FALSE PRETENSE OF INJURY: Dallas Cowboys file complaint with league regarding former DT Jay Ratliff
ORLANDO – Since the Cowboys waived defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, the Cowboys have been rather mum on any discussions regarding the move.
But today, team owner Jerry Jones has confirmed the club has filed a complaint to the NFL regarding Ratliff and hopes to eventually recoup money paid to the defensive tackle. According to sources, the Cowboys are seeking repayment for his 2013 salary and portions of the $18 million guaranteed that Ratliff received as part of a five-year, $40 million contract he signed in 2011. The Cowboys are also trying to get money back that Ratliff owes on a suite at AT&T Stadium.
Since Ratliff was released by the Cowboys, it’s unlikely the team can issue a grievance based on the rules of the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement, but instead have filed a complaint.
“It just stems from him not playing for us under the pretense of injury, and then days later playing for someone else,” Jones said in between busy at the league owners meetings in Orlando. “We just have a complaint and we’ll see where we take it from there.”
Jones chose not to get into more specifics of the situation and said he would prefer to get some resolve on the issue “hopefully soon,” although he pointed out these cases can take several months, if not longer.
Ratliff, who cut on Oct. 17, but later signed with the Bears and played the last five games of the 2013 season, including the Dec. 9 meeting with the Cowboys.
Injuries prevented Ratliff from meeting the lofty expectations of his last contract, which was his third with the Cowboys, who drafted him in the seventh round in 2005. Ratliff signed a five-year extension in 2007 before his last extension four years ago.
In 2012, Ratliff missed a total of 10 games with two different injuries – a high-ankle sprain that forced him out of the first four games and then the final six with an injury that was initially listed as a strained groin. During his six-game absence, Ratliff and Jerry Jones had a heated altercation in the locker room after a game at AT&T Stadium. Witnesses close to the argument say it stemmed from Jones trying to give Ratliff a pep talk and expressed the team’s need for him to be on the field.
Ratliff later underwent sports hernia surgery in January and was expected to be completely healthy by the start of training camp.
In fact, Ratliff participated in the conditioning run in Oxnard, Calif. in late July, but reportedly suffered a hamstring injury.
By the time the Cowboys broke camp in mid-August, Ratliff was apparently having more issues with the groin again and that was the reason the team kept him on PUP (Physically Unable to Perform), where he couldn’t play for the first six games of the season. After that time period expired, the Cowboys chose to release him. Soon afterwards, Ratliff’s agent, Mark Slough, told reporters in a conference call his client had a “serious injury.” However, Ratliff signed with the Bears two weeks later, and has since re-signed a two-year extension to stay in Chicago.
WINDY CITY WAITING: Forget Dallas’ Day-to-Day Jay, meet Chicago’s Jeremiah Ratliff
The one-year contract the Chicago Bears signed defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff to this week includes no guaranteed money or incentives.
His $840,000 annual salary is the minimum for a player with eight accrued NFL seasons. However, it counts only $395,294 against the salary cap because payments are divided by the 17 weeks of the regular season, and there are only eight weeks remaining.
Ratliff, who now prefers to be called Jeremiah instead of Jay, as he was known for his eight seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, did not practice this week. However, he attended last Friday’s session and had his helmet with him.
“It will be a week-to-week evaluation, or really day-to-day within each and every week,” coach Marc Trestman said. “We’ll see where he is next week when we come back to practice.”
PERPLEXED IN THE METROPLEX: Jerry Jones frustrated because teammates could have used a healthy Jay Ratliff
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was cordial when initially asked about defensive tackle Jay Ratliff signing with the Chicago Bears two weeks after being cut by the Cowboys because he was too injured to play this season.
“We wish him the best,” Jones said on his radio show on KRLD-FM. “Sounds like we could be playing him when we meet the Bears.”
The Dallas Cowboys face the Bears Dec. 9 in Chicago. It appears that Ratliff will be ready to go by then after telling the Bears he needs a couple of weeks to get ready.
That he will be ready at all is what’s perplexing to Jones and the Cowboy after Ratliff missed all of training camp and the preseason recovering from a sports hernia surgery that his representatives said was much more serious than reported.
Ratliff was placed on the physically unable to perform list for the first six weeks of the season. And when he still wasn’t ready to return and gave the Cowboys the understanding that he would not be ready to play at all this season, he was released.
Ratliff was cleared to play by his surgeon a week later and began soliciting offers from other teams, culminating with his signing with the Bears.
Jones chaffed when asked if he was fooled and misled by Ratliff.
“No one fooled anybody here,” Jones said. “We thought we had a good clear understanding of his injuries and what he thought about them. He was very articulate about that. It’s very unfortunate. We could use a healthy Jay Ratliff. His teammates could use a healthy Jay Ratliff. We were counting on him from the get go. It’s ironic we would end up playing him. That’s frustrating.”
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.
NUMBER 90 REBRANDING: Cowboys DT Marvin Austin assigned Jay Ratliff’s locker and his jersey number
Jay Ratliff left the building only a week before his No. 90 and his locker went to another defensive tackle. Marvin Austin has taken over both after the Dallas Cowboys signed him Tuesday.
Austin spent two seasons with the Giants after they made him a second-round pick in 2011. He spent two games with the Dolphins this season before his release Oct. 15.
“It’s definitely a new beginning and a lot to build on,” Austin said.
Austin, listed at 6 foot 2, 312 pounds, still was pouring with sweat a half hour after practice. He admits he is not in football shape.
“Not good enough,” Austin said. “To be honest with you just the way they practice and the way they want you to go out there and play, I’ve got to keep working every day to get in shape to go out there and perform.”
Austin hopes defensive line coach Rod Marinelli can work the same magic with him as Marinelli has with several no names along the defensive line.
“His record speaks for itself and coach [Monte] Kiffin also,” Austin said. “The way that those guys coach, and the success they’ve had in this league, I have no excuses.”
OK, MORE SUSPENSE: Ex-Dallas Cowboys DT Jay Ratliff cleared to play, looking for a new home
Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, who was released by the Dallas Cowboys last week, has been medically cleared to return to action, according to his agent.
Agent Mark Slough sent a letter to 31 NFL teams, advising them of Ratliff’s availability. Slough said in the letter than Dr. William Meyers, who performed sports hernia surgery on Ratliff in December, cleared Ratliff to play Wednesday after an examination in Philadelphia.
“Jay will now continue his individual workouts in Dallas and work hard to regain further strength and improve his conditioning,” Slough said in his letter to front-office executives. “His goal is to be ready to [work out] for clubs in a couple of weeks. He currently weighs 304 [pounds] and is in very good shape … just needs to take his workouts up a notch.”
Ratliff, 32, played in only six games last season because of injuries, but he is a four-time Pro Bowler.
RELATED: Jason Garrett wishes Jay Ratliff nothing but the best
Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett declined get into a discussion regarding disconnect between last week’s decision to cut former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jay ‘Ratliff for health reasons and yesterday’s announcement that he had been cleared to play immediately and soliciting offers from other teams.
“We made a decision like we talked about last week that we felt was in the best interest of our football team,” Garrett said. “And we wish Jay nothing but the best going forward.”
Ratliff has not played football since undergoing surgery to repair a sports hernia last December. He missed all of training camp and the preseason because of complications with his rehab. The Cowboys placed him the physically unable to perform list to start the season with hope of him returning after six weeks.
The Cowboys released him last week because it was believed that Ratliff was no where near close to being ready to return to the field and would not likely be healthy again until 2014.
That was then, before Ratliff met with the doctor who performed his surgery and was cleared to play, roughly one week later.
“Certainly health was a huge factor in that decision,” Garrett said. He hasn’t been able to play for us for the last year and a half. That was the primary reason we made that decision and again, we wish him nothing but the best going forward.”
What’s also played a factor in the decision is the friction between Ratliff and the team for much of the last year. He had his surgery and rehab with private doctors because of disagreements with the team’s medical and training staff.
He also had physical altercation in the locker room with owner Jerry Jones last season because he erroneously felt his commitment was being questioned.
This was one year after Jones signed him to a five-year, $40-million contract extension in 2011.
The Dallas Cowboys showed patience with Ratliff because his great play and passion in practice and games over the years.
With him now cleared to return to the field, in what has proven to be a clear disconnect in communication between the Cowboys and Ratliff’s camp, last week’s decision was certain evidence that the patience has run out.
“Again, from a health standpoint, we didn’t feel like he was ready to go. We just felt like that was the best decision for our club,” Garrett said.
RELATED: Jerry Jones expresses disappointment over Jay Ratliff drama
There is obvious lingering disappointment among the Dallas Cowboys brass regarding former defensive tackle Jay Ratliff and drama surrounded his release week for health reasons and yesterday’s announcement that he had been cleared to play immediately and was soliciting offers from other teams.
Owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett declined to go into detail regarding the disconnect between Ratliff too injured to play for the Dallas Cowboys and being free resume football activities with other teams a week later.
Jerry Jones alluded to pending legal issues for his silence stemming from the five-year, $40 contract extension Ratliff signed in 2011.
“I won’t be commenting about this because of the fact there are legal issues involved here relative to the league and otherwise,” Jones said. “But all agreements require people to abide by the agreements. That’s why you have legal issues. We obviously have an agreement with him, had an agreement with him, and to the extent that you have some concern within that, that’s why you have legal.
But Jones however couldn’t help but acknowledged there was certain disappointment with the Ratliff drama.
“I don’t want to comment because of the legal aspect of it,” Jones said. “I had said earlier that I thought I was going to focus on good things, the contribution that he made here, we all need him real bad, this team needs him read bad, needed him real bad, was disappointed that he wasn’t playing, disappointing that the resources that are involved here aren’t going to guy out here making plays.”
The Dallas Cowboys released him last week because it was believed that Ratliff was no where near close to being ready to return to the field and would not likely be healthy again until 2014.
REACTION TO RATLIFF RELEASE: Dallas Cowboys players and staff react to defensive tackle’s departure
IRVING, Texas – Dallas Cowboys players and coaches had plenty of time to organize their thoughts of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jay Ratliff in the hours between his release Wednesday and Thursday’s open locker room session.
Aside from the medical and financial implications surrounding Ratliff’s release, members throughout the Cowboys organization were quick to point out the defensive tackle’s value and impact within the playing field.
Ratliff appeared in 104 games and started 85 as a seventh round pick by the Cowboys in 2005. He notched 27 sacks and 317 total tackles in his eight seasons with the team. His efforts earned him four straight Pro Bowl trips from 2008-11 and established him as one of the league’s best 3-4 nose tackles in that time period.
“Heck of a player — I keep going back to that, because he played the right way for the Cowboys. He was always a guy who practiced hard, he played hard, the game was important to him. Anybody that was around him knows the demeanor that he played with,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. “He was an intimidating figure. He was an incredibly productive player for us, a Pro Bowl player, and a great example to his teammates about how to play the game.”
Of any teammate that saw that example, DeMarcus Ware stands out. Following Ratliff’s release, Ware is the final member of the Cowboys’ 2005 draft class on the roster – Ware was taken 11th overall, in the first round, while Ratliff’s seventh round selection came all the way at No. 224.
Ware said it’s odd looking around the locker room and seeing only long snapper L.P. Ladouceur remaining from the team’s 2005 rookie class.
“When you talk about just the business of the game, things happen for certain reasons, reasons I don’t know. You’ve just got to keep playing,” Ware said. “He came in with me. I feel like now, me and L.P., we’re the last Mohicans here. You’ve just got to look at it as a business. I know Jay, he’s going to end up going to another team because he’s a great player like that.”
Having spent nine seasons on the defensive line with him, Ware is well qualified to talk about Ratliff, but several other Cowboys veterans had thoughts to offer.
As of Thursday afternoon, Ratliff’s locker had yet to be cleaned out. Jason Witten, whose locker sits our feet away, said he’ll remember the high level of play evidenced by the Pro Bowl sticker’s adorning Ratliff’s area.
“He’s a guy I’ve known for a long time. We played together a long time – a core group of us, and he’s a guy you wanted on your side on Sundays, that’s for sure,” Witten said.
In Ratliff’s official statement, delivered by his agent Mark Slough on Wednesday, he was sure to thank Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones for taking the chance of drafting him. In addressing the decision to release him Thursday, Jones repaid those thanks to the veteran.
“You know, I have a long history of having an appreciation for guys who give it up and work and play through pain, and I do with Jay. So it is disappointing that that great career of his has to end. As it turns out, all great players have to have a time,” Jones said. “Now, his career has maybe not ended, but I know he gave us great effort. He’s a tremendous competitor. I don’t look at anything but positives, I really don’t. We needed him when we had him, and we need him now that we don’t have him. But that’s just not the way it is – that’s the reality of it. We do, as I certainly would, wish him the very best and a speedy rehab and hope for him that he has more career.” (Watch video | Play audio)
RELATED: Jason Garrett, Jerry Jones discuss details of Jay Ratliff’s release
IRVING, Texas – One day after their decision to release Jay Ratliff, the Cowboys spoke about the implications and issues surrounding the move.
Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones, as well as coach Jason Garrett spoke to the media about the past year of uncertainty around Ratliff. Jones said the decision to release the veteran involved a number of variables – most notably, consideration of the salary cap and the team’s prospects this season.
“This was a decision that certainly had salary cap implications – every decision does in this day and time,” Jones said. “But it also had immediate consideration for what it’s going to mean for this season, and we’re excited about what our opportunities are here. So both of those things were part of this decision.”
The decision to cut Ratliff will save the team the cost of paying him had he been moved to the injured reserve. That raises the question of why the Cowboys placed him on the Physically Unable to Perform List to start the season. But Garrett said he still had hope of using Ratliff after he strained his hamstring during his pre-training camp conditioning test.
“I think you’re always hopeful about the health of every player and you make designations accordingly,” he said. “I can give you 50 examples of decisions we’ve made as to when to put someone on IR and why, when to put someone on PUP and why, and when to keep someone on the active roster and why. That was the decision we made.”
The matter of Ratliff’s debilitating injury, not the hamstring strain but the one suffered against Cleveland in 2012, remains confusing. Mark Slough, Ratliff’s agent, said Wednesday that his client’s lower body injury had been mischaracterized as a sports hernia, when it in fact involved severe ligament and muscle damage.
Neither Jones nor Garrett would speak in specifics, as a matter of legal obligations. But both supported the reliability of the team’s medical staff in its evaluations.
“I can’t comment on the medical aspects of this thing. Without being trite, I don’t want to be because this is not a trite matter,” Jones said. “It’s a sad matter, because we do need him and he wants to be out competing and helping his teammates and helping us win. But I can’t operate in a world where I go back and take today’s information and apply it to decisions made one year ago.”
Garrett added: “We have a tremendous amount of confidence in our medical staff, and the only way that I can answer that is injuries are challenging and you don’t always know how a player’s
going to respond. The ability for him to come back in a timely manner – you make a lot of highly educated guesses about the status of a player based on the player, based on what the injury is, what particular position he may play. So you’re always doing that. We do that every day.”
That extends to the conditioning test, which both Garrett and Jones said is only ever performed at the discretion of the player involved. Again, though, few specifics were provided.
“I couldn’t address that. I know it’s up to the player to decide if he wants to test to see if he’s physically able to play. That’s up to the player,” Jones said (Watch Video | Play Audio).
CONTRACT RISK AND REWARD: Looking back at Jay Ratliff and Jason Witten deals in 2011
IRVING, Texas — A day apart in September of 2011, the Dallas Cowboys signed DT Jay Ratliff and TE Jason Witten to five-year contract extensions.
Each player had two years remaining on his deal at the time, but the Cowboys wanted to reward the Pro Bowl performers with new contracts in hopes that they would retire with the club. The Cowboys also received some salary-cap relief in the early part of the contracts even though it cost them up-front cash.
Ratliff’s extension was worth $40 million and included $18 million guaranteed. Witten’s deal was worth $37 million and included $19 million guaranteed.
Yesterday, Ratliff was cut by the Dallas Cowboys amid acrimony stemming from a groin injury suffered last season that is still bothering him today. Witten, meanwhile, was on the practice field getting ready for Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The adage that has been repeated by many lately is you don’t pay age in the NFL. Well, sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t.
Ratliff had just turned 30 when he signed and was entering his seventh season. Witten turned 29 a few months before signing but was entering his ninth season
The Cowboys did not get a return on Ratliff on the most recent extension. He played in only 22 games after signing on Sept. 9, 2011. He recorded only two sacks and seven tackles for loss.
And now he’s gone.
Witten, now 31, has not missed a game, playing through a lacerated spleen early last season, and has 220 catches for 2,321 yards and 11 touchdowns since the extension. Last year, he set an NFL record for catches in a season by a tight end with 110 and played in his eighth Pro Bowl.
And still he plays on.
EX-COWBOY MOVING ON: Jay Ratliff issues statement regarding release from Dallas
IRVING, Texas – Mark Slough, defensive tackle Jay Ratliff’s agent, issued a statement from the four-time Pro Bowler regarding Ratliff’s release by the Dallas Cowboys this afternoon.
Prior to a question-and-answer session regarding Ratliff’s 2012 injuries and subsequent rehab, Slough issued a short statement from Ratliff:
The statement read: “First, let me say thank you to the Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones for taking a chance on me in 2005. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Cowboys, and it was always my desire to begin and end my career here in Dallas. But I understand this business, and now it’s time to move on, turn the page and begin again.
To all my teammates, I want to wish them nothing but the best. Stay strong, keep fighting and always believe. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you, but I will always support you and value our time together.
And lastly, to all the Cowboy fans, I want to say it was an honor to play for you. Cowboy fans are the best fans in the NFL, and I thank each and every one of you for the support and love you have shown to me these past nine years. I will miss you.”
Ratliff played nine seasons with the Cowboys after being drafted No. 224 overall in the seventh round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He played in 104 career games for Dallas, tallying 228 total tackles and 27 sacks.
NO MORE SUSPENSE: Dallas Cowboys release injury plagued Jay Ratliff
IRVING, Texas– Jay Ratliff is no longer a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
The team ended the year-long suspense for the defensive tackle today, by officially terminating the contract of Ratliff, placing him on the failed physical list from Reserve/PUP (Physically Unable to Perform).
Ratliff has dealt with a groin injury since last year when he underwent sports hernia surgery. The defensive tackle reported to training camp and suffered a hamstring injury in the conditioning run. He stayed with the team through camp but was eventually placed on PUP. He was eligible to come off PUP this week, and while Jerry Jones and the Cowboys have stayed mum on the situation, the decision was made Wednesday afternoon to cut ties with eight-year veteran.
Ratliff made four straight Pro Bowls from 2008-11 and thrived in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme as a nose tackle. He played two years under Rob Ryan, including last year when he only played six games. Ratliff had just 25 sacks and no sacks in 2012.
In 2011, Ratliff signed a five-year extension that totaled out to $48.6 million. By cutting him now, the Cowboys will stop paying his $1.34 million base salary.
The majority of his $10.268 million cap charge will roll over into next year. However, the Cowboys will be free of all base salaries, including the $5.5 million for 2014.
PUP AND CIRCUMSTANCE: NBC’s sideline reporter predicts Jay Ratliff’s fate
ARLINGTON, Texas – It looked for all the world that there had finally been a break in the curious case of Jay Ratliff.
NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya spoke with Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones about the Pro Bowl defensive tackle on Sunday ahead of the Cowboys’ primetime game against Washington. Based on talking to Jones, Tafoya was not confident that Ratliff would be returning to the team’s roster this week after his six-week stay on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List.
Said Tafoya: “My interpretation, based on Jerry Jones’ body language and his tone, is that Jay Ratliff will not be playing for the Cowboys anymore.”
In the scrum of the Cowboys’ post-win locker room, though, Jones said he wasn’t ready to agree with Tafoya’s assessment.
“I’m not familiar with that report. I didn’t hear it. Our plans are to visit, not only with him but medical and see what we’re going to do with our timing on any PUP or IR considerations,” Jones said. “But we’ve still got a lot of work and decisions to make. But I didn’t hear that report.”
It’s just the latest twist in a long and winding road for Ratliff in the past year. The eight-year veteran missed 10 games in 2012 with a litany of injuries, and injury issues have followed him into 2013. Ratliff missed all of the Cowboys’ summer training camp with a hamstring injury, reportedly suffered during his pre-camp conditioning test. When the team’s preseason ended, Ratliff was placed on the PUP, making him ineligible through the first six games.
The Cowboys’ 31-16 win against Washington on Sunday night got them through the first six weeks with a 3-3 mark, but Ratliff’s future doesn’t seem any clearer. Jones said those conversations will start happening this week as Dallas prepares for a road game against Philadelphia.
“Let’s just see how the week goes and see where we are,” he said. “We’re looking at what the prospects are of him being active, and we just have to see how that goes. I think I’ll have a better, more accurate reading on that for you as the week goes on.”
That seems hard to believe based on recent history, however. The Cowboys haven’t been able to clearly update Ratliff’s injury status since training camp, and the veteran hasn’t been much of a presence around the team’s Valley Ranch training facility. Despite that, Jones said the Cowboys have been in contact with Ratliff on a consistent basis, and he added that Ratliff will be present at the facility in the coming week.
“We’re communicating. He’s in and out – we have communication,” Jones said. “But it’s not that type of issue with him – in any way not being what we want him to be. We want him to be healthy, and he wants to be healthy. But we’ve got to take a look at his progress.”
Jones said it’s not that uncommon for veteran players to rehab from injuries away from the day-to-day activities of the team – provided they’re communicating with the coaching staff. Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders and Pro Bowl tight end Jay Novacek are two “name players” Jones listed as doing such.
“Deion did that some. Deion did that when he was here – had combinations of trainers and workouts,” Jones said. “But he recognized the order of things and recognized the need to do it on a team basis. But we’ve had several name players that would show that they respected what the coaches want and respected what we want, but they would also go at their own pace with strength and conditioning. Novacek was one of them.”
However murky the situation has been this season, Jones said the Cowboys have some decisions to make this week – decisions that may bring some clarity to the issue, with Ratliff or without him.
“We’re going to kind of look at a lot of things here this week, and probably have something to give everybody a better direction on,” he said. “You have a right to know, don’t get me wrong, but we’ve just got to decide what we’re going to do in the short and the long term.”
DALLAS PUP RECOVERING: Cowboys DT Jay Ratliff rehab continues to linger
The Dallas Cowboys are holding out hope Jay Ratliff will be on the field at some point this year, but there’s still no set date for the defensive tackle’s return.
Ratliff may not be ready to play when he’s eligible to come off the Physically Unable to Perform list next week. He’s also not rehabbing with the Dallas Cowboys, according to executive vice president Stephen Jones.
Jones told 105.3 FM “The Fan” that Ratliff has “had his frustrations in terms of his medical situation,” and the Cowboys gave him the opportunity to explore different avenues in his rehab, though the team didn’t prefer it.
“This is rare, but we felt like if it mentally helped him and gave him a better chance to get back to where he thinks he needs to be, we were up for him doing that,” Jones said. “As far as knowing where he is, we get reports daily and understand how he’s progressing, so we’re aware of what’s going on.”
Ratliff only played in six games last season before getting sports hernia surgery at the end of the year. He injured his hamstring during the conditioning test at the beginning of training camp this year and hasn’t played since.
“Any time you reward a player, you hope he plays at a high level,” Jones said. “Any time it doesn’t work out, it’s frustrating, obviously. But that’s a part of the business we’re in.
“I’m sure Jay wishes it were different. I know we wish it was different. We could use him, but that’s not the way it is.”
Editors comment: Monte Kiffin’s Texas-2 Defense was predicated on having both Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff in the rotation. As you know, Spencer is out for the rest of the season and Ratliff has had lingering issues for months. Dallas Cowboys DL coach Rod Marinelli has managed to make the best of a bad situation. Let’s hope we see Ratliff in the rotation at some point in the 2013-2014 season. The standout still needs to get into ‘football shape” before Jason Garrett can put him on the field. Doesn’t look like Dallas will have this dog in the fight anytime soon.
2013-2014 COWBOYS ROSTER: Dallas releases veteran safety Will Allen
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys released safety Will Allen this afternoon.
Allen, a 10-year veteran, signed a one-year contract with the Cowboys during free agency this past spring after a three-year stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He started for the team at safety through training camp and the first two games of the regular season, but he was eventually replaced by rookie J.J. Wilcox ahead of the Cowboys’ Week 3 game against St. Louis on Sept. 22.
The roster currently sits at 52, as the Cowboys didn’t make any immediate moves to fill Allen’s spot. The team might elevate a player from the practice squad later in the week depending on injury concerns.
The Cowboys’ practice squad currently features two safeties in Jakar Hamilton and Micah Pellerin, should they decide to bolster the depth in their defensive backfield.
Looking forward, the Cowboys also are still hopeful for the potential return of defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, who is eligible to return from the Physically Unable to Perform list next week. If Ratliff is able to return, the team would need to free up a roster spot for him.
During his time with the Dallas Cowboys, Allen notched nine total tackles in five games with three passes defensed and an interception. His coverage came under fire in the season opening win against the New York Giants, which saw the Cowboys surrender 450 passing yards, though Allen did grab one of three interceptions of Eli Manning in that game.
He was also called for holding during a fourth quarter kick return in Sunday’s 51-48 loss to Denver.
Since he was on the Cowboys’ Week 1 roster, all of the money on Allen’s $905,000 contract is guaranteed.
Allen spent the first six seasons of his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who selected him 111th overall out of Ohio State in the 2004 NFL Draft. He spent five of his six seasons in Tampa with current Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who was the Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator from 1996-2008.
TEXAS 2 TWISTER: Dallas Cowboys DT Jay Ratliff vows to return
Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Jay Ratliff finally broke his silence regarding the groin and hamstring injuries that have landed him on the Physically Unable to Perform list, sidelining him for at least the first six games of the season.
Ratliff, 32, said he’s extremely disappointed in the setbacks in his rehab and vowed that he would return to the field with season, while alluded to tensions with the Cowboys training staff as reasons why he worked away from the facility during the off season.
“Absolutely I’m disappointed,” Ratliff said of the team’s annual kickoff luncheon at AT&T Stadium on Wednesday. “But everyone knew what the issue was way before hand. Everyone knew what it was since last year. I’m not going into much more detail other than that…It’s for sure it’s not a hamstring tweak. Thank you.
Ratliff missed ten games last season, including the last six because surgery to repair a sports hernia. He didn’t use the Cowboys doctors for surgery and paid for his own rehab in the off season.
Ratliff returned the Cowboys for OTAs and minicamp and appeared to be gearing up for training camp when he suffered a hamstring injury during pre-camp conditioning drills.
Asked why he rehabbed away from the Cowboys’ Valley Ranch headquarters, Ratliff declined to go into details.
“I’d rather not say,” Ratliff said. “Let’s just keep the focus on these guys going out there and playing and winning games. I’m not going to be here and be a distraction to anybody. Just stay as professional as possible about the whole situation. But everyone that is involved knows what is going on.”
Ratliff said he “absolutely” believes he will return to the field this season.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones offered a similar answer regarded his expectations of Ratliff not only return in 2013 but playing at a high level.
But Jones acknowledged the loss of the former Pro Bowler for the first six games of the season is a huge setback for the Cowboys.
Ratliff was expected to be a key component in defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 scheme. The Cowboys envisioned Ratliff being an inside pass rusher from the under tackle position in Kiffin’s defense similar to Hall of Famer Warren Sapp was during their time together in Tampa Bay.
“It is a setback. No, it is a setback,” Jones said. “We will have to adjust just as we would if it was a mid-season injury. What we’re doing there and his status is that hopefully will move the process along faster. We’re hopeful this will let us rehab-wise, strength-wise that we can do more than just address this where he is.”
Jones said he didn’t know of any tension between Ratliff and the athletic training staff.
“I don’t know about that,” Jones said. “What I’m saying I don’t know any of the details and I don’t have any comment on that.”
Jones also refused to second-guess the decision to allow Ratliff to participate in the pre-camp conditioning test, where he complicated his rehab from the sports hernia with the additional hamstring injury.
“Again, everybody that was involved in the decision thought he could run the conditioning test for sure,” Jones said. “So everybody involved in that decision thought he could run it. Everyone. 100 percent.”
Jones said there no thought from anyone on the Cowboys that Ratliff won’t play this season. He said if that was the case they would have done something different to address the position and not just him on PUP.
Despite the setback, Jones said his hopes and expectations for Ratliff haven’t changed. Once he get’s healthy and returns to the field, the Cowboys believe he will be an impact player in the defense and help extend the season beyond the 10 games that would be left and into the playoffs.
“I hope he’s an All-Pro player,” Jones said. “I hope he can be. He can have let’s see, he could have certainly 13, 14 to go if it went like you’d like for it to be. A player like this as we again we’re just getting tested on our depth right out of the shoot, right off the bat, but hopefully we’ve got the depth to hold it until we can get him out there.”
STUD REMAINS SIDELINED: Dallas Cowboys DT Ratliff out at least six weeks
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys had been optimistic about Jay Ratliff’s chances of returning to the field for the season opener against the Giants.
Now, the earliest they will see the defensive tackle on the field will be Oct. 20 against the Eagles.
Ratliff was placed on Reserve/PUP today (on Tuesday) in an effort to trim the roster down to 75 players. The Cowboys also put Tyrone Crawford (torn Achilles) and Ryan Cook (back) on injured reserve, along with releasing nine players.
Ratliff is dealing with both a hamstring and groin injury, a possible re-aggravation from his sports hernia surgery he underwent last December.
The defensive tackle missed all of training camp nursing what was believed to be only the hamstring injury he sustained on July 20 at the conditioning test in Oxnard, Calif. He stayed with the team for the remainder of camp when other injured players were sent back to Dallas early for rehab.
Dallas Cowboys VP Stephen Jones, the team’s director of player personnel was asked Tuesday if he thought Ratliff would even play at all in 2013.
“I feel confident that he will. I believe in Jay. I think he’s a competitor,” Jones said. “There’s some things that can be frustrating when you have injuries. Jay has a real injury. Those things happen. I’m convinced that we’ve got a (rehab) program now — he’s had a few setbacks — that hopefully will put him on the road where he can play for us at some point this season.”
The four-time Pro Bowler missed 10 games last year – the final six games with the groin injury and the first four because of a high ankle sprain. He also missed most of camp with a nagging foot injury.
The last 12 months have also included a heated exchange with Jerry Jones in the locker room last December and then a DWI arrest in January. His hearing was recently pushed back to February 2014.
Until Ratliff gets back, the Cowboys will likely start Nick Hayden and Jason Hatcher at tackle with a backup rotation of Sean Lissemore, Ben Bass, and perhaps Landon Cohen, a journeyman vet who has taken advantage of extra snaps with Ratliff out.
RELATED: Jerry Jones on Jay Ratliff starting season on PUP
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones admitted the obvious today (Tuesday) when he confirmed on his radio show that defensive tackle Jay Ratliff could start the season on the physically unable to perform list, sidelining him for the first six games of the season.
Ratliff has been sidelined since the start of training camp with hamstring and groin injuries. The Cowboys had long held out hope that he could return for the season opener against the New York Giants on Sept. 8.
But Ratliff has yet to take his rehab to the point where it’s realistic he could be ready by then. Jones is still holding out hope but he can’t deny that sitting Ratliff for the first six weeks of the season might be the best move and the Cowboys only move.
“It’s certainly more of a possibility than I would’ve ever thought two to three weeks ago,” Jones said Tuesday on the New School show on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM]. “But we’ve got to look at the next two weeks, carefully look at his progress over the next two weeks.”
Editors test … click on button below to download the MP3 file (Box.com)
2013 PRESEASON INJURY UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys Bernadeau and Hatcher on bikes; Claiborne and Beasley return
Cornerback Morris Claiborne and receiver Cole Beasley returned to practice with the season opener 13 days away, but guard Mackenzy Bernadeau and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher stayed in as the Cowboys began the final week of preseason.
Claiborne’s final chance to play in the preseason is Thursday in the finale against the Houston Texans. He has not played in a game because of a “jammed” knee he suffered in training camp on Aug. 6. Beasley hurt an ankle in the preseason game against Oakland on Aug. 9.
Bernadeau, who played left guard Saturday against the Bengals, has an ankle injury. He and Hatcher rode the exercise bike as practice began Monday.
Guard Ronald Leary also did not make it out for the start of practice. Leary is recovering from knee surgery less than two weeks ago.
Also not out for the start of practice were linebacker Brandon Magee (concussion), safeties Matt Johnson, Eric Frampton and Danny McCray, defensive linemen Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff, running back Lance Dunbar and center Ryan Cook.
BACK IN THE SADDLE: Cowboys DT Sean Lissemore is practicing and eager to play
Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Sean Lissemore was quick with an answer when asked if he would play Saturday against the Bengals: “I’ll be playing this Saturday,” Lissemore said.
It was a long eight days for Lissemore after he injured his groin in practice Aug. 11. Lissemore had been getting plenty of reps with starter Jay Ratliff rehabbing hernia and hamstring injuries since the start of camp on July 20.
“It’s always frustrating to be injured, but you’ve got to kind of look at it and say, ‘Well, what can I do to get better?’” Lissemore said Tuesday. “So you just watch film; you watch the guys ahead of you; you watch practice. You just try to watch your position and get better every day.”
Lissemore returned to practice Tuesday. He did individual work, followed by metabolics “just to get my wind back.” He expects to work into team drills this week.
By design, Lissemore has lost some 12-14 pounds since camp started, down to 298. He hopes that helps him better fit into the Tampa 2 defense the Cowboys are using this season under Monte Kiffin.
“I think I can definitely play in this defense,” Lissemore said. “It’s just taken a little bit to transition. It’s a little bit different from last year, playing a 3-4 defense, kind of two-gapping. So it’s kind of forgetting everything I’ve learned for the past three years and kind of training myself to do something different.”
Two other defensive players injured the same day as Lissemore have yet to return.
Linebacker Ernie Sims, who was competing with Justin Durant for the starting strong side spot, said he was encouraged by his rehab work Tuesday on his pulled groin. He cut and changed directions without a problem.
Sims hopes to return to practice this week.
“I want to be back this week,” Sims said. “But we’re taking it day by day right now, just trying to keep strengthening it. I’m definitely making a big improvement, though, because I’m feeling a whole lot better. I’m moving a whole lot better. Running a whole lot better. Right now, I’m just in the strengthening, trying to build my strength back up.”
Defensive back Eric Frampton, one of the team’s core special teams players, has a calf injury and is expected to be the last of the three to return to the field. He is not yet running, though he is using the AlterG, a anti-gravity treadmill.
Frampton said there is no timetable for his return.
“The way I see it, I want to be able to just contribute on the field once the season starts and whatever it takes to get to that point is what’s important,” Frampton said.
2013 PRESEASON INJURY UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys Lance Dunbar out; Kowalski and Dominguez return
IRVING, Texas – None of the defensive players who were inactive for Saturday’s preseason game returned to practice Monday at Valley Ranch, while the offense received a mixed bag of news.
Guards Kevin Kowalski and Ray Dominguez returned from knee and shoulder injuries, respectively, but running back Lance Dunbar missed practice for the first time with a foot sprain.
Five offensive players were out Monday, including Dunbar, wide receiver Cole Beasley (foot) and offensive linemen Ryan Cook (back), Ron Leary (knee) and Nate Livings (knee). Leary and Livings are both on the mend from knee scopes.
Safety Matt Johnson (foot) thought he’d be able to return in some capacity Monday, but he wasn’t on the field during the early portion of practice available to the media. Morris Claiborne, whose day-to-day knee injury has now become week-to-week, was also out.
Some good news for the defense was the return of safety Will Allen, who left Saturday’s game after injuring his ribs. Head coach Jason Garrett said after the game the injury wasn’t serious and he could have returned.
The usual suspects were still out on defense, including Anthony Spencer (knee) and Jay Ratliff(hamstring), while Ernie Sims, Sean Lissemore and Eric Frampton are all still recovering from injuries suffered toward the end of camp.
J.J. Wilcox hasn’t returned yet for personal reasons, but has been given as much time as he needs following the death of his mother and is expected back around the middle of this week.
Travis Chappelear and Toby Jackson weren’t at practice for the beginning portion, either. Chappelear wore a boot as he left the field Saturday.
2013 COWBOYS ROSTER UPDATE: Dallas makes a few personnel changes on special teams
Photo: Dallas Cowboys rookie WR Terrance Williams returning to the field
OXNARD, Calif. – The Dallas Cowboys made some personnel changes today (on Sunday) involving special teams, an area that struggled somewhat in Friday’s second preseason game in Oakland.
However, the changes made weren’t exactly a result of Friday’s problems or even deemed solutions to the miscues.
The Cowboys added punter/kicker Brett Maher and long snapper P.J. Mangieri. Both played collegiately at Nebraska.
The Cowboys had to waive long snapper Jackson Anderson, the only player who did not play in the Raiders game. The team already had an open spot on the roster after cutting guard Jeff Olson on Thursday. But the Cowboys also waived punter Spencer Benton last week after he had four punts for in the first preseason game against Miami.
Last year, Maher was 20 of 27 on field goal attempts and also had 61 punts for a 41.8 yard average.
Mangieri played four years at Nebraska, serving as the full-time snapper for punts, field goals and extra points.
It’s likely the Cowboys would like to give veteran L.P. Ladouceur some rest over the next three preseason games. Maher will likely serve as the kickoff specialist and could relieve kicker Dan Bailey and punter Chris Jones occasionally as well.
Injury and Practice update:
The Dallas Cowboys return to practice at 7:15 p.m. (Dallas time). They will be without receiver Cole Beasley, who sprained ligaments in his left foot in the game against the Raiders. They will get back receiver Terrance Williams, who sat out more than a week with a concussion.
Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff (hamstring) and defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee) are among the players who will remain out until after the Cowboys return home next week.
COWBOYS 2013 INJURY UPDATE: Anthony Spencer knee surgery scheduled; young players get opportunity
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Anthony Spencer will require surgery on his left knee later this week.
An MRI confirmed a bone bruise after Spencer aggravated the knee during the team’s conditioning test Saturday. Spencer has been pained by the knee since the team’s OTAs in May and sat out the minicamp last month in hopes rest would heal it. But after this latest setback, doctors have advised minor surgery.
He is expected to be back in a few weeks, well in time for the season-opening game against the Giants. Spencer will miss valuable practice time as the Cowboys shift from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense. Spencer and DeMarcus Ware are moving from outside linebacker to defensive end.
With DE Tyrone Crawford out for the season with a torn achilles, defensive tackle Jay Ratliff on the physically unable to perform list because a strained hamstring and defensive Anthony Spencer with a bone bruise, the Cowboys acknowledge a need for help and added numbers on the defensive line.
The Cowboys will scan the waiver wire for possible additions for depth purposes but they will look to the current players on the roster to step up and help fill the void. If they need to add a veteran like John Abraham or Richard Seymour, it will be at the end of the preseason, a source said.
“Injuries provide opportunity,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We have a lot of young guys who we like. Guys we want to see more of. This gives them a chance to show us what they can do.”
The Cowboys will look to guys like Cameron Sheffield to step up at end behind Spencer, DeMarcus Ware and Kyle Wilber and former Texas A&M tackle Ben Bass to fill the void inside. There is a chance Bass could get a look at end but the Cowboys are holding off on that right now.
THE DELICATE BALANCE: Veteran Anthony Hargrove adds defensive line depth, but youth must eventually take over
Yesterdays signing of Anthony Hargrove to a one-year deal adds depth to the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive line, but not youth.
Currently, three of the four projected starting linemen are at least 30, and defensive end Anthony Spencer is 29.
Hargrove turns 30 in July.
The Dallas Cowboys didn’t address the defensive line in the draft but did so in free agency with the signing of Hargrove.
The backups on the Cowboys’ roster consist of young players such as Tyrone Crawford, Sean Lissemore, Rob Callaway and Kyle Wilber. Those are young players who could become starters in 2014.
Jason Hatcher is in the final year of his contract, and he turns 31 in July.
Spencer, who doesn’t turn 30 until next January, is playing on the franchise tag and talks have slowed down regarding a new deal. Hatcher and Spencer could play elsewhere in 2014.
As for Jay Ratliff, the defensive tackle who will battle centers and guards this season, he will turn 32 in August. Do you remember the man Ratliff replaced? Jason Ferguson was 32 when he suffered an arm injury early in the 2007 season, opening the door for Ratliff to become the full-time starter. Health and age dooms NFL players all the time.
Ratliff is coming off an injury-filled 2012 season and it’s assumed this could be his last season with the Cowboys given his age and how his health betrayed him last season.
DeMarcus Ware isn’t going anywhere. Ware, however, turns 31 in July and is coming back from shoulder surgery and a dislocated elbow.
Age isn’t on the Cowboys’ side when it comes to the defensive line. While it’s good to have Hargrove provide depth as someone who can play end and tackle in the 4-3, the future is uncertain for this position.
Based on the offseason moves by the Cowboys, the defensive line is geared for the here and now, not for the future. The Cowboys had a chance to address the defensive line in the draft but expressed support for what they currently have.
That’s fine, but at some point youth must take over.
TEXAS 2 DEFENSIVE LINE: Dallas Cowboys feel like they have players that fit the need for speed
The Dallas Cowboys had a first-round grade on Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. He was probably the top player on the Cowboys’ draft board when they were supposed to pick at No. 18 in the first round. But they chose to trade back and Floyd went to the Minnesota Vikings at No. 23.
So why have him on the board?
Well, because they liked Floyd as a player but some in the organization weren’t sold on how he’d fit into their new 4-3 scheme.
Judging solely off the body language of Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and assistant director of player personnel Tom Ciskowski, trading back and missing out on a player like Floyd wasn’t the unanimous decision.
Ciskowski doesn’t have final say on the players the Cowboys draft. He presents information to the team and it’s up to Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones and the coaching staff to ultimately make the decision.
“I think in a lot of cases, it’s kind of like a bridge,” Ciskowski told the G-Bag Nation show on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM]. “We bring the players to the bridge and the coaches have to take them across. The main thing is just to communicate exactly what the coach wants. There was a defensive tackle from Georgia, John Jenkins, who as a matter of fact, was drafted by New Orleans. If we were still in the 3-4, we would’ve liked him as a nose [tackle]. But now that we’ve transitioned back to a 4-3, he really doesn’t fit what we’re looking for. So a lot of it is about the new coach educating us on what he wants at each position and it’s our job to go out and find it.”
What also factors in to the Cowboys not drafting Floyd at No. 18 is that the franchise feels good about the defensive linemen on the current roster. As of right now, the Cowboys have DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer starting on the ends with Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher on the inside. The top two reserves at tackle will likely be Sean Lissemore and Tyrone Crawford.
“I like our group, I really do,” Ciskowski said. “Between Spencer and Ware and then we got the guys inside in Ratliff and Hatcher and two young players who have shown great flash in Lissemore and Crawford. Then we have some other guys that have done some good things but they’re somewhat untested. A lot of teams go into the season with five players they feel good about, maybe six. And I think we’re at that level, and we might find another one in the group.”
Kyle Wilber, a fourth-round draft pick last year, has been moved to defensive end and could see time behind Spencer and Ware.
Editors note: To listen to the show, click HERE.
NO DESPARADOS: With this nucleus, the 2013 Dallas Cowboys may not need a free agency splash
The Dallas Cowboys have no cap room and aren’t signing anyone. Does it really matter? How desperate are the Dallas Cowboys, really?
Bryan Broaddus wrote about defensive tackle Jay Ratliff and the way he’ll fit into Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 defensive alignment. Bryan’s excited because he thinks Ratliff is the kind of player who will flourish in the 4-3, and that he can play either of its defensive tackle positions well:
In this scheme, the defensive coaches want their guys to play with more speed and quickness, which is right down the alley for Ratliff. There is a reason that Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett never wavered about Ratliff coming back for this 2013 [season] despite the legal problem he faces in the coming months. He was built to play in this scheme.
Jay Ratliff is part of a talented nucleus in Dallas that should contend for the NFC East title again this fall.
Think about it. Sure, Ratliff’s a knucklehead for blowing up at Jerry Jones in the locker room. Worse yet, he was arrested and charged with DUI a month and a half after teammate Jerry Brown was killed in a drunk driving accident for which teammate Josh Brent was charged. And sure, he had no more sacks last year than you or I did. But when healthy and on the field, Ratliff is still an excellent player, capable of disrupting an offense from an interior line position.
Ratliff isn’t exactly alone on the roster. On the defensive side of the ball, DeMarcus Ware is an excellent player. Cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne are very good. Linebacker Sean Lee is outstanding, and fellow linebacker Bruce Carter sure looked headed that way last season before his injury. Jason Hatcher was excellent last season, and so was Anthony Spencer, whether he’s worth his $10.6 million franchise tender or not.
On offense, the Cowboys have excellent players at quarterback, tight end and both starting wide receiver spots. They have a very good running back and left tackle. Can you find fault with any or all of these players? Sure. But on balance, I just gave you 14 starting positions at which the Cowboys are at least above average, and in several cases much better.
The point? Well, as Cowboys fans bemoan the lack of cap space and resultant lack of activity in this first week of free agency, it might be worth remembering that there are some really good players on this team, and that it might not be the kind of team that needed to have a big first week of free agency.
Now, of course they need work. They’ve been 8-8 each of the past two seasons. The offensive line is a wreck, that they have question marks at safety, and that depth is an issue in spots. They need to find another starting linebacker to go with Lee and Carter. And yes, of course Tony Romo’s reputation for playing small in big spots. All of that stuff is true. It’s too easy too often for Cowboys fans to get negative about the way they perceive their team. It’s all doom and gloom in Dallas.
Each of the past two seasons, they made it to the final game with a chance to win the division. By definition, that’s a contending team, and as close to being a playoff team as one can get. They must improve in spots, most notably the offensive line, or it’s going to be hard to believe they can make any big leap forward. You don’t have to agree with the perception that they’re in big trouble because they were hamstrung this week in free agency. In part, because of last years splash, there are a lot of very good players on the Cowboys’ roster. If properly supported by a good draft and some smart free-agent bargain hunting, this a competitive team in 2013, just as it was in 2011 and 2012.
That’s worth keeping in mind.
Editors comments: The Dallas Cowboys have one of the highest payrolls in the NFL. There is a reason for this. They are loaded with talent. The team needs health on their side and a few pieces to break away from the 8-8 mold. Addressing the offensive line will allow the Cowboys to have an offense few can match, week-to-week. This Kiffin experiment has validity also, again … a few pieces are needed to execute on this side of the ball. This offseason, if the Jones’ focus on the trenches and a safety, this team has a chance. This is not a roster of desperation, it’s a core of players on the brink. Dallas doesn’t need another millionaire free agent. What they need can be accomplished on a modest budget (with a little more salary restructuring) … trusting the talent evaluators on staff, and a youth infusion through the draft.
DALLAS’ DEFENSIVE FOOD CHAIN: Cowboys linemen will get to ‘eat first’ with new defense
The Dallas Cowboys’ move back to the 4-3 defense is music to Leon Lett’s ears. He’s going to get a chance to teach what he knows.
“In a 3-4 you did more of a read-and-react. This is more of a react-on-the-run – rush the quarterback and then react to the run on the way to the quarterback,” he said last week as the Cowboys’ assistant coaches met with reporters. “Kind of the same thing I did as a football player, so I’m kind of used to it, and I’m looking forward to teaching it and coaching it.”
Lett collected 22.5 sacks and 229 tackles in a 10-year career with the Cowboys, twice making the Pro Bowl. He played at 6-foot-6, 290 pounds.
“I think we have players all across the board that have the instinct for that defense,” Lett said. “DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher, Sean Lissemore – I think all our guys can adapt and play this 4-3 scheme. They’re fast, they’re quick, they’re big, they’re athletic, and that’s what you need.”
Lett was retained as assistant defensive line coach, and he’ll get a chance to work with respected NFL veteran Rod Marinelli, who is now in charge of the Cowboys’ defensive line.
“We just have to get them to adjust to a different technique,” Lett said. “In a 3-4 scheme, you were a little bit more two-gap, head-up. We’re going to get them to shade on the shoulder and penetrate and get up field. So I’ve been talking to Coach Marinelli about that, and we’re looking forward to retraining the guys in that scheme.”
Lett said it was the focus on penetrating into the backfield that made the position fun for him when he played.
“Some guys just love to play the 3-4, head up, but the 4-3 is more about a penetrating, we-get-to-eat-first type of deal. That’s what we’re calling it. We’re at the front of the food chain.”