It was very clear that the direction that this Cowboys offense was going in this off-season with the drafting of Gavin Escobar and the signing of Anthony Rosario. It was setting up to use more “12” personnel along with Jason Witten and James Hanna. So the releasing of fullback Lawrence Vickers today, was not a surprising move at all.
In watching OTA and mini-camp practices, Bill Callahan was taking plenty of reps to run plays where the offense went without a full back or when they needed one, it was Rosario lining up in an offset formation and filling in that role. It was more single back, zone runs. What I really like about this zone scheme, that Callahan is working with for this offense that it will play to the true strengths of DeMarco Murray.
Of the several impressive traits that Murray shows the one that folks do not give him enough credit for is his vision. Murray might not be the most explosive back to and through the hole but where he makes up for this is his ability to see the hole and make the cut. Good zone scheme runners have to have that ability. They have to be able to see where they need to take the ball and then adjust from there. Murray can do that. He uses a combination of vision and patience when he is carrying the ball.
I have always liked DeMarco Murray as a one back runner even when he had some success with Tony Fiammetta in 2011 but there were times last season when he did play with a full back in front of him and it led to hesitation because he wasn’t sure what that player was going to do. That was both Vickers and John Phillips. Murray was never on the same page with Vickers and in just watching the two play together it was like putting the round peg in the square hole. Murray spent more time waiting for Vickers or Phillips to do something in front of him than just attacking the line.
The releasing of Lawrence Vickers in my view is really not that big of a deal because of the direction in which the offense was going under Callahan, it doesn’t need a full back. Look for DeMarco Murray to be a much more productive runner without someone holding him up.
Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Scout
Last year, it seemed like whoever the Cowboys brought in during the regular season, it was smart move.
Laurent Robinson wasn’t just a steal, but one of the best pickups off the street you will ever see on any team. The guy had four touchdowns in four years and he gets 11 in 14 games.
But he wasn’t the only one. Tony Fiammetta started games at fullback, while Frank Walker was a big addition in the secondary. Even tailback Sammy Morris helped out when DeMarco Murray went down.
PHOTO: The three Garrett brothers played football at Princeton in the late 80’s. In 1987, the three played together for the Princeton Tigers. From left to right, Judd, Jason, and John.
Now, the guys in the Pro Scouting Department – Judd Garrett and Will McClay are at it again. Trading for Ryan Cook seemed like a nice cushion to the interior line. That’s before Phil Costa played just three snaps against the Giants and now will be out a while.
Cook is THE guy at center and the Cowboys seemingly made a nice call with him, especially since he’s been mostly a guard and tackle during his seven years in the league. But they saw enough of him at center, and obviously trusted former Cowboys scouting director Jeff Ireland, who is the GM in Miami and traded him to Dallas for the seventh-round pick.
What they did last year on the fly to get Robinson, Fiammetta, Walker and company, coupled with this free agent period in March to get Brandon Carr, Kyle Orton, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Nate Livings and Dan Connor, suggests those pro scouts have a good feel for what the coaching staff is looking for.
And that only makes sense considering Judd Garrett is running the pro scouting department and happens to be the brother of the head coach.
But already Cook looks to be a good pickup, and it makes me think the addition of cornerback LeQuan Lewis should be rather helpful, too.
RELATED: Everything you ever wanted to know about Judd Garrett, and more!
Judd Garrett (born June 25, 1967) is a former coach and running back. He is currently the director of pro scouting for the Dallas Cowboys.
Playing career: Early years
Judd Garrett went to high school at University School in Hunting Valley, Ohio, where he earned a varsity letter in football, basketball, and baseball. He was named Most Valuable Player in all three sports his senior year. In football, as a senior, Garrett gained a school record 2,011 yards rushing and scored 35 touchdowns. He was selected first team all-state and he won the Cleveland Touchdown Club’s Lou Groza Award which is given to the Most Valuable Player in Northeast Ohio. Garrett graduated from University School in 1985.
Prior to University School, Garrett attended grade school at Saint Ann’s Catholic School which is located in Cleveland Heights, Ohio from 1978-1981. His three years at Saint Ann’s, Garrett played in three consecutive City Championship Football Games and his team won the City Championship in 1979.
Garrett is a 1990 graduate of Princeton University where he was a three year starter at running back. In his three seasons, Garrett gained 3,109 yards rushing, caught 137 passes and scored 41 touchdowns. In his senior year, Garrett lead the Tigers to their first Ivy League championship in 20 years. Following his senior season, Garrett was awarded the Asa S. Bushnell Cup which is given to the Ivy League Player of the Year, and he was selected to the Division 1-AA All-American team. He played in the 1990 Hula Bowl where he scored the first touchdown of the game. He also represented the Ivy League with a group of 40 league All-Stars in the Epson Ivy Bowl in Tokyo Japan vs. a team of Japanese All-Stars.
Garrett was drafted in the 12th round of the 1990 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. After being released by the Eagles, Garrett spent part of the 1990 season on the Dallas Cowboy’s injured reserve list. Garrett then played the next two seasons (1991–1992) with the London Monarchs of the World League of American Football. His first season in London, he led the league in receptions with 71 while helping the team amass an 11-1 record and the first ever World Bowl Championship. In that championship game, Garrett set a World Bowl record of 13 receptions and caught the game sealing touchdown with less than a minute left in the first half. After the 1991 season, Garrett was selected to the All-World League team. Following his two seasons in the World League, Garrett spent the 1993 season on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad, earning a Super Bowl ring. He finished his playing career with two stints in the Canadian Football League with the Las Vegas Posse (1994) and the San Antonio Texans (1995).
Garrett started his NFL coaching career as an offensive assistant with the New Orleans Saints under Mike Ditka from 1997-1999. After leaving the Saints, Garrett spent six seasons with Miami Dolphins from 2000–2005, as an assistant coach under Dave Wannstedt and Nick Saban during which time the Dolphins had five winning seasons, won a Division Title and two playoff appearances. After the 2005 season, Garrett was hired by the St. Louis Rams to coach tight ends. He stayed with the Rams from 2006-2007. He was hired by the Dallas Cowboys as the director of pro scouting in May 2008.
Judd Garrett was married to the former Kathleen Kobler, an all-American soccer player at Princeton University, for 14 years, and together they had four children, Calvin, Frances, Campbell and Kassity. Kathy died unexpectedly on August 19, 2007 from a heart attack.
His father (Jim Garrett) was an assistant coach for the New York Giants (1970–1973), New Orleans Saints (1976–77), and Cleveland Browns (1978–84), head coach of the Houston Texans of the fledgling WFL (1974), and head football coach at Columbia University (1985). From 1987-2004, he served as a scout for the Dallas Cowboys
Career highlights and awards
Simply put, the fullback position was a key for the Cowboys in 2011. In the six games without Tony Fiammetta in the lineup, the offense averaged only 3.3 yards per carry on 152 rushes. The other 10 games, when Fiammetta was suited up, the Cowboys rushed for 1,304 yards on 256 carries, an average of over 5.0 per run.
When Fiammetta was knocked out of action by an inner ear infection, the Cowboys mostly tried to get by at the position by lining up tight end John Phillips in the backfield, and seventh-round pick Shaun Chapas even got a chance, but it wasn’t the same.
Now the team’s No. 2 tight end, Phillips may not be available for such utility work going forward, and he was hardly a natural as a lead blocker to begin with. Rookie James Hanna isn’t exactly a dominant blocker, either. Now, there’s new fullback Lawrence Vickers.
One of the nice things about Vickers is his durability, as he’s played all but six games in his six seasons, but the position is one of the most demanding in the sport. On almost every play he will be asked to square up for contact with a lineman or linebacker.
Given the questions of depth at receiver and tight end, the fullback position may be featured more this year than it has for the Cowboys in some time. So it makes sense that the team would consider keeping two players at the position, which has not been the norm in Dallas.
Other teams have done it, though. It may mean the Cowboys have to go short elsewhere, but keep in mind they’re not going to have two kickers for the first time since 2008. A third quarterback may not even be a necessity.
It would seem a real possibility that the club could keep a second fullback, either Chapas, who is still around, or another player on the roster.
Isaiah Greenhouse, who converted from linebacker to fullback during last year’s camp, is back with the team now, but has been working exclusively on defense this summer.
Laurent Robinson got big money from Jacksonville. Martellus Bennett will be relocating his clothing line to the East Coast for at least a year. Everybody else?
Well, they’ve probably gotten into the habit of checking the phone a lot over the last week.
The free agency period is far from over – it never ends, really – but most of the Cowboys players on the open market are drawing very little interest, it seems.
Between the guys they’ve cut, their unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents and exclusive right players, the Cowboys allowed 19 players to hit the market who had finished 2011 on the roster. Only Robinson and Bennett have found new teams thus far, while receiver Kevin Ogletree returned to Dallas on a one-year deal.
A lot of under-the-radar signings will happen in the coming weeks, but so far only a couple of the Cowboys’ free agents have been reported to have gotten so much as a sniff from other clubs. On Tuesday running back and special teams ace Chauncey Washington was part of a massive tryout for the San Francisco 49ers, per a report. Late last week, the Minnesota Vikings checked in on defensive back Alan Ball, per another report.
As for the bigger names, like Bradie James, Keith Brooking, Terence Newman, Kyle Kosier, Tony Fiammetta, Derrick Dockery, Montrae Holland and Mat McBriar, no substantive interest has come to light.
The Cowboys were intrigued enough by Isaiah Greenhouse in last year’s training camp that they moved him from linebacker to fullback to give him a chance to make the roster.
Now he’ll get another chance.
Greenhouse is the latest free agent signed by the Cowboys. The club gave him a one-year deal Wednesday to compete for a fullback spot with Shaun Chapas and Lawrence Vickers, who was signed last week.
Greenhouse was among the team’s final cuts on Sept. 3 as the Cowboys set their 53-man roster and was signed to the practice squad. He was then released from the practice squad 10 days later when the club signed Tony Fiammetta.
Courtesy: David Moore
The Cowboys have had only one 1,000-yard rusher in the past 10 seasons, but, in 2012, new fullback Lawrence Vickers hopes to give them their first once since Julius Jones had 1,084 yards in 2006.
"You know what? It’s going to be wonderful," Vickers said in a phone interview. "I have high expectations. I know I’m going to put the groundwork in to make sure I do my part."
Vickers signed a two-year deal with the Cowboys on Wednesday, a day after he was released by the Texans. Houston needed the $1 million in cap space it gained by cutting him, but the Texans had hoped to re-sign him. Instead, the Texans’ loss is the Cowboys’ gain.
"I was a little disappointed [about getting cut]," Vickers said. "At the end of the day, you’ve got to always understand that there is a business part to it. That comes with the territory."
Vickers got his first look at Cowboys Stadium during his visit and was sold on the team, believing after getting to his first postseason in 2011, that the Cowboys are on the verge of returning to the playoffs.
"I’ve been smiling since I got here," said Vickers, a Houston Forest Brook product. "…It’s very exciting to see this team come together, to see it in the beginning stages before the finished product."
Vickers has blocked for a 1,000-yard back four times in six NFL seasons, including Adrian Foster last season. Foster had 1,224 yards. He will block for DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones with the Cowboys, replacing Tony Fiammetta.
Murray was on pace for a 1,000-yard season last year as a rookie before fracturing his right ankle in a December game against the Giants. He finished with 897 rushing yards. Jones had 575 rushing yards last season.
Vickers said he has yet to meet Murray or Jones but looks forward to blocking for them.
LAST HURRAH: Do or die for some Dallas Cowboys, possibly Spencer, Martellus Bennett, Bradie James and Terence Newman
Sunday’s winner take all match up against the Giants has been billed as a do or die game for Cowboys.
A win puts them in the playoffs. A loss ends their season.
What’s also true is that the game could possibly be the last one in a Cowboys uniform for a number of players.
That includes 20 Cowboys who are in the final year of their contracts, including linebacker Bradie James, safety Abe Elam and tight end Martellus Bennett.
The case could be the same for a few others like Terence Newman, who is signed through 2014 but could be salary cap casualty because age, injury and declining production.
Bradie James has seen the writing on the wall since the beginning of the season when his role was diminished because of the emergence of Sean Lee. James ranks eighth in tackles with 51, ending a club record streak of leading the team in tackles the last six years.
The nine-year veteran would like to continue his career with the Cowboys but he knows nothing is guaranteed. He acknowledges that a loss on Sunday could possibly usher in wholesale changes to more than just the players who are no under contract for next season.
"It could all just change around," James said. "That is just the reality of it."
Anthony Spencer, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent, is of the same mindset after what has been a disappointing season for him. The Cowboys have not engaged in talks of a contracts with the former 2006 first round pick.
"It could be that," said Spencer was asked if this could be his last game with the Cowboys. "Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. So I’m not worried about it. I’m just trying to get through the season."
Spencer and the Cowboys had huge expectations come into the season that he would thrive under new coordinator Rob Ryan and provide legitimate pass rushing threat opposite Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware. But after getting three sacks in the first thee games, he has just three over the last 12. His six sacks on the season are a huge disappointment for him and certainly weren’t enough to prompt the Cowboys into signing him to a long-term contract extension.
"I started fast," Spencer said. " I had high hopes for more sacks. It didn’t end up that way. (Playing more coverage) had something to do with it. You can’t get sacks when you are not rushing. I want to be here. I like it here. But I got to do what’s best for my family."
Other Cowboys whose contracts expire at the end of the season are cornerback Alan Ball, guard Derrick Dockery, fullback Tony Fiammetta, defensive end Clifton Geathers, guard Montrae Holland, receivers Jesse Holley, Laurent Robinson and Kevin Ogletree, quarterback Jon Kitna, guard Daniel Loper, punter Mat McBriar, running back Sammy Morris, tackle Jeremy Parnell, cornerback Frank Walker and running back Chauncey Washington.
Tony Fiammetta has gotten publicity for his blocking this season, with the Cowboys quick to credit him for DeMarco Murray’s rookie success as well as Felix Jones’ fourth career 100-yard rushing game Sunday.
"He makes a big difference," Jones said. "He definitely opened up lanes as a runner for us to hit. We notice when he is in the game."
Fiammetta got thrown a bone or three on Sunday. Fiammetta had only one carry for no yards and one catch for 15 yards this season before DeMarco Murray fractured his right ankle in the first quarter against the Giants. Fiammetta had two carries for 3 yards and one catch for 10 yards after that.
"It felt good," Fiammetta said. "It’s just another way to help the team. If I’m blocking and we’re doing well, I’m happy. If I’m catching or if I’m running the ball, I’m going to be happy as long as we’re doing well moving the ball."
Murray’s injury left Fiammetta as Jones’ backup in the final three quarters Sunday. The Cowboys prepared Fiammetta for worse-case scenario.
"It was something that we talked about," Fiammetta said of the possibility of playing halfback. "But it didn’t get to that point. We’ll see how it pans out in the future."
SPECIAL FEATURE: Dallas Cowboys looking to plug exposed middle of offensive line by utilizing all of their offensive tools
IRVING — It happened in an instant. During the second quarter of the New York Giants’ 41-35 victory over Dallas in October 2010, linebacker Michael Boley flashed through a gap and slammed Tony Romo to the turf, fracturing the Cowboys quarterback’s left collarbone.
The impact of Boley’s devastating hit reverberated the rest of the season because Romo would never take another snap after being injured.
More than a year later, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was asked to reflect on the collision that rocked the Cowboys’ universe in 2010.
"That’s a long time ago," Garrett said Friday. "That’s really not part of our concern right now."
Boley’s hit may no longer be on the Cowboys’ minds but what caused it to happen – poor pass protection – is.
"That’s one of the things we have to work on," said Cowboys offensive line coach Hudson Houck.
Last week, in Dallas’ 19-13 overtime loss to Arizona, the Cardinals were able to create sustained pressure by attacking the interior of the Cowboys’ line – just like Boley did when he blitzed up the middle a season ago.
Against Arizona, the Cowboys conceded five sacks – two of which were surrendered by center Phil Costa and right guard Kyle Kosier. The Cowboys are under the assumption the Giants, who have recorded 33 sacks, will copy the Cardinals’ plan.
"Whatever they throw at us, we’ve got to deal with it," left guard Montrae Holland said. "But we’re trying to solidify the middle."
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo working with a young, but improving, offensive line in 2011.
The Fiammetta Factor:
The numbers don’t lie.
Running back DeMarco Murray rushed for a team record 601 yards in four games with fullback Tony Fiammetta leading the way.
With Fiammetta out the past three games with an illness, Murray has tallied 198 yards.
It goes without saying that Murray is excited to have Fiammetta back in the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Giants.
“He’s a hard working guy,” Murray said. “He does all the dirty work for me. I am very excited to have him back. I definitely I knew I wasn’t going to go for a 150 every game. I understand that. You are going to have ups and downs. You got to continue to get better, it’s all about the next game. But I’m feeling good about this week.”
Beginning this weekend, we’ll see how the Fiammetta Factor effects both DeMarco Murray and running back Felix Jones.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) gets sacked by Arizona Cardinals defensive end
IRVING, Texas — Tony Fiammetta has become something of a present-day mix of Walt Garrison, Ron Springs, Robert Newhouse and Daryl Johnston in his three-game absence due to an illness. Miles Austin’s stature has grown in his four-game absence even with the stellar play of Laurent Robinson in his place.
What the Cowboys have to guard against is thinking just because Austin and Fiammetta are back all will be well with the offense on Sunday at 7:20 p.m. against the New York Football Giants at Cowboys Stadium.
“You can’t make more than what it is,” said Jason Witten, who should benefit from Austin’s return. “At the end of the day you still have to execute and not think, ‘Oh, he’s going to get his.’ You’ve got to be ready.”
When Austin returned from a left hamstring injury at New England after missing two games, he caught seven passes for 74 yards. There is no doubt he and Tony Romo have a special connection that was built through years of practice.
Can he just step in and excel right away after a month-long absence?
“We’ll see,” Romo said. “He’s done a good job in practice and he’s a great player, so I hope so.”
While it looks doubtful that Martellus Bennett will play against the Giants because of a muscle strain in his rib cage, this will be the first time since that New England game that Jason Garrett has his mainstay offensive players available.
He will never admit that his play calling was compromised by the absences of Austin and Fiammetta, but their returns should at least open up more dimensions.
“It’s nice to get your team back again,” Garrett said. “I think the teams that play the best are the teams that are able to absorb the adversities that happen and injuries are a part of this league. Every team has them. You have to be able to deal with them but it’s nice to get your guys back though.”
At this point in the season, every team is battling through injuries. Some teams obviously have more than others and the Cowboys are actually in better shape injury-wise than they were early in the year, although it’s hard to tell that by Wednesday’s injury report that included eight players who didn’t practice.
Still, this time of year, there are no excuses anymore.
But just looking at personnel and match-ups, getting Miles Austin and Tony Fiammetta back in the lineup will help this Cowboys offense tremendously.
Understatement? Possibly, had Austin and Fiammetta been healthy and in the lineup last week against Arizona, then undoubtedly the Cowboys would be an 8-4 team with a five-game winning streak looking to clinch the division outright.
Against the Cardinals and THAT defensive scheme, the Cowboys would’ve beaten Arizona by two touchdowns or more.
The Cards attacked the line of scrimmage with eight players and left the corners in man coverage and dared the Cowboys to beat them deep. Well, as good as Laurent Robinson and Dez Bryant have been, they’re not really deep threat. Obviously, that is more of Austin’s game. And Austin is better at the slants and crossing routes than both of them. So blitzing the Cowboys like Arizona did, with a healthy Austin in the lineup, is much more dangerous.
San Francisco tried to blitz the Cowboys that way. Fail. Austin caught three touchdowns on them, including one over the middle where the middle was wide open because they tried to blitz.
As for Fiammetta, his presence last week would’ve been a major contribution to a running game that never got off the ground. John Phillips and Shaun Chapas tried to bring some fullback help, but not like Fiammetta can provide.
The Cowboys would’ve been able to get much closer into field goal range, especially in the first half and not waste those opportunities like that.
So getting players back on the field is a must here in December. But adding both Austin and Fiammetta give this offense the most complete attack as it’s had all year.
IRVING, Texas – A key component will return to the Dallas Cowboys’ suddenly sputtering running game this week.
Fullback Tony Fiammetta, who missed the last three games with a mystery illness, said he has been cleared by doctors and will participate in Wednesday’s practice and play in Sunday’s NFC East showdown against the New York Giants.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Fiammetta said. “I’ve been waiting for it. I feel great. It’s a good time to come back, big game, and I want to make a difference.”
Fiammetta has only one carry this season, but he makes a major impact in the running game as a lead blocker. The Cowboys have been one of the NFL’s best rushing teams when Fiammetta has played and one of the worst when he has not been active.
Dallas has averaged 145.8 rushing yards per game and 5.8 per carry with Fiammetta in the lineup. They are 5-1 in those games.
Without Fiammetta, the Cowboys have averaged only 83.8 rushing yards per game and 3.3 per carry. They are 2-4 in those games, which included the season opener he was not on the 53-man roster and two games he missed with a hamstring injury.
“With the success that we’ve had, it brought a lot of attention to the running game,” said Fiammetta, who the Cowboys claimed on waivers from the Carolina Panthers in September.
“Teams have been stacking the box. It’s hard to run against that sometimes. I’m going to do everything I can to make a difference. We’ll see. I don’t know for the rest of the regular season what I can do, but I can guarantee that I’m going to do my best to make a difference.”
Doctors never determined the origin of Fiammetta’s illness, which caused nausea and dizziness when he exercised. He said the symptoms have stopped completely.
“I feel like I’m back in shape,” said Fiammetta, who maintained his listed weight of 242 pounds. “These past couple of days, I’ve been working hard to get back in shape, so when I do come back, I won’t be out there sucking wind.”
Dallas Cowboys fullback Tony Fiammetta has been cleared and will practice Wednesday and play Sunday, he said. Fiammetta missed three games with an unknown illness.
"It’s going to be awesome," Fiammetta said Monday. "I’ve been waiting for it. I feel great. It’s a good time to come back, big game, and I want to make a difference."
Fiammetta’s symptoms included nausea, dizziness and "an uneasy feeling kind of thing." He said his illness was never diagnosed.
The Cowboys moved rookie Shaun Chapas off the practice squad last week to have a true fullback on their roster for Sunday’s game against the Cardinals. But they still struggled to run the ball. In the past three games, without Fiammetta, they have averaged 3.5 yards per carry and 92.3 yards per game.
In the six games Fiammetta has played, the Cowboys averaged 145.8 yards per game and 5.6 yards per carry.
"You know he did a nice job for us when he was playing, so we’re certainly hopeful that he’ll come back and play to the level that he was playing at before," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "We ran the ball well when he was playing true fullback for us and hopefully we can get that going again."
In regards to Chapas’ future on the 53-player roster, Garrett said the Cowboys are evaluating "a couple of different roster scenarios that we’ve been talking about already."
The Dallas Cowboys have ruled receiver Miles Austin (hamstring), nose tackle Josh Brent (knee), fullback Tony Fiammetta (illness), quarterback Jon Kitna (back) and running back Phillip Tanner (hamstring) out of Sunday’s game against Arizona. None of the five practiced this week.
Cornerback Mike Jenkins (hamstring), right guard Kyle Kosier (foot) and safety Gerald Sensabaugh (foot) were limited in practice Friday. Although they are listed as questionable on the injury report, all three are expected to play.
Linebacker Bruce Carter (knee), linebacker Sean Lee (wrist) and punter Mat McBriar (left foot) were full participants in practice and are probable.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant drags Miami Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis (21) on a 2nd quarter pass reception.
Diammond Dez Bryant is poised to be the Cowboys primary punt return man for the remainder of the season.
All it took was an undetermined illness to the team’s starting fullback and the impending return of receiver Miles Austin to make it happen. Here’s how the dominos will fall in the next few hours.
The club does not believe fullback Tony Fiammetta will be able to return for Sunday’s game against Arizona and is unsure about his status for the remainder of the season. The plan is to sign rookie Shaun Chapas from the practice squad before Wednesday’s practice. The Cowboys are expected to release Akwasi Owusu-Ansah to make room for Chapas on the active roster.
Owusu-Ansah has been the team’s primary punt return man the last three games. His departure and Austin’s anticipated return from a pulled hamstring means the Cowboys are more comfortable with installing Bryant as their punt return specialist. Even if Austin is unable to return against the Cardinals, the Cowboys appear committed to Bryant as their punt returner.
Bryant is much more of a threat than Owusu-Ansah. His 20-yard return in the final three minutes of the Cowboys game on Thanksgiving Day helped set up the team’s game-winning field goal drive.
Bryant returned 15 punts for 215 yards and two touchdowns in 2010.
ROSTER MOVES: Dallas Cowboys cut WR Akwasi Owusu-Ansah | Will sign FB Shaun Chapas off practice squad
The Cowboys have cut receiver Akwasi Owusu-Ansah and will sign fullback Shaun Chapas off the practice squad, a source said on Tuesday.
The move speaks to the continued uncertainty over the return of fullback Tony Fiammetta who has missed the last games with an unknown illness. The Cowboys trainers and doctors have been puzzled by Fiammetta’s condition and there has been no timetable for his return.
The running game has certainly suffered in his absence. Rookie sensation DeMarco Murray rushed for 601 yards in four games with Fiammetta as the lead blocker. He has rushed in the 160 yards in the two games since.
Third tight end John Phillips has done a good job substituting for Chapas but he is not a true fullback, prompting the move with Chappas and the release Owusu-Ansah, who has served as the primary kick returner.
“We’ve seen how good we are or can be when we have that prototype fullback in there,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday on his local radio show on KRLD-FM. “We don’t want to in any way put a cookie-cutter approach to what the fullback is. The fullback has unique skills when he’s good, and Tony is good. He knows how to get in the way of the defensive guys. He puts himself in position to help the running back with not necessarily the crushing block, but also the finesse blocks that you have inside there. I think it’s an instinct. He has that. I think we do miss him.”
The Cowboys were able to make the move because they are now using running back Felix Jones on kickoff returns. And with Miles Austin expected to return at receiver, they can use Kevin Ogletree on punt returns as well as Dez Bryant in special situations.
The Cowboys returned to the practice field after a three-day break following last Thursday’s Thanksgiving win.
Among those practicing included cornerback Mike Jenkins, who has four straight games with a hamstring injury he sustained Oct. 30 in Philadelphia. Jenkins is expected to play this week in Arizona and resume his starting duties at right cornerback.
However, wide receiver Miles Austin didn’t participate in the walk-through practice, but was working with the athletic trainers on the cords, a sign that a return to action is close.
Fullback Tony Fiammetta, who has missed two games with an illness and concussion-like symptoms, did not practice Monday, but was on the field talking to the training staff.
Quarterback Jon Kitna (back) and safety Gerald Sensabaugh were not on the field, nor was defensive tackle Josh Brent, who was in the weight room during practice.
Since Monday is not a typical practice day, the Cowboys are not required to provide an official injury report until Wednesday.
Ron T. Ennis/Star-Telegram
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) tosses a shovel pass forward to FB/TE John Phillips (89)
While traditional fullbacks don’t seem to be growing off trees anymore, they haven’t changed into 6-5, 260-pounders either.
But whether he’s the fullback or tight end prototype, John Phillips has been called upon to fill in as the team’s lead blocker on running downs as Tony Fiammetta has been out and will likely miss his second straight game Thursday against the Dolphins, still suffering from an illness with concussion-like symptoms.
That means Phillips will be called upon again. And even he admits it’s not ideal considering his taller frame than traditional fullbacks.
“It’s a little bit tougher. Obviously I have to drop my hips a lot lower than traditional fullbacks because of the height,” said Phillips, a third-year tight end drafted in the sixth round in 2009. “It’s a position I feel comfortable playing and it’s anything I can do to help the team out.”
For those might say, blocking is blocking, Phillips begs to differ.
“It’s completely different blocking as a tight end, where you’re a lot closer and usually on bigger guys. You just use different techniques. After one or two steps, you’re hitting. At fullback, you get about five yards to lead. It’s different and you just have to adapt to it.”
Technique or not, Phillips said a complete attitude adjustment is needed when knowing he will serve as the Cowboys’ lead blocker.
“It’s definitely a different mindset to play fullback. You know you’re going to be banging all day. You have to get your mind right early in the week when you know you’re going to be doing that.”
Cowboys owner and GM Jerry Jones speaks with a young fan before Thursday’s game.
IRVING, Texas — The return status of injured backup quarterback Jon Kitna (back) and starting fullback Tony Fiammetta (illness) this season is uncertain right now, team owner/GM Jerry Jones told reporters after Thursday’s win over Miami.
“Both those guys are not definitive in any way medically,” Jones said. “Kitna has some back issues that we’re going to be watching. We do have concern and that’s one of the reasons we made that claim (for veteran quarterback Kyle Orton).”
Orton was claimed Friday by the Chiefs, who had a higher waiver priority due to a worse record. Kitna and Fiammetta have each missed the last two games, and Jones said Friday on KRLD-FM that he didn’t expect either to be available Dec. 4 at Arizona.
Kitna’s back flared up briefly in preseason but has become ” a tick more severe” this time, head coach Jason Garrett said earlier this week. Stephen McGee backed up Tony Romo against Washington and Miami. It’s possible that the team continues looking for quarterback depth.
The team has been trying to determine the origin of Fiammetta’s symptoms, which include nausea when he exercises. He has been around the Valley Ranch facility but has been physically unable to practice, Garrett said.
Elsewhere on the roster, Jones said Friday that wide receiver Miles Austin (hamstring) was questionable to return at Arizona but it’s looking positive for cornerback Mike Jenkins (hamstring). Jenkins has missed the entire four-game win streak, while Austin has sat the last three games.
IRVING — The Cowboys don’t have starting fullback Tony Fiammetta due to an illness that hasn’t been clearly defined.
Reporters have been told Fiammetta gets nauseous and sick when he’s working out.
We do know Fiammetta’s health issue is not long-term or placed his teammates in any real danger of it being contagious. But the mystery surrounding it is scary for not only him but for the team.
The Cowboys’ medical staff does a wonderful job in getting their players the best treatment possible and wouldn’t put a player back on the field if it meant long-term damage.
When Tony Romo tried to return to the field last year with a broken collarbone, he was yanked back to the sidelines by associate athletic trainer Britt Brown. Romo also tried to get back in a game at San Francisco before pain medication kicked in for a fractured rib. Head athletic trainer Jim Maurer made sure Romo didn’t play until he was nearly pain-free.
Along the sidelines on Sunday at Washington several players left the game for an ailment but were quickly tended to by the Cowboys medical staff. One player tried to walk away from a trainer but was quickly grabbed so he could get treatment.
The Cowboys have said they’re doing everything possible to help their fullback.
“His symptoms are he just feels nauseous and sick when he’s working out,” coach Jason Garrett said. “And I don’t want to get too much into detail about that, but that’s really been it more than anything else. So we have to understand why, whether it’s some illnesses in his family or whatever, I don’t want to go into too much detail, but we’re just trying to get to the bottom of it and we’re doing everything we can to do that.”
This is not the first time an illness has baffled a NFL team.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin missed all of training camp with a mystery illness. The Eagles had to address rumors if it was cancer, mononucleosis or if it was life-threatening.
Maclin lost weight and had low energy. He also had night sweats and a loss of appetite. But the symptoms subsided and after doctors cleared him he was able to play.
Miami had two players, John Jerry and Ike Alama-Francis, similar situations.
The Cowboys value Fiammetta’s work at fullback. But this isn’t about football, it’s more about the player’s well-being and the Cowboys are doing everything they can to solve Fiammetta’s health issues.
“I just think we’re just trying to be sensitive to the whole situation,” Garrett said. “Certainly regarding concussions, we want to make sure we do everything the exact right way. The league has done a really good job outlining the procedures and the protocol for all of that, and Jim Maurer and our medical staff do a great job following all of that. So we just want to make sure we’re doing the right things by the player first and foremost, and we’ll just see how it goes here in the next few days.”
Jason Garrett speaks to the Dallas media. Team has already begun preparations for the Dolphins on Sunday.
Dallas Cowboys safety Gerald Sensabaugh suffered a foot injury against the Washington Redskins and was seen at the team’s headquarters on Monday wearing a walking boot. Sensabaugh is not expected to practice this week but he said he plans on trying to play against the Miami Dolphins Thursday. Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Sensabaugh has played through some injuries in the past and the team was hopeful that he could play despite such a short turnaround this. If Sensabaugh can’t go, look for Barry Church to replace him in the starting lineup.
Due to the short week, quarterback Jon Kitna is expected to miss his second straight game with a sore back, according to coach Jason Garrett. Former Texas A&M star Stephen McGee the primary backup for starter Tony Romo on Thanksgiving Day against the Dolphins.
RELATED: Fullback Tony Fiammetta remains sidelined with unknown illness
Fullback Tony Fiammetta is likely to miss his second straight game with an unknown illness, delivering another setback to the Cowboys running game.
Fiammetta was considered a key to the team’s running success of late and the emergence of rookie DeMarco Murray, who has 601 yards in the four games prior to Sunday’s 27-24 overtime victory against the Dolphins.
Murray had just 73 yards on 25 carries with backup tight end John Phillips as the primary lead blocker against the Redskins. Coach Jason Garrett said Phillips did a credible job but he also couldn’t deny the difference Fiammetta makes when he is in the game as a true fullback.
The puzzling thing for the Cowboys is that they don’t know what’s exactly wrong with Phillips who has been held out of practice since last week. His symptoms include nausea and sickness when he is working out, Garrett said.
“We do not have an idea,” Garrett said. “He’s been sick the last week or so, so we are just kind of attending to those symptoms as much as anything else. We are hopeful he can be around as soon as possible, but we will continue to test him to see how he’s doing to get him back to full strength. ”
Asked the origin of the illness, Garrett said the doctors and trainers were stumped. He said the team’s entire medical staff as well as specialists have been consulted.
“We are just evaluating the origin of the illness – without getting into too many details about what the different possibilities,” Garrett said. “We are just trying to look at it and see why he is feeling sick…just trying to get to the bottom of it.”
Garrett said right now there is no timetable for his return, athough the Cowboys are hopeful it’s soon.
“We are treating him like any other injury that we have, trying to get to the bottom of what happened, what we should do about it and hopefully we can get him back sooner rather than later,” Garrett said.
NFC EAST BRUISER: DeMarco Murray appreciates Redskins linebacker Fletcher in ‘most physical game’ he’s been in
Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) picks up three yards
It looked like Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher was going to tackle DeMarco Murray on every play.
The 14-year veteran had Murray in his sights constantly, making 10 solo or assisted tackles on the rookie in the Cowboys’ 27-24 overtime victory Sunday.
Murray shook his head and gave a small smile.
“Man, he’s a great linebacker,” Murray said. “He’s an old guy, but I have a ton of respect for him. He was bringing it all day long.”
Murray called it the most physical game he’s ever been in. He rushed for 73 yards on 25 carries, averaging only 2.9 yards. He caught six passes for 32 yards.
“We had a little trouble coming off our double teams,” he said. “The offensive line did a great job at times. I did a great job at times. But there were some times we weren’t on the same page. We’ll definitely clean it up this week.”
Murray said he missed his fullback, Tony Fiammetta, who missed the game because of illness. Tight end John Phillips played fullback, and Murray said he and the offensive line blocked well enough that he could have broken a big run or two.
“There were a few times when I definitely should have, and it was all on me,” he said. “My offensive line and J.P. did an awesome job blocking. I just wasn’t able to make that one guy miss. So, three or four times, I definitely should have broken a big one.”
NEXT MAN UP: Shaun Chapas ready for opportunity to block for running backs DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones
Rookie fullback Shaun Chapas may get the opportunity he’s been working hard for all season. The Cowboys could move Chapas to the active roster, coach Jason Garrett said Friday. Starting fullback Tony Fiammetta will miss Sunday’s game against the Redskins with an illness.
“I’ve just been working hard ever since I got here and waiting for the opportunity,” Chapas said. “If it’s this week, I’m looking forward to it, and if it’s not, I’ll just keep working.”
Chapas was a seventh-round draft pick out of Georgia. He did not make the roster out of training camp but was re-signed to the practice squad. He said he is more familiar with the playbook and comfortable in the offense now than he was when he reported to training camp in late August.
“It’s definitely helped being here [at Valley Ranch] for 10 weeks now, nine weeks, something like that,” Chapas said. “I feel a lot more comfortable with everything than I did right out of training camp.”
In the three games Fiammetta was either not on the roster or inactive, the Cowboys used tight end John Phillips in their two-back sets. Fiammetta has drawn praise from the coaching staff, getting credit for the team’s resurgent running game with DeMarco Murray.
The Cowboys lost the three games Fiammetta didn’t play, averaging 3.3 yards per carry and 84.7 yards rushing per game.