SO LONG, COWBOY: Sun sets on Spencer’s career in Big D | Dallas defender to go marching on in The Big Easy | Anthony Spencer reunited with Rob Ryan
IRVING, Texas – When word got out that defensive lineman Ben Gardner had obtained Anthony Spencer’s jersey number for the upcoming offseason workouts, most assumed Spencer’s eight-year tenure with the Dallas Cowboys was over. Continue reading →
THE MARINELLI CONNECTION: Dallas Cowboys sign former first-round DT Amobi Okoye | NFL Free Agency 2014
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have signed free agent Amobi Okoye, a former first-round pick in 2007, to a two-year deal.
Okoye could possibly give the Cowboys some help at defensive tackle if he can get healthy, something that has been a challenge for the former No. 10 overall pick of the Texans in 2007.
Okoye, born in Nigeria, was drafted when he was just 19 years old. The 6-foot-2, 292-pound tackle became the youngest player to start an NFL game since 1967.
Okoye reunites with Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who coached him two years in Chicago from 2011-12.
Still just 26 years of age, Okoye will likely play the 3-technique in the Dallas Cowboys 4-3 scheme.
“We like a lot of things about him. He’s a young player coming out of (Louisville),” Jason Garrett said of Okoye.”He has a lot of talent. Rod was around him in Chicago so we know him well. We think that’s a positive thing. He’s had some health issues the last year … we feel like he has a chance to be a contributor on the line.”
In four years with the Texans, Okoye started 58 of 62 games. He played 25 games in two years with the Chicago Bears but only started once. Out of football in 2013, Okoye might have some position flex at tackle.
“We feel like he has the move to play (3-technique) but he can certainly play the nose,” Garrett said. “We’re not going to rush him into anything. But it’s good to have him in here.”
To make room for Okoye’s spot, the Dallas Cowboys waived linebacker Jonathan Stewart, who spent time on the practice squad last year.
HONOLULU — The NFL wanted Pro Bowl drama. The NFL got Pro Bowl drama.
Alex Smith, the final pick in last Wednesday’s Pro Bowl Draft, led Team Rice on the final touchdown drive on a rain-soaked field. Then Jerry Rice and Riverboat Ron Rivera went for two and clinched a 22-21 win over Team Sanders in the first unconferenced Pro Bowl.
This was the best Pro Bowl in a long, long time.
Here’s what else we learned from Sunday’s game (Watch highlight video):
1. Even if the banter was manufactured by the 2014 Pro Bowl Draft, players after the game said they enjoyed the process and the opportunity to play with guys they never had a chance to team with before. It was a theme all week.
2. Teammates hitting each other didn’t seem like a big deal. Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson laid the wood on teammate Jamaal Charles early. Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward later flipped Josh Gordon to the ground. We never did get that teammate-on-quarterback sack, though.
3. Speaking of quarterback sacks, the defensive lines dominated. The two teams ended up with nine sacks. Early in the contest, we wondered if Sean Payton would call Team Rice’s coach (and division rival) Ron Rivera and ask him to sit Drew Brees. The Saints quarterback was sacked twice and battered often. The QB pressures were a big reason for all the turnovers.
4. J.J. Watt was a beast. Playing next to Ndamukong Suh and later Greg Hardy, Watt was unblockable. With Team Rice double-teaming Watt, Hardy picked up a sack. Don’t think management in Houston didn’t see that and ponder what Jadeveon Clowney would look like next to Watt.
5. The playful teammate trash talk was constant and likely will linger in texts and tweets the next couple days. Mike Tolbert’s SuperCam mock-celebration after his two-point conversion was emblematic. “I told Cam I was going to mess with him if I got in the end zone, so I had to,” Tolbert said laughing.
6. The lack of continuity on offense clearly hurt the product. Not only were there fewer teammate combinations due to the draft, the new format also lessened the practice time by one day. There were a multitude of miscommunications between quarterback and receiver.
7. Speaking of teammates, Drew Brees hit Jimmy Graham for an early touchdown pass. On the play, Brent Grimes (all 5-foot-10 of him) ended up on the 6-foot-7 tight end. That, friends, is a mismatch.
8. What was going through Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe’s mind as he rumbled toward the end zone after his second-quarter interception? “I was thinking of a touchdown celebration dance,” Poe said after the game. “I didn’t get there, but next time I will though.”
THE PLOT THICKENS: Ex-Cowboy Jay Ratliff agrees to deal with Chicago Bears; Could face Dallas in December
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys didn’t think Jay Ratliff would be able to play with them this year. Now, they’re scheduled to play against him.
Just two weeks after Ratliff was released from the Cowboys for a failed physical, the defensive tackle agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Bears, who are set to play the Cowboys on Monday night on Dec. 9 in Chicago.
The latest news continues an ongoing saga between the Cowboys and Ratliff, who hasn’t played in a game since Nov. 18, 2012. Despite multiple off-field incidents, the Cowboys cited his lingering health issues as primary reasons for the release.
Ratliff underwent sports hernia surgery in December and came back to run in the team’s conditioning test at the start of training camp, where he hurt his hamstring. He never again got on the field for the Cowboys and was put on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
After his release, Ratliff’s agent, Mark Slough, said the injury was much more serious than a sports hernia and claimed Ratliff actually had muscle ripped off from the pelvic bone. He said that Ratliff still had a desire to play, but that the plan would be for a 2014 return. At the time, there was no expectation Ratliff would be ready to play this quickly.
Ratliff is still maybe two to four weeks away from being able to play. The Bears, however, have a huge need at defensive tackle after losing Henry Melton and Nate Collins.
Ratliff visited the Bears, Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins this week. The Cincinnati Bengals also made inquiries after a season-ending injury to Geno Atkins.
The Bears made the most sense for Ratliff of the teams he visited, as he should have a chance start when healthy. In Kansas City or Miami, he likely would have been a rotational player.
“Those people that ever questioned his loyalty, maybe questioned his desire to play, integrity – all those things – those questions were misplaced,” Slough said. “But again, I think a lot of that came from the fact that no one really understood the severity of the injury that Jay had suffered. As a result, there were unrealistic expectations for his return being bantered about publicly.”
The Cowboys and owner/general manager tried to stay as mum as possible after Ratliff was medically cleared to play this season, citing legal reasons. It’s possible the Cowboys try to get some of the money back on Ratliff’s contract extension he signed in 2011.
“I don’t want to comment because of the legal aspect of it, and I had said earlier that I was going to focus on good things – the contribution that he made here, and this team needed him real bad,” Jones said Oct. 24. “It was disappointing that he’s not playing, disappointing that the resources involved aren’t going to guys out here making plays.”
Ratliff has some familiarity with staff members on the Bears. Running backs coach Skip Peete and special teams coach/assistant head coach Joe DeCamillis were with the Cowboys last year. Former Cowboy Martellus Bennett is also on the Bears’ roster.
Ratliff was thought to be an ideal fit in the middle of the Dallas Cowboys’ new 4-3 defense. The Bears evidently hope the same in their scheme.
The Bears sit just outside of the playoff race and are trying to stay in contention while they wait for the return of injured quarterback Jay Cutler and linebacker Lance Briggs.
A healthy Ratliff is a step toward saving the Bears’ playoff hopes if they can stay afloat with backup quarterback Josh McCown and a patchwork defensive.
Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee has yet to play a full 16-game schedule in his NFL career.
Entering the final season of his rookie contract, Lee, who missed the final 10 games of the 2012 season with torn ligaments in his right big toe, said he isn’t going to change the way he plays.
“I’m going to try to play a certain way, play hard,” Lee told KTCK-AM Tuesday, via the Dallas Morning News (see below). “I don’t think I would be successful if I didn’t play that way. I’d rather cut a few years off my career and play the right way than go soft and not play right. If injuries come, they come. But I’m going to sellout on the field and try to sellout every game. I think that’s the only way we really can win, if everybody does that.”
Lee said last week he is “pretty much 100 percent” and plans to be healthy enough to participate in organized team activities next week.
He will play a key role in the middle of new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s Texas-Two scheme. He told the radio station he has been studying Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs and former Bear Brian Urlacher to learn how to play the scheme.
RELATED: Sean Lee – ‘I’d rather cut a few years off my career and play the right way than go soft’
Torn ligaments in Sean Lee’s right big toe caused the Dallas Cowboys linebacker to miss the final 10 games of the 2012 season. Lee said last week that he’s “pretty much 100 percent” and that’s obviously good news for a defense that’s transitioning into a 4-3 scheme under Monte Kiffin.
But will Lee be able to turn in the first 16-game season of his career in 2013?
Since suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while at Penn State in 2008, Lee has battled wrist and other leg injuries. Some players might try to change the way they play because of frequent injury setbacks, but the former second-round draft pick doesn’t plan on changing anything about his game.
“I’m going to try to play a certain way, play hard,” Lee said (<—listen to MP3 by clicking on word) Tuesday during the BaD Radio show on 1310 The Ticket [KTCK-AM]. “I don’t think I would be successful if I didn’t play that way. I’d rather cut a few years off my career and play the right way than go soft and not play right. If injuries come, they come. But I’m going to sellout on the field and try to sellout every game. I think that’s the only way we really can win, if everybody does that.”
Lee, who said he’s been studying film of how Chicago Bears linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs played in the Tampa-Two scheme, is in the final year of his rookie contract. It’s likely that the Cowboys will try to sign him to a long-term deal.
But if that doesn’t happen before the season starts, don’t expect to see the 26-year-old publicly demanding a new contract.
“I’m just happy to be playing football,” Lee said. “I really don’t think about that stuff. I just want to be on the field, staying healthy. The ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl. For me, that’s all I think about non-stop, ‘How can I get better as a football player? How can I help my team win? What can I do to make my teammates better so we hopefully can compete for a Super Bowl every year?’ That’s my main concern.”