Tag Archives: Josh Brent

GETTING BACK ON THE SADDLE: What’s next for former Dallas Cowboys DT Josh Brent (extensive coverage)

LENIENCY GRANTED BY JURY - Former Dallas Cowboys DT Josh Brent sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years probation, now what - The Boys Are Back 2014

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.

GETTING BACK ON THE SADDLE - What’s next for former Dallas Cowboys DT Josh Brent - attorneys

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.

GETTING BACK ON THE SADDLE - What’s next - Assistant District Attorney, Heath Harris, spoke to the media following the sentencing of former Dallas Cowboy Josh Brent.

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.

GETTING BACK ON THE SADDLE - What’s next - Josh Brent stands with lawyer Kevin Brooks while his punishment for his intoxication manslaughter conviction is read in court

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.

GETTING BACK ON THE SADDLE - What’s next for former Dallas Cowboys DT Josh Brent - LaTasha Brent, the mother of Josh Brent

Photo: LaTasha Brent, the mother of Josh Brent, is helped from the courtroom following the punishment decision. (Mona Reeder/DMN)

GETTING BACK ON THE SADDLE - What’s next - Josh Brent is lead away from court into custody after his sentencing

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

THE PATH BACK TO VALLEY RANCH - Josh Brent’s to return to the NFL, and the Dallas Cowboys rights - game

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.

GETTING BACK ON THE SADDLE - What’s next for former Dallas Cowboys DT Josh Brent - will he return to the nfl

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

GETTING BACK ON THE SADDLE - What’s next - Josh Brent stands with lawyer Kevin Brooks while his punishment for his intoxication manslaughter conviction is read in court

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. 

Audio - Josh Brent attorney Kevin Brooks - 1053 the fan krld - The Boys Are Back 2014

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

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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?

dallas cowboys josh brent - the boys are back blog

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.

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LENIENCY GRANTED BY JURY: Former Dallas Cowboys DT Josh Brent sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years probation

LENIENCY GRANTED BY JURY - Former Dallas Cowboys DT Josh Brent sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years probation - The Boys Are Back 2014

DALLAS – A Texas jury sentenced former Dallas Cowboys player Josh Brent to 180 days in jail and 10 years’ probation today for causing a fiery one-car crash that killed his teammate after a night of heavy drinking in 2012.

The same jury that convicted Brent, 25, earlier this week of intoxication manslaughter for the death of Jerry Brown Jr., could have sentenced him to as much as 20 years in jail.

In testimony in the sentencing phase on Thursday, the mother of the victim pleaded for leniency for Brent, saying her son would have agreed with her.

“He’s still responsible, but you can’t go on in life and hold a grudge. We all make mistakes and have to be forgiven. I’m sure that’s what Jerry would have wanted,” Stacey Jackson said.

After a night of drinking at a private club in December 2012, Brent was driving his Mercedes at 110 mph when it slammed into a curb on a state highway, flipping the car, which caught on fire, and killing Brown, then 25.


Editors comment: Expect more detailed information and the teams response shortly


PONDERING PRISON OR PROBATION: Ex-Cowboy Josh Brent awaits sentencing for intoxication manslaughter of friend Jerry Brown Jr.

PONDERING PRISON OR PROBATION - Ex-Cowboy Josh Brent awaits sentencing for intoxication manslaughter of Jerry Brown Jr. - Dallas Cowboys 2013 2014

DALLAS, TX. – Former Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent was found guilty today of intoxication manslaughter after a car crash in December 2012 that resulted in the death of his teammate and friend, Jerry Brown Jr.

The sentencing phase will begin Thursday to determine Brent’s punishment. He could face up to 20 years in prison, but he also could get probation.

“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.

Brent was found guilty by the jury early this afternoon. The jurors deliberated Tuesday and were sequestered that night before coming back with the decision the following afternoon.

Police said Brent’s blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit at the time of the wreck. Dallas Cowboys players Barry Church and Danny McCray testified during the trial.

Brown’s mother, Stacey Jackson, has repeatedly said she’s forgiven Brent and stood by him after the incident. Family members and those closest to Brent could testify during the sentencing period.

Brent has since retired from the NFL since the incident. He last played with the Cowboys in 2012, totaling 1.5 sacks in 12 games. He would have challenged for a starting spot during the 2013 season. Executive vice president Stephen Jones wouldn’t address the possibility of Brent coming back to the team before Brent was found guilty Wednesday.

After Cowboys players had already testified, linebacker Sean Lee arrived at the courthouse Tuesday to offer support to Brent. That move didn’t surprise Stephen Jones, who described Lee as a class act and admired Lee’s ability to lead and be there for his teammates.

Prior to the announcement of the verdict, Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett offered their support for Brent at the Senior Bowl on Monday and Tuesday.

“Our support for Josh has been unwavering since the start of this thing,” Garrett said Tuesday. “Obviously, a very tragic situation for Jerry Brown and his family and for Josh Brent.”


Most recent posts regarding Josh Brent:

THE JURY VERDICT IS IN: Former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Josh Brent found guilty of intoxication manslaughter

LAW AND ORDER: Dallas Cowboys teammates testify in Josh Brent intoxication manslaughter trial | Brent’s defense rests | Jury to deliberate next week

For all posts (and pictures) related to Josh Brent, click here


THE JURY VERDICT IS IN: Former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Josh Brent found guilty of intoxication manslaughter

Former Dallas Cowboy Josh Brent stared out the window during deliberations Wednesday at the Dallas County courthouse - The Boys Are Back 2014

Jurors found former Dallas Cowboy Josh Brent guilty of intoxication manslaughter this afternoon.

The jury of 10 women and two men deliberated for more than two hours this morning. That followed 3 1/2 hours of discussions Tuesday about the case against Brent, who is accused of killing his teammate Jerry Brown Jr. in a December 2012 car crash in Irving. The jury of 10 women and two men deliberated for a total of about nine hours before reaching the verdict.

Earlier in the morning, jurors asked to take another look at video of Brent in Club Privae, where he had allegedly been drinking.

The five biggest revelations in trial of ex-Cowboy Josh Brent - 7 - Josh Brent is found guilty of intoxicated manslaughter and put into handcuffs at Crowley Criminal Courts Building in Dallas

After the verdict was read, the former Dallas Cowboy was handcuffed and led from the courtroom in the custody of the Dallas County sheriff’s office.

The trial’s punishment phase will begin Thursday. Brent faces up to 20 years in prison for the December 2012 crash that killed teammate and best friend Jerry Brown Jr.


The five biggest revelations in trial of ex-Cowboy Josh Brent - 1

Josh Brent, a 320-pound defense lineman, had been drinking champagne and cognac on the night of the crash. To register a blood alcohol level of 0.18 meant he had to have had 17 standard-sized alcoholic beverages. Brent told police at the crash scene that he had an alcohol “buzz.” He blamed the wreck on having trouble slowing down, not alcohol. Photo: Ron Baselice

The five biggest revelations in trial of ex-Cowboy Josh Brent - 2

Brent was drinking straight out of a bottle inside Privae, a private club in Dallas. Surveillance video from the club shows Brent raising his arms with a bottle in each hand. Customers must purchase a bottle to have a table. Waitresses from the club and a Dallas restaurant, Eddie V’s, testified they did not think Brent was intoxicated. Defense attorneys rebutted video footage, saying he could have been drinking from glass water bottles that only appeared to be alcohol. Photo: Rex C. Curry

The five biggest revelations in trial of ex-Cowboy Josh Brent - 3

Brent was driving at least 110 mph on the service road of State Highway 114 when he flipped his white Mercedes. The posted speed limit was 45 mph. It threw Brown, 25, on top of Brent and cushioned him from serious injury, said Irving Police investigator James Fairbairn. Photo: Ron Baselice

The five biggest revelations in trial of ex-Cowboy Josh Brent - 4

Defense attorneys attacked the validity of tests that determined Brent’s blood alcohol level. They said the testing procedures were flawed. Partial data on water used as a control substance showed trace amounts of ethanol, an alcohol. But prosecutors submitted complete data that showed no ethanol in the water. Photo: Ron Baselice

The five biggest revelations in trial of ex-Cowboy Josh Brent - 5

Jerry Brown Jr’s blood alcohol level was just below the legal limit to drive. It was 0.079 when he died, said Dallas County medical examiner Jeffrey Barnard. Brown died of blunt force injuries to his neck and head. Neither player was wearing a seat belt. Photo: LM Otero/AP


Related article … posted here on January 18, 2014:

LAW AND ORDER: Dallas Cowboys teammates testify in Josh Brent intoxication manslaughter trial | Brent’s defense rests | Jury to deliberate next week

For all posts (and pictures) related to JOSH BRENT, click here


LAW AND ORDER: Dallas Cowboys teammates testify in Josh Brent intoxication manslaughter trial | Brent’s defense rests | Jury to deliberate next week

LAW AND ORDER - Dallas Cowboys testify in Josh Brent intoxication manslaughter trial Jerry Brown - Brent’s defense rests - Jury to deliberate Josh Brent fate next week

Dallas Cowboys players who were reportedly with Brent earlier in the night of the accident have been called in to testify. Current members of the Dallas Cowboys are now testifying in Josh Brent’s intoxication manslaughter trial.

The trial began Monday, but it wasn’t until Thursday that Cowboys players Barry Church, and Danny McCray took the stand. Orlando Scandrick was also at the courthouse for the trial but did not testify. 

Brent has been accused of driving drunk and crashing his vehicle, resulting in the death of his Dallas Cowboys teammate and friend, Jerry Brown, on Dec. 8, 2012. A forensic toxicologist estimates that ex-Cowboy Josh Brent consumed 17 drinks the night he crashed his Mercedes along an Irving highway. 

He faces up to 20 years in prison but could also be sentenced to probation.

Brent, who played in 12 games in 2012 and would have competed for a starting spot as a defensive tackle last season, has since retired.


Toxicologist estimates Josh Brent had 17 drinks before fatal crash

Law and Order - Toxicologist estimates Josh Brent had 17 drinks before fatal crash

DALLAS –– A forensic toxicologist estimates that ex-Cowboy Josh Brent consumed 17 drinks the night he crashed his Mercedes along an Irving highway, resulting in the death of friend and teammate Jerry Brown Jr.

Justin Schwane is the man who tested a sample of Brent’s blood after the crash and determined his blood alcohol content to be .18, more than twice the legal limit of .08. He was the first witness to take the stand Wednesday at the Frank Crowley Courthouse, the third day of testimony in Brent’s trial.

“I estimate approximately 17 standard size drinks in a 320 to 325 pound man like him,” Schwane said.

Brent told police he drank fewer than five.

Schwane works for the Southwest Institute of Forensic Science or SWIFS. Under cross-examination defense attorney Deanna Grant questioned Schwane on his credentials and on the integrity of the blood alcohol testing.

She questioned how Brent’s blood was stored, what additives were used to test the blood and about the testing equipment used.

Grant is trying to show the equipment was contaminated. During test runs, she said, a trace of alcohol showed up in a vial of pure water.

Schwane stood firm on his testimony, saying the tests met industry standards, the vials were properly stored and the equipment is not contaminated.

The wreck occurred on Dec. 8, 2012 after the two men left Club Privae in northwest Dallas. Prosecutors say a drunken Brent hit a curb and flipped his Mercedes. Brown died after the crash. 

On Tuesday, the jury saw video of his arrest. Brent was aggravated that an officer was drawing his blood to test for alcohol. Irving officer Travis Huckaby testified the retired Cowboy seemed “more concerned about getting home” than the fate of his friend. He said Brent’s “eyes welled up with tears and for the first time showed real emotion” upon being told his friend was dead.

Testimony is continuing Wednesday afternoon. Waitresses at the restaurants and clubs where Brent and other Dallas Cowboys players were partying in the hours leading up to the crash are expected to take the stand.

In addition to the intoxication manslaughter charge, Brent was also indicted for manslaughter. If a jury finds he was not intoxicated, he can still be convicted on the second count.

Brent’s attorneys do not deny he was driving too fast when he flipped his car.


Defense rests in manslaughter case of former Dallas Cowboys DT Josh Brent

LAW AND ORDER - Dallas Cowboys testify in Josh Brent intoxication manslaughter trial Jerry Brown - Josh Brent Trial

DALLAS (AP) — Former Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent‘s case in a fatal wreck that left his close friend and teammate dead will soon head to a jury, after his attorneys finished their case in one day, arguing again that he wasn’t drunk during the crash.

Brent’s defense called several witnesses Friday to make the case they laid out from the very beginning: The blood tests implicating him for drinking were wrong, and photos and video of him appearing to be drunk are misleading. Brent’s lead attorney, George Milner, rested his case Friday afternoon, and lead prosecutor Heath Harris said his case was finished shortly afterward.

If convicted of intoxication manslaughter or manslaughter, Brent could get anywhere from probation to 20 years in prison.

The December 2012 wreck in the Dallas suburb of Irving killed Jerry Brown, a practice squad linebacker who played football with Brent at the University of Illinois. Milner has argued that his client was guilty of poor judgment and bad driving, but not of causing the crash by drinking beforehand.

Laboratory expert Janine Arvizu sought to poke holes in a key part of the prosecution’s case — the blood tests that showed Brent to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.189 percent, more than twice the legal limit. A toxicologist estimated the 320-pound Brent would have had to have 17 drinks to get that drunk.

But Arvizu accused the Dallas County crime lab of using potentially spoiled fluid to process Brent’s blood samples, something she compared to a person drinking milk past its expiration date.

“Just because a result is precise doesn’t mean it’s accurate,” Arvizu said.

Judge Robert Burns would not let her testify about other problems she identified with the crime lab, calling them “pure speculation.”

A waitress at the Dallas nightclub where Brent, Brown and other Cowboys players visited that night testified that the club served water in bottles that looked like Champagne — part of Milner’s argument that security video of Brent holding the bottles might not have meant he was drinking alcohol.

Milner also argued Brent wasn’t a skilled driver and could have caused the wreck without being affected by liquor. Aya Matsuda, a restaurateur and close friend of Brent’s, recalled giving him rides to practice after finding out that he was taking the bus because he didn’t have a car.

Asked about his drinking at the nightclub, Matsuda said: “He didn’t have a single drink in his hand the whole, entire night.”

But Irving Police Officer James Fairbairn, under questioning by Milner, said Brent swerved and caused the wreck after initially hitting a curb because he was under the influence.

“Had he not been intoxicated, he probably never would have ended up at that point,” Fairbairn said.

The trial so far has taken a week. With the prosecution and defense both wrapping up their cases, the closely watched trial that’s included testimony from two Cowboys players could finish sooner than the two weeks originally expected.


Jury to deliberate in Josh Brent case next week

Law and Order - Josh Brent's attorney George Miller talks with media during the lunch break

A Dallas County jury is expected to decide next week whether former Dallas Cowboy Josh Brent was drunk the night of a car crash that killed his best friend and teammate, or whether he was sober and simply driving too fast.

In the defense’s only day of testimony Friday, Brent’s attorneys tried to undermine the validity of his blood alcohol test and offered other explanations for his behavior. Prosecutors maintained that Brent was drunk at the time of the crash.

These diverging arguments have been at the center of the contentious, weeklong trial in which Brent is charged with intoxication manslaughter for the crash that killed 25-year-old Jerry Brown Jr. The jurors will decide which version of events they believe after final arguments that begin Tuesday morning.

The defense called on a lab quality auditor Friday to testify that the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences didn’t follow industry protocols when testing Brent’s blood for alcohol in December 2012.

The tests showed that he had a blood alcohol level of 0.18, more than two times the legal driving limit of 0.08.

Janine Arvizu testified that water used as a control substance in one of the tests contained trace amounts of ethanol, an alcohol. She also testified that the institute wasn’t accredited by rigorous international standards in December 2012.

But before Arvizu took the stand, prosecutors took issue with her expertise and questioned her extensively about her qualifications. Judge Robert Burns III allowed only part of her testimony before the jury.

Earlier in the week, a toxicologist testified that defense attorneys were presenting incomplete blood test data and that the test was accurate.

Also Friday, defense attorneys rebutted video footage that showed Brent drinking inside a nightclub before the crash and argued that he could have been drinking from glass water bottles that only appeared to be alcohol.

Aya Matsuda, a friend who was with Brent before the crash, testified she didn’t see him consume alcohol.

The defense also portrayed Brent as an inexperienced driver who was prone to speeding, and suggested that these factors alone could explain the crash.

Matsuda, who works at a Japanese restaurant near where Brent lived in Irving, said Brent often walked to get takeout because he didn’t have a car. When he later got one, she said, she’d see his car “flying by” the restaurant.

The prosecution countered with records that show Brent’s Illinois driver’s license was issued in 2004.


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dallas cowboys nt josh brent and teammate jerry brown - 2012 - the boys are back blog

2008: In 2008 as a sophomore, he recorded 34 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 10 games with eight starts.

2009: In 2009 as a junior, he started all 12 games, recording 29 tackles (7 for loss) and three sacks.

2009: Brent pleaded guilty to a charge of driving under the influence on June 2, 2009, as a result of an incident from the previous February.

2012: Brent received his first career starts in 2012, replacing an injured Jay Ratliff and was coming on strong as a key player on the defensive line.

2012: On December 8, 2012, he flipped his car on the Texas State Highway 114 at 2:21 a.m. while driving under the influence, killing his passenger, college and Cowboys teammate Jerry Brown.

2012: On December 26, 2012, a grand jury indicted Brent on one count of intoxication manslaughter.

2013: On May 24, 2013, the Dallas district attorney requested to revoke Brent’s bail for not adhering to the monitoring conditions and send him to jail to await trial.

SHIFTING PRIORITIES: Josh Brent announces retirement

SHIFTING PRIORITIES - Josh Brent announces retirement - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent announced Thursday that he’s retiring from football to focus on his off-the-field issues.

“This is the right decision for me, and something that I have given a lot of thought to,” Brent explained in a statement released by the Cowboys. “I am at a point where my main focus is all about getting the priorities in my life in order. Those priorities are more important than football. Doing the right things in life are more important than football. I love the game very much. I love my teammates, but this is the right thing for me to do.”

Brent is awaiting trial on an intoxication manslaughter charge in connection with the December 8 car accident that killed practice-squad linebacker Jerry Brown Jr.

“I promised Jerry’s mother that we would support Josh in every way we could,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said, via The Associated Press. “That’s been our only thought since the accident is to support him and support our team in their support of him.”

The NFL was expected to make a decision on Brent’s playing status before the start of training camp next week. The Cowboys had been hesitant to release Brent, reportedly hoping to retain his rights in the event of a long suspension. A source told NFL.com’s Albert Breer, however, that the idea of returning to football someday “isn’t even a part of (Brent’s) thinking right now.”

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said on Thursday that “it’s premature” to discuss the possibility of Brent returning to the Cowboys should he come out of retirement. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello stated that “any request for reinstatement by (a) retired player must be reviewed and approved by the league.”

Brent played three seasons for the Cowboys, recording 44 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 39 career games.

UPDATE: Dallas County judge declines revoking bond for Josh Brent after ‘reports’ of alcohol use

Josh Brent with his attorney at a May 24, 2013 hearing - Ron Baselice DMN Staff Photographer - The Boys Are Back blog

A Dallas County judge this morning decided to not revoke or increase the bond for Dallas Cowboys lineman Josh Brent after he was called into a hearing to answer allegations of repeatedly violating the terms of his bail.

As part of his release, Brent was ordered to wear a SCRAM ankle bracelet that monitors alcohol levels and ordered to maintain a curfew. The hearing included testimony from a bond supervisor, the CEO of Brent’s rehab center and a SCRAM device supervisor, who said Brent hasn’t logged his data 22 times, which makes monitoring difficult, but there were no signs of alcohol being detected or the device being tampered with.

As part of a new arrangement, the ankle monitor worn by Brent will randomly sample for alcohol and will also take a picture of his environment at the sampling time.

Follow Selwyn Crawford’s tweets from the hearing below:

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Tweets

24 May

Selwyn Crawford @DMNSCrawford

Josh Bret’s bond not increased. He is not jailed.

24 May

Selwyn Crawford @DMNSCrawford

On cross examination, SCRAM supervisor said “there’s nothing” to indicate josh Brent consumed alcohol.

24 May

Selwyn Crawford @DMNSCrawford

SCRAM device supervisor testified that #joshbrent failed to download necessary info to device “22 times,” making monitoring difficult.

24 May

Selwyn Crawford @DMNSCrawford

SCRAM supervisor said he doesn’t believe @dallascowboys #joshbrent consumed alcohol.

24 May

Selwyn Crawford @DMNSCrawford

Report shows no alcohol or tampering detected by SCRAM alcohol monitoring advice on #joshbrent.

24 May

Selwyn Crawford @DMNSCrawford

Josh Brent’s bond supervisor acknowledges handling off case by Dallas Co. DA’s office is “unusual.”

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Original report: Dallas Cowboys lineman Joshua Brent could be in trouble again. The Dallas County District Attorney’s office has filed a motion to revoke Brent’s bond on intoxication manslaughter charges, alleging that Brent violated his bond by either drinking alcohol or being around it.

Brent, 25, was indicted for a December drinking and driving one-car crash in Irving that left his best friend and fellow Cowboy, Jerry Brown Jr., dead. Brent, who was driving the car and had a reported blood alcohol level of .18 — more than twice the legal driving limit of .08 — was placed on $100,000 bond. He was also ordered not to drink or be around alcohol. A so-called SCRAM monitor measures whether Brent has been exposed to alcohol.

Dallas County First Assistant District Attorney Heath Harris on Thursday told Jennifer Emily, courthouse reporter for The Dallas Morning News, that the device shows that Brent has either been drinking alcohol or has been around it.

A hearing on the matter has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday at the Dallas County Criminal Courts building. Harris said that Brent will be brought before a judge who will either warn him or revoke his bond. Harris told Emily that Brent has already been reprimanded once for violating the terms of his bond.

Regardless of what happens Friday, Harris said that the district attorney’s office hopes to move forward with Brent’s case soon.

“We want to get that case tried” Harris said.

Continue reading →

JOSH BRENT STATUS: Dallas County trial to begin Sept. 23

JOSH BRENT STATUS - Dallas County trial to begin Sept. 23 - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

As the Dallas Cowboys open the off-season program Monday, one big question is whether they will be joined by defensive tackle Josh Brent, who is facing intoxication manslaughter charges for the Dec. 8 death of practice-squad linebacker Jerry Brown. 

Brent will stand trial in Dallas County on Sept. 23 and faces up to 20 years in prison. 

He remains free on $100,000 bond and must wear an electronic ankle bracelet. 

But because he is not suspended by the Dallas Cowboys or the NFL, Brent could join the rest of his teammates for not only the voluntary off-season program, but the mandatory mini-camp in June as well as training camp in July.

There is no chance Brent will play for the 2013 Cowboys. But the team or the league has yet to rule officially on his status, opening the door for him to presumably participate in team activities in the interim. His $630,000 salary still counts against the salary cap.

RELATED: Stephen Jones – ‘More important’ for Josh Brent to focus on legal issues right now

Stephen Jones - 'More important' for Josh Brent to focus on legal issues right now - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

The state of limbo that Josh Brent is in when his comes to his status with the Cowboys may not be resolved any time soon. Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said during a radio interview on KRLD-FM The Fan on Tuesday that it was “more important” for Brent to focus on his legal and personal issues stemming from a December car crash that killed teammate Jerry Brown Jr. than worry about the team’s off-season programs.

“The more important thing for Josh right now is that he focus on the issues at hand for himself,” Jones said. “Obviously, he has some legal issues that he’s going to be working through, not to mention all the personal issues that are involved with what he was involved with. I think that’s what he’s focused on right now.”

Brent is no longer a part of the team’s active roster after being moved to the reserve/non-football injury list shortly after the accident. He’s still technically a member of the team, but he was not at voluntary workouts on Monday, and Jones wouldn’t specifically address Brent’s status with the team.

“There’s a lot of moving parts to that at the end of the day,” Jones said. “There’s the legal [side]. Some issues have to play out. Obviously, the NFL is going to have a big say in this. So there’s a lot of things that have to take place.

“But at the end of the day, that’s the least of our worries. Josh obviously was involved in something that was very difficult and I think his focus right now is – as it should be, a lot more important than football – which is making sure his life’s in order and addressing the challenges that he’s going to have in front of him over the coming months slash years.”

PHOTO: Josh Brent (left) and his attorney George Milner spent half an hour at the Dallas County courthouse for an announcement hearing, February 7, 2013 in Dallas, TX. The court appearance was an informal discussion, the attorney said to the dozen reporters and photographers gathered there. Brent is charged in connection with a December 8 crash that killed Cowboy’s practice squad member and friend Jerry Brown Jr. (Courtesy: Evans Caglage | DMN Staff Photographer)

SALARY CAP COMPLICATION: Josh Brent’s Sept 23 trial date a setback for Dallas Cowboys

dallas cowboys josh brent vs new york giants - the boys are back blog

The Dallas Cowboys’ hopes of using defensive tackle Josh Brent’s salary to help free up salary cap room took a hit when Brent’s trial for intoxication manslaughter was set for Sept. 23. A Dallas County grand jury in December indicted the defensive lineman in the wake of a Dec. 8 crash in the Dallas suburb of Irving that killed teammate Jerry Brown.  

There is little chance Brent plays again for the Cowboys. But his $630,000 is still on the books for next season.   The Cowboys put him on the reserve non football injury list at the end of last season and can do the same in 2013.

Any hopes of the salary-cap strapped Cowboys have of using his salary to clear space this year so they can sign some free agents now rest with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.   The Cowboys need Brent to be suspended under the NFL’s Personal Conduct policy so they can get the salary cap room back. But last week NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Goodell wouldn’t rule on Brent’s status until his case was resolved with the courts.   If the Cowboys hope to get money back to use in free agency they need Goodell to rule on Brent’s case earlier.  

BEERS, CHEERS AND CAREERS: Dallas Cowboys release statement regarding player assistance programs

JAY RATLIFF DUI ARREST DRAMA - Dallas Cowboys release statement regarding player assistance programs - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – It doesn’t matter whether the Cowboys play a 4-3 as expected, or the 3-4 defense, the position with the biggest question mark this offseason is defensive tackle.

Jay Ratliff is the latest Cowboys player to get arrested for a DWI, which occurred last week. It was revealed Monday that Ratliff’s blood-alcohol content was more than double the legal limit in Texas. His backup for three seasons, Josh Brent, is facing possible jail time after being charged with vehicular manslaughter for a drunk-driving incident that killed teammate Jerry Brown on Dec. 8.

The Cowboys made their first comments concerning the Ratliff situation today (Monday), releasing a statement from consultant Calvin Hill, a former running back from 1969-74, who has worked with in the player development staff for the last decade.

Dallas Cowboys statement:

Having recently experienced the most tragic of circumstances regarding this issue, we, as an organization, understand the ultimate consequences of driving while impaired.

We know that one incident is too many. The critical goal is to affect the decision-making process in the hours before the wrong decision is made.

Our player assistance programs in the areas of preventing incidents such as these are at the highest level in professional sports, but we are always looking to do better and for ways to improve. We will continue to draw upon the best expertise and resources available, both internally and from outside the organization, to work toward being the best in the areas of education, prevention and affecting the right decisions.  

We have been in communication with Jay Ratliff regarding this incident, and we will monitor the legal process and work within the NFL guidelines for player behavior moving forward.

Obviously, the statement expresses the Cowboys’ concern with these last two incidents and the intent to prevent this from becoming even more of a pattern.

From a football standpoint, it also hints that the Cowboys’ intend to keep Ratliff in the mix next year.

Even before his Jan. 21 arrest, his future with the club was in question due to the combination of him being 32 years of age before next season, the fact he missed 10 games with two different injuries, his face-to-face altercation with owner Jerry Jones in the locker room and his high-priced salary vs. his production. Still, it’s possible Ratliff could remain on the team.

In the six games he played in 2012, Ratliff had 10 quarterback pressures, which was still good enough to rank fourth on the team behind DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher. He missed the first four games of the season with a high-ankle sprain he suffered in the preseason, which followed a foot injury that plagued him for most of camp.

After he played six straight games, Ratliff developed a groin issue that later required sports hernia surgery, forcing him to miss the final six games.

In the middle of those six weeks, Ratliff and Jones had a heated exchange in the locker room following the Cowboys’ 38-33 win over the Eagles on Dec. 9. Eyewitnesses said the two had to be separated and the argument stemmed from Jones’ attempt to encourage Ratliff to get healthy and return to the field for the final month of the season.

After that incident, Ratliff wasn’t around much at Valley Ranch and wasn’t one of the injured players who made the final road trip to Washington. The Cowboys took several players who were on IR for support in the do-or-die game with the Redskins. Ratliff was actually still on the 53-man roster since the Cowboys chose to leave him there in case they made a playoff run.

Last week from the Senior Bowl, Jones was asked about Ratliff’s future. That question occurred before the news had broke about Ratliff’s arrest, although Jones had already been informed of the incident.

“As far as I’m concerned, he is outstanding. He has given everything he’s ever had to the Dallas Cowboys,” Jones said of Ratliff. “With me, any of that emotion that was involved between us is only reflected back on the many times that we’ve had in our own way some emotional time with each other.

“And it in no way before was it ever contentious, so when you’ve got the kind of background we’ve got together, then if you have a moment that you might not have been on the same page, that’s like father-son, that’s like family, that’s like all that. That’s forgotten when you know each other has your best interests at heart. We both know that.”

If Ratliff is waived before June 1, the Cowboys would save about $1 million on the cap. If they cut him after June 1 or at least designated him as a June 1 cut, meaning he could be cut after the Super Bowl, but his roster wouldn’t come off the books until June 1, the Cowboys could save about $5 million on the cap this year, but then would get a $4 million hit next season.

As for Brent, Jerry Jones said just last week he’s not closing the door on having Brent back next year. He said the legal system will obviously dictate the status of Brent, who could be facing up to 20 years in prison.

“My thinking has been dictated by the legal process, so until we know more about timing, status, how that’s resolved there, then I won’t even think about where he is as far as his career is concerned,” Jones said. “We’ll see. We have to, and that involves ultimately league matters as well, and more importantly, where he is in the justice system.”

MORE NOSE WOES: Jay Ratliff arrested for suspicion of DWI

Dallas Cowboys NT Jay Ratliff arrrested - The Boys Are Back blog

MOBILE, Ala. – For the second time in two months, a Cowboys defensive tackle has been arrested for a DWI-related incident.

This time, there were no serious injuries, but it’s definitely a serious situation for Jay Ratliff, who spent Tuesday morning in jail in Grapevine. Ratliff was released on bond later that morning.

Soon after midnight, Ratliff was reportedly involved in a crash with his Ford pickup truck and an 18-wheeler on Highway 114.

Cowboys officials said Ratliff did not sustain any major injuries, nor did the driver of the 18-wheeler. However, Ratliff was arrested at the scene for suspicion of driving while intoxicated after reportedly refusing to take a breathalyzer test.

This comes less than two months after the Dec. 8 accident that killed linebacker Jerry Brown. Defensive tackle Josh Brent was driving and arrested for vehicular manslaughter.

At the funeral for Brown, Ratliff was seen hugging Brent, a close friend, for several minutes.

Ironically, the two play the same position and were both missed on the playing field toward the end of the season. Ratliff suffered from a groin injury that required sports hernia surgery and Brent was placed on the non-football injury reserved list following the accident.

Ratliff had a season to forget in 2012, which included a foot injury that forced him to miss most of training camp, followed by a high-ankle sprain in the third preseason game. That kept Ratliff out until the sixth week of the season, and while he played well for a few games, it wasn’t long before the groin injury occurred that ultimately ended his season.

And along the way, there was a locker-room incident with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Dec. 2 following the Eagles game at Cowboys Stadium. Eyewitnesses said Ratliff and Jones had a face-to-face shouting match that occurred after Jones confronted the defensive tackle and inquired about his injury.

Ratliff has not been available for comment since before the groin injury. On Tuesday in Mobile, Ala. at the Senior Bowl, Jones was asked about the incident and his relationship with Ratliff.

It’s expected that Jones was fully aware of the incident when he made this comments about Ratliff:

“As far as I’m concerned, he is outstanding. He has given everything he’s ever had to the Dallas Cowboys,” Jones said. “With me, any of that emotion that was involved between us is only reflected back on many times that we’ve had in our own way some emotional time with each other. 

“And it in no way before was it ever contentious, so when you’ve got the kind of background we’ve got together, then if you have a moment that you might not have been on the same page, that’s like father-son, that’s like family, that’s like all that. That’s forgotten when you know each other has your best interests at heart. We both know that.”

With or without this latest incident, Ratliff was a player who could be released for salary-cap reasons. If Ratliff is waived before June 1, the Cowboys would save about $1 million on the cap. If they cut him after June 1 or at least designated him as a June 1 cut, meaning he could be cut after the Super Bowl but his roster spot wouldn’t come off the books until June 1, the Cowboys could save about $5 million on the cap this year, but then would get a $4 million hit next season.

AUTOPSY FINDINGS: Dallas Cowboys Jerry Brown Jr. not legally intoxicated

Dallas Cowboys Jerry Jerome Brown Jr. 1987-2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

DALLAS — An autopsy found that Dallas Cowboys practice-squad player Jerry Brown Jr. was not legally intoxicated when he was killed in a crash that led to an intoxication manslaughter charge against the teammate at the wheel.

The Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office reported Thursday that Brown died of head and neck trauma when their vehicle overturned. He had a dislocated neck, a severely bruised spine and a blood-alcohol content of 0.056 percent. The Texas drunken-driving standard is 0.08 percent.

Police have said Cowboys nose guard Josh Brent, who was driving, had a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit when after the Dec. 8 crash in Irving, a Dallas suburb. He remains free on $100,000 bond.

Police say neither man was wearing a seatbelt.

PLAYER EVALUATIONS: Millionaire Miles, Felix Jones, stopping the run, and the Jenkins factor

Dallas Cowboys WR Miles Austin nearly breaks free for a TD vs Cleveland Browns - The Boys Are Back blog

The season is over and it’s time to think about a few things. For example, is Miles Austin earning his money? Is it time for Felix Jones, who’s now a free agent, to find a new team? What do the Cowboys need to stop the run in 2013? And finally, should Dallas keep cornerback Mike Jenkins?

1. In 2010, Miles Austin signed a seven-year $57.1 million contract. Austin’s deal meant a few things: He moved into an elite level in regards with his contract and was to become the No. 1 receiver on the Cowboys. After signing that deal, Dez Bryant surpassed him as a bigger threat, Austin has had just one 1,000 yard season, 2010, he fell 57 yards short of it in 2012 and his health continues to be a question. He failed to finish the game against Washington on Sunday night because of a high-ankle sprain. He’s endured hamstring issues the last two seasons. Austin is scheduled to earn $6.7 million in 2013 and it raises a question: Is Austin earning his money? I doubt if the Cowboys are going to release Austin because no matter how good Bryant is, there is still an unpredictability about him away from the field. Austin is a good player but the team needs more from him considering the money he’s making.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo hands the ball off to Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones

2. Felix Jones won’t return in 2013 but he did finish the final game of the season with 24 yards on five carries. Jones hit holes with a burst and seemed to run with little limitations. He’s battled injuries to both knees and he probably should have stayed on the bench. But he displayed a toughness that was necessary from the running back position. Jones was put in a bad situation by the Cowboys. He was drafted as a backup to then-starter Marion Barber. When Barber’s health started to betray him, the Cowboys asked Jones to become a starter but his own health failed him too. It’s time for Jones, who becomes a free agent, to find a new team and for the Cowboys to stop drafting players to become backups. If the Cowboys draft a running back this spring, it should be designed to give competition to DeMarco Murray. If Murray is better than the new back, fine, keep the job. Life for a NFL running back is dangerous. One week he’s healthy, the next he’s not and you need to have quality ones on the depth chart. Jones is an average running back, but not starters material and when it was time for him to take over for an injured Murray and Barber, he couldn’t do the job on a consistent basis.

2012 Dallas Cowboys defense loses Bruce Carter to IR - The Boys Are Back blog

3. Want to know why the Cowboys failed to stop the run in 2012? They lost of four players that clogged the middle of the field. Jay Ratliff (injury), Josh Brent (suspension), Sean Lee (injury) and Bruce Carter (injury) were the force up the gut for the Cowboys. When the Cowboys didn’t have Ratliff at the start of the season, the club still had Brent a solid run stopper. But when Brent was lost, Sean Lissemore was moved from defensive end to nose tackle. The Cowboys also moved Robert Callaway and signed Brian Schaefering to help inside. Lee and Carter replacements at inside linebacker were Dan Connor, Ernie Sims and at times Alex Albright. The backups failed to produce for the Cowboys as evident by the run defense allowing at least 100 yards in six of the last seven weeks of the season. Moving forward the Cowboys need to draft or sign another inside linebacker in free agency who can provide depth. The Cowboys allowed 274 rushing yards in the regular season finale and gave up at least 150 rushing yards twice and 125 or more yards five times. It’s hard to win games when that happens regularly.

Dallas Cowboys CB Mike Jenkins vs New York Giants - The Boys Are Back blog

4. The Cowboys have 16 unrestricted free agents and one of them is a former first-round pick, cornerback Mike Jenkins. It seems the Cowboys were never quite happy with Jenkins the entire offseason. He didn’t rehab his surgically repaired shoulder in Dallas, instead doing it in Florida. Jenkins didn’t attend the voluntary workouts, although he was there for the mandatory sessions. But as is always the case in the NFL, injuries dictate a lot of things. Jenkins saw playing time, especially when slot corner Orlando Scandrick went down with a hand injury. Jenkins even played some at safety and on special teams. It appears Jenkins may not return in 2013, leaving the Cowboys looking for a fourth corner in free agency or the draft. "Do I want to come back?" Jenkins asked. "I’ve grown attached, I’ve been here for five years, I’ve grown attached to everybody here. It’s hard to just get up and leave and not want to come back. At the same time ,you want to go somewhere and have a fair opportunity and I guess go on from there."

OFF THE FIELD NEWS: Dallas Cowboys NT Josh Brent indicted in fatal wreck

Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent, center, is surrounded by media after leaving court Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012 in Dallas - The Boys Are Back blog

DALLAS — A Dallas County grand jury on Wednesday indicted Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent on one count of intoxication manslaughter in a Dec. 8 wreck in Irving that killed teammate Jerry Brown.

Brent is free on $100,000 bail. No court dates have been set, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office said.

The maximum sentence on the charge is 20 years in prison.

According to news reports, before the crash Brent and Brown had been at a Dallas club. About 2:15 a.m., Brent was driving his Mercedes-Benz on a service road of Texas 114 when the car hit a curb, flipped and caught fire. Brown was pronounced dead at a hospital. Brent had minor injuries.

Brent had an Illinois driver’s license that was reported to have been suspended and expired.

Last week, a judge ordered Brent not to drive until he gets a Texas license and ordered him to wear an ankle monitor that detects alcohol consumption. Brent has a previous DWI conviction.

NFC EAST CHAMPIONSHIP FLEXED TO SNF: Dallas Cowboys and Redskins to end NFL 2012-2013 regular season in dramatic fashion

The Rivalry - Washington Redskins vs Dallas Cowboys Rivalry - The Boys Are Back blog

ARLINGTON, Texas — It had to come down to a final game. Had to. Just like it’s come down to the final drive over and over again. The white-knuckled way the Dallas Cowboys‘ season had gone, it would never end with coach Jason Garrett and his players watching the final day play out with their feet up, coasting into the playoffs. It wouldn’t fit. It had to be like this.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins on Sunday night. Prime time. A playoff spot and NFC East crown for the winner. Just like last year, when it was Giants-Cowboys. Like it should be.

Continue reading →

MANAGING EMOTIONS: Drew Pearson sees a lot of Tom Landry in Jason Garrett

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones shakes hands with Drew Pearson, who was inducted into the Ring of Honor at Cowboys Stadium on Nov. 6, 2011 - The Boys Are Back blog

ARLINGTON — The Dallas Cowboys will take the field for the next two weeks hoping to continue their run to the playoffs.

It will also be their attempt to move forward from the tragedy and emotional roller coaster they have never experienced.

The death of linebacker Jerry Brown, and the status of nose tackle Josh Brent — charged in the death of his best friend and teammate — will certainly cast a shadow on the rest of the Cowboys’ season, no matter how they finish.

“Oh, yeah, it is absolutely that,” said coach Jason Garrett, whose leadership and handling of the team during this trying situation has already been hailed as the crowning moment of his coaching tenure. “It’s an ongoing thing for a long, long time for everybody. Nobody who is associated with this organization, this football team who knows Jerry and Josh and this situation, this tragedy will never be the same as a result of it.”

Mike Jenkins, left, Jay Ratliff and the rest of the Cowboys continue the healing process - The Boys Are Back blog

The Cowboys (8-6) will use football to take their minds off the tragedy and to continue living. Making a run to the playoffs is the best way they feel they can honor Brown.

Still, some things can never be forgotten.

Continue reading →

SIDELINE MEDIA CIRCUS: Teammates brought Josh Brent to game; he went home to avoid distraction

Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent on sidelines vs Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Monday that the Cowboys were unaware that inactive defensive lineman Josh Brent would attend Sunday’s game against the Steelers at Cowboys Stadium.

Teammates urged Brent, who had been scheduled to start against the Bengals, to attend, Garrett said.

Also Monday, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said Brent went home after he became aware he was being shown on television at Sunday’s game and perhaps becoming a distraction.

“The last thing he wants to do is be a distraction,” Jones said Monday on KRLD 105.3 FM “The Fan.” “He got word that he was showing up on television, and he made the decision that he was going to go home.”

Brent’s presence on the sideline became a topic of discussion among some fans and media during Sunday’s game. CBS analyst Boomer Esiason said it was a “disgrace” for the Cowboys to have him on the sideline during the game.

Stephen Jones said Monday that Josh Brent went home after he learned he was on TV during Sunday's game - The Boys Are Back blog

The team has taken to heart the words of Brown’s mother to support Brent.

“I think what happened is Josh had planned not to be there,” Jones said. “It was our understanding a few of his teammates who are on injured reserve had gone by to get him, to try to keep his spirits up, and obviously came to the game.”

Jones was asked if Brent will be on the sideline at the next game, Sunday when the Cowboys play host to the New Orleans Saints.

“Well, I don’t want to speculate,” Jones said. “Obviously, Josh is certainly aware of the situation. It’s certainly not an easy one.

"Everybody is mourning the loss of Jerry Brown and wants to honor and celebrate his life. Certainly Josh knows where that is, and the last thing he wants to be is a distraction. It’s something that Josh is going to have to endure for the rest of his life. We’ll just see how things go.”

RELATED: Cowboys will be more sensitive to public appearances by Josh Brent

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said the team will continue to support Josh Brent but that it will be more sensitive to his public appearances with the team.

“It becomes a very sensitive topic to a lot of people when you are in a public place like the game, and there were no bad intentions other than to support Josh, a part of our football team,” Garrett said Monday at his press conference at Valley Ranch.

Brent’s presence on the sideline at Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh sparked some criticism on social media and among fans and observers. Namely, CBS analyst Boomer Esiason called it a “disgrace.”

Garrett said the Cowboys will think about how to deal with that situation next week.

“I thought Josh handled it beautifully,” Garrett said of the player’s visit to the sideline. “He came, and when he felt like there were some issues, he felt like the right thing to do was to leave. But we’re going to support him in every way that we can. We’ll also be sensitive to this kind of an issue.”

Garrett said he did not know Brent was going to be at the game, although he had talked to him on the phone the previous day. He said he learned that the players encouraged Brent to come to the game.

“That was a result of the wishes of Jerry Brown’s mom, who stood before us at the memorial on Tuesday and really encouraged everybody and almost made a plea to everybody to keep Josh in our family and keep him close and support him in every way that we can,” Garrett said. “And the players really took that upon themselves to say, ‘Hey, Josh, you need to be here at this game.’ That was something that they felt was really, really important. Encouraged him to do that. It turned into a little something that maybe a lot of people didn’t exactly expect.

“We’re trying to handle it day by day and work our way through it. We’ll have some more discussions about that going forward.”

Brent left in the third quarter when he learned that his presence on the sideline was causing a stir.

FROM DYNASTY TO DESTINY: Dallas Cowboys persevering spirit helps them beat Steelers in OT

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) catches a touchdown pass in front of Pittsburgh Steelers - The Boys Are Back blog

ARLINGTON — The Dallas Cowboys still aren’t a pretty football team.

They remain injury-riddled and mistake-prone at times.

But they have proven to have a persevering spirit that has been tested on and off the field through triumph and tragedy.

Now — after the Cowboys rallied to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24 in overtime before 95,595 fans at Cowboys Stadium — they might be destined as well.

Cornerback Brandon Carr’s interception off Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and 36-yard return two plays into overtime set up Dan Bailey’s game-winning kick from 21 yards out.

Dallas Cowboys Josh Brent, right, on the sidelines with teammates vs Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

It was the Cowboys’ third consecutive win — the second since practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown was killed in a one-car accident and nose tackle Josh Brent was charged with intoxication manslaughter. Dallas also beat Cincinnati on a last-second kick by Bailey less than 24 hours after learning about the tragedy.

It was the fifth win in their past six games for the Cowboys, once a disappointing mess at 3-5 but now in a first-place tie in the NFC East and in control of their playoff destiny.

The Cowboys (8-6) are tied atop the division with the New York Giants and Washington Redskins. They would win the NFC East title if they win their remaining two games against the New Orleans Saints at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday and at the Redskins in the season finale Dec. 30.

Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Will Allen (26) brings down Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dwayne Harris - The Boys Are Back blog

"Again, this bunch wouldn’t, just would not quit," an ecstatic owner Jerry Jones said about his Cowboys, who won on a fourth-quarter or overtime comeback for the fifth time season — a complete opposite of last year, when they lost five games after blowing fourth-quarter leads.

"I’m just impressed," Jones said. "On top of that, dealing with the with the kinds of things we’ve been dealing with, I give them [credit], but I also give [coach] Jason [Garrett] a lot of credit in keeping everybody’s eye on the ball and at the same time understanding what the important thing is, and that’s to honor Jerry Brown’s life and support each other during this tough time."

The Cowboys got the win with Brent on their sideline. He is out on bail while awaiting his trial. Garrett said the Cowboys asked Brent to be there and they followed the lead of Brown’s mother, who pleaded with them to continue to support him.

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) and his teammates wore a number 53 sticker on their helmets in honor Jerry Brown Jr. - The Boys Are Back blog

It’s that same support that the Cowboys have shown for each other during adverse times since the beginning of the season that has sparked the recent winning streak. It continued to play a huge role on Sunday when the Steelers took a 24-17 lead in the fourth quarter, much to the delight of a large, boisterous clan of Steelers fans at Cowboys Stadium.

A Cowboys team playing without seven defensive regulars, including six starters, because of injury, refused to lose.

A potentially back-breaking 22-yard punt return by Steelers receiver Antonio Brown early in the fourth quarter became a Cowboys break when linebacker Victor Butler forced a fumble and tight end John Phillips recovered at the Steelers’ 44.

Quarterback Tony Romo started off with a 13-yard pass to receiver Dez Bryant, who played with a fractured index finger and scored in the third quarter. He then found tight end Jason Witten for 9 yards and receiver Dwayne Harris for 17, setting up a 3-yard touchdown run by DeMarco Murray.

Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Anthony Spencer (93) celebrates sacking Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger - The Boys Are Back blog

The Cowboys’ defense sacked Roethlisberger three times in the fourth quarter, with 1 1/2 by Anthony Spencer, setting up Carr’s final heroics.

"It was just reaction and instinct," said Carr, who also keyed the win last week at Cincinnati with an interception. "That’s how the whole season has been. We just keep fighting."

MOTHERS LOVE TRUMPS BOOMER: Jerry Jones defends having Josh Brent on sideline despite criticism

Jerry Jones defends having Josh Brent on sideline despite criticism

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he stands behind today’s decision to have defensive tackle Josh Brent on the team’s sideline for the Pittsburgh game despite criticism from network television analysts and some Cowboys’ fans.

Jones said Brent, who is facing charges of intoxication manslaughter related to last week’s death of former teammate Jerry Brown, joined the Cowboys on the sideline for the team’s first home game since the Dec. 8 accident because that was the desire of Stacey Jackson, Brown’s mother. Jones said Jackson specifically asked team members to support Brent, Brown’s best friend and roommate, because the family loved him and urged the Cowboys to “give your brother love.”

“Our team and our players wanted him today on the sideline,” Jones said. “Jerry’s mother asked us directly as a group. She said, ‘Support him. Help him. He needs your help. Jerry wants that. I want that.’ His teammates asked him to come and be down there with them.”

The move triggered negative feedback from some Cowboys’ fans, who responded via Twitter and email once it was reported that Brent was on the team’s sideline. During Sunday’s telecast, CBS analyst Boomer Esiason called it “disgraceful” that Brent was standing with his teammates. During the network’s pregame show, Esiason said: “Football players are an example and Josh Brent is the worst of those examples.”

Jones said he realizes “there’s the other side of the coin” in regard to Brent’s situation but he stood by the team’s decision despite any criticism it generated. So did coach Jason Garrett, who said the move was “initiated by our players” and aimed at honoring Jackson’s wishes.

“She considers Josh a son and she loves him very much,” Garrett said. “We’re going to try and support him every way that we can.”

The Cowboys began Sunday’s game with a moment of silence for Brown as well as the victims of Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

SOAKED TEXAS-SIZED TEAR TOWELS: Dallas Cowboys fight for NFC East title

Fans hold up a huge (tear sized) Terrible Towel before the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Dallas Cowboys - The Boys Are Back blog

The Texas sized Terrible Towels fittingly became Texas-Sized Tear Towels for approximately 15,000 visiting Pittsburgh Steeler fans.

ARLINGTON — Brandon Carr intercepted a pass from Ben Roethlisberger to set up Dan Bailey’s 21-yard field goal in overtime, and the Dallas Cowboys beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24 on Sunday.

The Cowboys won a Bailey kick on the final play for the second straight week since practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown was killed in a one-car accident that led to manslaughter charges against teammate Josh Brent.

Carr intercepted Roethlisberger’s pass along the sideline and returned it 36 yards to the 1. Bailey’s kick came after Tony Romo took a 2-yard loss to put the kicker in better position.

It was a disappointing ending for tens of thousands of Terrible Towel-waving Pittsburgh fans at Cowboys Stadium.

The Cowboys (8-6) moved into a three-way tie for the NFC East lead with the New York Giants and Washington Redskins. The Steelers (7-7) lost for the fourth time in five games.

A CLOSER LOOK AT THE NFC EAST STANDINGS

There were a pair of early Sunday games that had big implications to the Cowboys’ playoff hopes. One worked out for Dallas while the other didn’t. Here’s an updated look at the NFC East standings after the Cowboys’ win this afternoon, the remaining games for the NFC East contenders and a pair of recaps of the Sunday NFC East action (reminder: The Philadelphia Eagles played on Thursday and lost to the Cincinnati Bengals).

NFC East Standings

t-1. Dallas Cowboys: 8-6

t-1. Washington Redskins: 8-6

t-1. New York Giants: 8-6

4. Philadelphia Eagles: 4-10

Remaining games:

Dallas Cowboys: vs. New Orleans, @Washington

Washington Redskins: @Philadelphia, vs. Dallas

New York Giants: @Baltimore, vs. Philadelphia

Recap: Redskins 38, Browns 21

CLEVELAND — Robert Griffin III watched as the Redskins’ other rookie quarterback won again.

Rookie Kirk Cousins threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns filling in for an injured Griffin, leading Washington to its fifth straight win, 38-21 over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

Cousins connected with Leonard Hankerson for both TDs in his first career start and the Redskins (8-6) barely missed a beat without the talented and multi-dimensional RG3, who sat out with a sprained knee.

Last week, Cousins came off the bench after Griffin got hurt and rallied the Redskins to an overtime win. Cousins was behind center from the start of this one and delivered a performance that extended Washington’s longest winning streak since 2007 and moved the Redskins into a tie for first in the NFC East.

Rookie Trent Richardson had a pair of TD runs for the Browns (5-9).

Alfred Morris, a childhood rival of Richardson, had two touchdowns for the Redskins.

Wearing a burgundy warm-up suit instead of his No. 10 jersey, Griffin, who sustained a mild sprain in the fourth quarter last week against Baltimore, cheered from the sideline as Cousins kept the Redskins (8-6) moving toward a possible spot in the playoffs.

Cousins may not have RG3’s talent, but the fourth-round pick from Michigan State was efficient, accurate and only made one major mistake — an early interception to set up Cleveland’s first TD.

Cousins finished 26 of 37 as the Redskins improved to 5-0 since their bye. They’ll end the season with games against NFC East rivals Philadelphia and Dallas, teams they beat in consecutive weeks to start their streak.

Griffin’s playing status was in doubt all week before the Redskins surprisingly announced late Saturday night that Cousins would start. If the Browns thought they were getting a break, Cousins proved to be as challenging to stop as his more elusive and hyped teammate.

The Browns (5-9) had their winning streak stopped at three and faint playoff hopes snuffed out. Coach Pat Shurmur’s fate may have rested on the Browns winning out, but that won’t happen and his days in Cleveland could be dwindling quickly.

Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden struggled from the outset. He went 21 of 35 for 244 yards and two picks, both leading to Washington touchdowns.

Cousins’ second TD pass to Hankerson, a 2-yarder, gave the Redskins a 24-14 lead. As Cousins came to the sideline, Griffin gave him a fist bump and then sat on the bench with his backup, who for the past two weeks has shown he too can lead the Redskins to victory.

Washington went ahead 31-14 on Evan Royster’s 4-yard run.

Weeden came back with a 69-yard scoring strike to speedy rookie Travis Benjamin to pull the Browns within 10, but Cousins calmly took the Redskins down the field again with Morris scoring from eight to make 38-21.

The Redskins needed this win, and Cousins made sure they got it.

He shook off the early pick and showed exceptional play faking ability. With Griffin out and inactive, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan had to alter his game plan and Cousins ran it with precision.

Linebacker Rob Jackson’s interception of Weeden helped the Redskins take a 17-14 lead less than two minutes into the third quarter on Morris’ 3-yard TD run.

Jackson picked off Weeden and returned it to the 15. Three plays later, Morris pulled in for his eighth rushing TD, tying the team rookie record set by Skip Hicks in 199

Richardson’s second TD run gave the Browns a 14-10 lead with 1:11 left before halftime.

Cleveland’s offense had been in a funk for most of the second quarter before Weeden completed five passes to get the Browns to Washington’s 3. Richardson did the rest, busting over the left side for his 11th rushing TD. Earlier, he broke Hall of Famer Jim Brown’s 55-year-old team rookie record for rushing TDs.

Kai Forbath’s 44-yard field goal put the Redskins ahead 10-7. Forbath has started his career 15 of 15.

Cousins threw a 54-yard TD pass to Hankerson in the first quarter to tie it 7-7.

The Redskins gained just seven yards on their first four plays before Cousins, rolling right on the kind of play Shanahan has devised to maximize Griffin’s wondrous skills, hooked up with Hankerson.

Browns safety T.J. Ward intercepted Cousins, on a ball tipped by cornerback Sheldon Brown, to set up Richardson’s TD run in the first quarter. Ward returned the pick to Washington’s 6-yard line, where he was tackled by Cousins, who showed good form in preventing an easy TD.

On the next play, Richardson took a handoff to the left side, was stopped at about the 2 and kept his legs and the pile moving into the end zone.

Recap: Falcons 34, Giants 0

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons sent a message to all the skeptics with a resounding victory over the defending Super Bowl champions.

Matt Ryan threw three touchdowns passes and the Falcons defense handed New York its first regular-season shutout since 1996, stifling the Giants 34-0 on Sunday.

Julio Jones caught a couple of scoring throws from Ryan, who broke his own franchise records for completions and passing yards in a season. Matty Ice finished 23 of 28 for 270 yards.

The Falcons (12-2), who have already clinched the NFC South, moved a step closer to locking up home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs. One more win would ensure that any postseason contests before the Super Bowl are held at the Georgia Dome.

Eli Manning threw two interceptions for New York (8-6), which dropped into a first-place tie with Washington in the NFC South. Dallas had a chance to make it a three-way tie later in the day, hosting Pittsburgh.

The Giants also went 0-for-3 on fourth down and missed a short field goal.

Despite their lofty record, Atlanta has received plenty of criticism for winning ugly against inferior opponents. A 30-20 loss to last-place Carolina the previous week only seemed to reinforce the notion that the Falcons are headed for another short stay in the playoffs. They have yet to win a postseason game since Ryan took over as the quarterback in 2008, going 0-3.

But one thing the Falcons never seem to do anymore is lose two straight games. They extended the NFL’s longest active streak since consecutive defeats to 49 games, going back to the 2009 season.

For the Giants, it was a miserable performance when they desperately needed a win, at a time of year when they normally play some of their best football.

Manning threw his first pick on the second play of scrimmage, setting up a quick Atlanta touchdown. Coach Tom Coughlin made a curious call late in the first half, passing up another short field goal attempt when his team was almost 2 yards shy of the marker. Asante Samuel batted down a short pass intended for Victor Cruz, sending Atlanta to the locker room with a commanding 17-0 lead and all the momentum.

But even if the Giants had taken the field goal, it’s probably wouldn’t have made much difference.

The tone in this one was set right away.

When Manning attempted to hit Hakeem Nicks on a short pass to the right, Samuel stepped in to make the interception and return it to the Giants 16. From there, Michael Turner ran it four straight times, the last of those a 1-yard plunge that gave Atlanta a 7-0 lead less than 3 minutes into the game.

It was all Falcons after Lawrence Tynes missed a chip shot kick from 30 yards, ruining an impressive second possession by the Giants. Atlanta took it 80 yards from there, with Ryan going to Harry Douglas on a 37-yard gain for the big gainer. Then, on third-and-11 from the 12, Ryan went to his favorite target, Tony Gonzalez, in the end zone. The 16-year veteran leaped over safety Will Hill to haul in the high throw — and hopped up quickly for his customary dunk over the goalposts.

Early in the second half, the Falcons blew it open on Ryan’s 40-yard touchdown pass to Jones down the left sideline. Finally, after a drive that used up more than 9 minutes in the fourth quarter, Ryan went to Jones for a 3-yard TD.

The Giants turned it over one more time in the closing minutes, finishing off their first shutout in the regular season since a 24-0 defeat at Philadelphia on Dec. 1, 1996. The performance came just a week after they put up 52 points on the New Orleans Saints.

There was a moment of silence before the game honoring the Connecticut shooting victims, and the Giants also wore "SHES" decals on their helmets for Sandy Hills Elementary School.

THREE-WAY TIE–THREE WIN STREAK: Dallas Cowboys 27, Pittsburgh Steelers 24

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) adjusts his helmet, revealing his broken left hand - The Boys Are Back blog

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Cowboys extended their season-saving winning streak to three games with a dramatic, 27-24, victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime on Sunday.

The Cowboys season continued their playoff hopes when Brandon Carr intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass and returned it 36 yards to set up the game-winning kick, of 21 yards by Dan Bailey.

When it was over, Miles Austin was pushing his coach, Jason Garrett and Jason Hatcher was hugging him. Emotions are high for the Cowboys with two games remaining in the regular season.

What it means?: The Cowboys are in a three-way tie for first place in the NFC East. However, the Cowboys own the tie-breaker over the New York Giants because they have a better division record. Washington is in first place because it owns the tie-breaker over the Cowboys thanks to their Thanksgiving Day victory.

Dez Bryant and the broken finger: Dez Bryant played with a broken left index finger. It was taped up and the tip of the finger was exposed. The Steelers played him tough with double coverage on some passing downs, even dropping a linebacker underneath his routes. Bryant finished with four catches for 55 yards.

The decision: Dwayne Harris caught a four yard pass at the 2:00 mark and after a measurement, coach Jason Garrett elected to punt from his own 21. It would have been a gutsy call late in the game, but it seems as if Garrett was trusting his defense to get him the ball and he didn’t want to put the defense at risk with defending the Steelers deep in their own territory. It ended up not costing the Cowboys anything because the Steelers punted. Garrett had another decision late in regulation, setting up for a 61-yard field goal for Bailey, but after a timeout, he elected to punt the ball eventually forcing overtime.

Cowboys honor victims and a teammate: The Cowboys held a moment of silence for deceased linebacker Jerry Brown and for the victims of Friday’s school shooting in Newton, Conn. The Cowboys had Brown’s jersey on their bench and a No. 53 decal on the back of their helmet. Nose tackle Josh Brent, who was charged with intoxication manslaughter, attended the game.

Who’s next?: If you thought it was loud with Steelers fans at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday, wait until you hear the New Orleans Saints fans who visit here next week. The Saints beat Tampa Bay, 41-0, on Sunday.

ROLLER COASTER ROSTER: Josh Brent placed on RNFI list; Veteran DT Brian Schaefering signs

ROLLER COASTER ROSTER - Josh Brent placed on RNFI list; Veteran DT Brian Schaefering signs - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, TexasJosh Brent is no longer on the Cowboys’ 53-man roster. After several discussions with the NFL this week, the Cowboys have now officially removed him from the roster, placing him on reserved/non-football illness list (RNFI).

That keeps him with the team and able to be at the complex. It’s unclear how restricted he will be in terms of meetings or other team functions. Not only is his legal status uncertain, but Brent also has physical injuries as well. He attended the memorial service for Jerry Brown on Tuesday with a small cast on his right wrist.

Garrett reiterated Wednesday how much support the Cowboys have and will continue to have for Brent.

“Josh is part of our family. We have unconditional love for him,” Garrett said. “And we’re going to make sure that we support him in every way we can. Players, coaches, our organization, and make him feel that support every way … having him be here, and knowing that people are around him to help him and he can call us, he can just be around us, he can cry, he can laugh – he can do whatever he needs to do – and we’ll be there to help him.”

The Cowboys have used Brent’s spot on the roster to sign defensive tackle Brian Schaefering, who has played in Rob Ryan’s scheme in Cleveland. In fact, Schaefering (6-4, 292) played all 16 games, including nine starts for the Browns in 2010, Ryan’s last season there as defensive coordinator.

Veteran DT Brian Schaefering signs with Dallas Cowboys - The Boys Are Back blog

Schaefering, as mentioned in a previous The Boys Are Back post, played all 16 games for the Browns last season, has been out of the league this year, but after a workout with the Dallas Cowboys this morning (Wednesday), was officially signed to the roster.

He becomes the fifth defensive player signed this season who was currently not on a roster or practice squad, along with Charlie Peprah, Eric Frampton, Ernie Sims and Brady Poppinga.

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WEEKLY ROSTER UPDATE: Cowboys claim CB Michael Coe

IN THE TRENCHES: Dallas Cowboys work out veteran DL

IRVING, Texas – With Josh Brent out for the season and Jay Ratliff’s availability still in question because of a lingering groin injury, the Cowboys have brought in veteran Brian Schaefering for a workout.

Brian Schaefering - The Boys Are Back blog

“We need somebody to help us right now,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “Jay’s a question mark, so we’re down to five guys. If we get an injury we’re down to four, so we’ve got to get someone in here getting ready to play in case somebody gets injured.”

Schaefering played for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in Cleveland. From 2009-11, he had 72 tackles in 37 games, but he was cut by the Browns on Aug. 31.

Jones said he was not sure if Ratliff could return this week from a groin injury that has kept him out of the last three games. Ratliff went for a second opinion on his injury, which concurred with the team’s medical staff, according to Jones.

Without Ratliff and the impending move of Brent to NFI, the Cowboys have Jason Hatcher, Marcus Spears, Sean Lissemore, Tyrone Crawford and Robert Callaway on the defensive line.

JERRY BROWN MEMORIAL: A time for healing, forgiveness

Dallas Cowboys Jerry Brown Jr. 1987-2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

DALLAS — Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent stands accused of killing teammate Jerry Brown in a fiery drunk-driving accident, but the mother of the deceased practice-squad linebacker refuses to view him as anything but her son’s best friend.

Jerry Brown Jr.'s mother, Stacey Jackson - The Boys Are Back blog

Stacey Jackson made that clear with her actions before, during and after the memorial service for her son Tuesday afternoon.

In a striking display of forgiveness, Brent and Jackson arrived together at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in South Dallas. They also sat in the same row during the hour-long service and left together.

Jackson spoke to the team, encouraging them to support Brent. The massive player was charged with intoxication manslaughter after Irving police say he lost control early Saturday morning of his speeding 2007 Mercedes with Brown as a passenger.

The private tribute on a sunny but chilly day was closed to the media.

“We won’t have any comment because of the sanctity of the service,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said afterward.

But during his radio show Tuesday morning, Jones said Jackson requested Brent meet her and her family at the airport so they could ride together to the memorial after they arrived from St. Louis on the owner’s private jet.

“What happened is so tragic,” Jones told KRLD-FM. “But (Jackson) wanted to be right with Josh and to express in every way she could how much they loved him and didn’t want to have him grieve for his friend without being included in their family.”

Brent, 24, and Brown, 25, were teammates and roommates at Illinois from 2007-09. When Dallas signed Brown, he began rooming again with Brent.

Brown played for the Arena Football League’s San Antonio Talons before being signed by Indianapolis in May. The Cowboys signed Brown after the Colts cut him in October.

“Josh was elated when Jerry came on the team,” Jones said.

In an appearance on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” on Monday, Jackson explained why she has embraced Brent. (click HERE to watch video)

“I was upset, but I realized our youth today are young and stupid, and we were all once that age, and we’ve all done things we’re not proud of,” Jackson said.

“I realized everyone thinks they’re invincible, and everyone thinks, ‘It’s not going to happen to me.’ I know Josh Brent, and he’s been part of our family since Jerry went to Illinois. All I can do is to pray for him and his family. I know (Brent) is hurting just as much as we are, because (he) and Jerry were like brothers.”

Free on $500,000 bail and with his right hand wrapped in a white bandage, Brent wore a white long-sleeved shirt and gray pants to the memorial, where Brown’s framed No. 53 Cowboys jersey was displayed.

In what was surely an emotional moment, Jackson received the football (game ball) coach Jason Garrett posthumously awarded Brown after Dallas rallied to defeat Cincinnati on Sunday.

The program for the memorial had a picture of DeMarcus Ware carrying Brown’s jersey onto the field Sunday after Dan Bailey kicked the winning field goal as time expired.

Two buses transported some players, coaches and club staffers to the service. Others, including Tony Romo and his wife Candice, arrived in their own cars.

Jay Ratliff was visibly emotional, holding his hands to his face for several seconds.

Tony Evans, senior pastor at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, delivered a sermon. Cowboys chaplain Jonathan Evans read scripture.

Even though he was with the Cowboys only a short time, Brown had an effect, Garrett said Monday.

“He had really bright eyes, a great smile,” Garrett said. “He was very passionate about football, and that’s one of the things we really liked about him. He poured it all out there every day. I wrote in my notes several times: Jerry Brown, exclamation point, give this guy a chance.”

A funeral service for Brown is set for Friday in St. Louis, followed with his burial on Saturday.

Related photographs featured on The Boys Are Back blog …

MEMORIAL SERVICE: Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jerry Brown Jr.

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