have parted ways with third-string quarterback Stephen McGee from Texas A&M. The Cowboys cut McGee on Saturday morning, less than 24 hours after they had set their 53-man roster with McGee a part of it.
McGee will be replaced on the 53-man roster by tight end Colin Cochart, who was waived Friday by the Cincinnati Bengals. The 25-year-old Cochart (6-4, 254) was signed by the Bengals in 2011 as an undrafted free agent out of South Dakota State. Cochart was the only undrafted free agent rookie to make the Bengals’ initial 53-man roster last year. He played in 10 games, catching five passes for 44 yards and one touchdown.
McGee, 26, was entering the final year of his rookie contract. He had been the Cowboys’ third-string quarterback since the team selected him in the fourth round of the 2009 draft. He was entering the final year of his contract.
McGee tweeted this out just after his release Saturday, “Thankful for my time in Dallas and the opportunity to meet many wonderful people. God is doing some cool things in this city. Press on.”
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett talked on Saturday morning about how they “value the quarterback” and having three quarterbacks on their roster, but with starting tight end Jason Witten unlikely to play in the season opener Wednesday at the Giants because of his lacerated spleen, the Cowboys felt the need to add a tight end for depth.
Cutting McGee leaves the Cowboys with only two quarterbacks on their roster: Starter Tony Romo and backup Kyle Orton.
INTERIOR DEPTH INSURANCE: Why the Dallas Cowboys traded for Miami offensive lineman Ryan Cook
On the day of final cuts in the NFL, the Cowboys continued to address a problem area from last season by bolstering the interior of their offensive line.
The Cowboys acquired veteran offensive lineman Ryan Cook from the Miami Dolphins for a 2013 seventh-round draft pick. Cook (6-6, 325) will be a backup center and guard for the Cowboys.
Cook, 29, has started 40 of the 77 games. A second-round pick out of New Mexico in 2006, has started games at center, right guard and right tackle.
The Cowboys were able to get an up-close look at Cook on Wednesday at Cowboys Stadium when he started at center against Dallas in the preseason finale.
“We knew that there was a possibility here, so we really evaluated him in the ballgame,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Friday on “The Fan” KRLD-FM (105.3). “This really was done for our depth, plus he’s very capable because he’s started several games in the NFL. He’s very capable of getting out there and competing. Hopefully you’ll see a lot of him this year.”
The Cowboys still plan to start Phil Costa at center. Costa started Wednesday and was in for 12 offensive plays. He had been out since Aug. 10 with a back injury but is expected to play in the season opener Wednesday at the Giants.
The Cowboys signed free-agent guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau this off-season with the expectation that they would start. Both battled injuries but are healthy now.
Ankle injuries to reserve interior offensive linemen Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski hurt the Cowboys’ depth. Nagy was waived in mid-August, and Kowalski has been placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, keeping him out of the team’s first six games.
The Cowboys started working guard David Arkin at center in training camp, but he struggled with his shotgun snaps throughout the preseason. Arkin, a fourth-round draft pick in 2011 out of Missouri State, didn’t appear in any games last season.
“We all know that we’ve been struggling to some degree with Kowalski out the entire spring as well as during training camp,” Jones said. “We have counted on him for depth and don’t want to totally dismiss him, but he’s down the road with where we are and what we’ve seen.”
Brandon George | DMN
PRACTICE UPDATE: Jason Witten not idle anymore, center Phil Costa in uniform
IRVING — Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten isn’t idle anymore. He was working on the resistance cord with an athletic trainer during the early part of the team’s Monday morning practice at Valley Ranch.
Witten was told he needed to be idle for seven to 10 days after he lacerated his spleen during the Cowboys’ first preseason game at Oakland on Aug. 13. His status for the season opener Sept. 5 at the Giants is still in doubt. He’ll learn more about his condition when he visits a doctor Tuesday.
Other notables from the first 20 minutes of the Cowboys’ practice Monday (that was all the media was allowed to observe):
- WR Dez Bryant was also working on the resistance cord with an athletic trainer. He’s battling tendinitis in his right knee, but he’s expected to play in the season opener.
- Starting center Phil Costa was in uniform and working with the first-team offensive line in practice. He’s been out with a back injury since Aug. 10.
- WR Miles Austin and LB DeMarcus Ware — both nursing hamstring injuries — weren’t in uniform for practice. Neither was CB Mike Jenkins (right shoulder). Austin and Ware are expected to be ready to play in the season opener. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said that Austin wouldn’t likely return to practice until the end of the week (in other words, at the earliest Thursday, the day after the Cowboys’ preseason finale against Miami). Jenkins won’t likely play in the season opener because he has yet to fly to Florida to visit with Dr. James Andrews again and be released to practice.
- Third-round pick DE Tyrone Crawford missed practice Monday morning because he was sick.
DAY 11 TRAINING CAMP: Dallas Cowboys Observation Deck
Here’s what stood out from Day 11 of Cowboys’ training camp practices Saturday in Oxnard, Calif.:
- The Cowboys spent a lot of time working on their hurry-up offense Saturday and working more on situational plays. The defense had the upper hand most of the practice.
- Actor Ashton Kutcher was in attendance for the Saturday afternoon practice. He spent some time watching practice with owner Jerry Jones and talked with QB Tony Romo after the practice.
- Recently signed veteran OL Derrick Dockery took first-team left guard repetitions and Mackenzy Bernadeau and Ronald Leary continued to rotate at first-team right guard.
- With starting C Phil Costa out with a back injury, David Arkin took first-team reps at center with Harland Gunn at second-team center and Pat McQuistan at third team. Over the last three days, McQuistan has seen work at offensive tackle, blocking tight end and now at center.
- During the morning walkthrough, QB Tony Romo and C David Arkin spent some extra time working on shotgun snaps, which have been one of the big issues of camp because of all the injuries at center.
- QB Tony Romo gave some fans high-fives along the fence line as he came out onto the field for the afternoon practice and stopped to sign a few autographs. That’s been rare for him this camp.
- WR Raymond Radway continues to fade. He struggled catching kickoff returns early and also had his problems during team drills. Radway appeared to run the wrong route – going long instead of breaking his route short – during team drills. QB Kyle Orton threw the pass underneath as Radway streaked down the field, allowing safety Danny McCray to make an easy interception. Later, Radway dropped a pass in team drills.
- WR Dez Bryant used a double move in 1-on-1 drills to beat CB Brandon Carr for a touchdown deep. Bryant then beat rookie CB Morris Claiborne for a catch along the left sideline. Bryant, however, missed the last half of the afternoon practice because of tightness in his hamstring.
- In 1-on-1 drills, WR Donovan Kemp dropped a pass on a slant route. WR Cole Beasley also had a drop along the right sideline. CB Akwasi Owusu-Ansah intercepted a pass intended for WR David Little. WR Tim Benford had a drop after beating CB Mario Butler in coverage. WR Andre Holmes used three moves to finally get free from Owusu-Ansah and make a catch. CB C.J. Wilson dropped a pass intended for Beasley that he should have intercepted.
- Twice during 1-on-1 drills, speedy CB Teddy Williams ran step-for-step down the sideline with WR Kevin Ogletree and WR Raymond Radway. Tony Romo didn’t even attempt a pass with Williams blanketing Ogletree, and the pass to Radway was incomplete. Both times, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan yelled, “Nice coverage, Teddy.”
- In individual receiving drills and during team drills, RB Javarris Williams dropped passes in the flat.
- LT Tyron Smith had a false start during a hurry-up situation inside the red zone. The offensive line scrambled to get to the line of scrimmage in a hurry and before Tony Romo snapped the ball to spike it, Smith moved.
- CB Brandon Carr had a pass breakup in the end zone against WR Kevin Ogletree on a pass from Tony Romo.
- Safety Barry Church continued his strong play by breaking up a pass from Tony Romo intended for TE Jason Witten near the goal line. Church nearly intercepted the pass.
- Safety Gerald Sensabaugh broke up a pass in the end zone from Tony Romo and almost intercepted the ball.
- RB DeMarco Murray dropped a quick pass out to the left flat from Tony Romo.
- CB Orlando Scandrick had good coverage on WR Andrew Holmes on a deep past down the left sideline from Tony Romo. The ball was overthrown and Scandrick almost intercepted the pass, getting one hand on it.
- LB DeMarcus Ware would have sacked Tony Romo during team drills, flying past him before he threw the ball.
- WR Dwayne Harris dropped a pass to the left side from QB Kyle Orton. Safety Danny McCray was there with tight coverage.
- LB Bruce Carter broke up a pass over the middle from Tony Romo, but the ball hit both of his hands and he should have made the interception.
- On back-to-back plays during team drills, the secondary maintained tight coverage and QB Kyle Orton would have been sacked both times.
- CB Brandon Carr knocked down a quick pass out to the right side intended for WR Kevin Ogletree from QB Tony Romo in a hurry-up situation.
- The Cowboys’ first-team offense was finally able to score late in practice in a hurry-up situation, with QB Tony Romo connecting with TE Jason Witten for a short touchdown pass.
- WR Andre Holmes used his 6-4 height to pull down a Hail Mary pass to end team drills with a touchdown catch from QB Kyle Orton. Holmes jumped over a pack of players in the middle of the end zone to pull down the ball.