Saturday, May 31, 2008

Cowboy teammates push for Jones' return to NFL

Source: Associated Press

IRVING, Tex.–Tank Johnson looked into the camera and sent a message to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, loudly, clearly and with a smile: "Roger, please, let him play! From Tank. Thanks, buddy."

"Him," of course, is Adam (Pacman) Jones.

The status of the suspended cornerback remains the main topic of interest surrounding the Dallas Cowboys, especially with each nugget of progress in his bid to get reinstated.

The latest was a meeting between Jones and Goodell in Atlanta last week, the morning after NFL meetings wrapped up. Nothing has changed, though.

Jones still can't set foot on team property, much less join his new teammates for organized team activities. Goodell could give permission for either of those without fully welcoming him back to the league – sort of like he did with Johnson last year. Goodell let Johnson practice about a month after being signed, three weeks before his suspension ended.

Jones is suspended indefinitely, but Goodell has said he'll review the case before training camp.

Ready and waiting, Jones already has moved to Dallas and is hanging out with his new teammates. He attended Jason Witten's charity bowling event, worked out with some guys at SMU and recently was at a party hosted by Deion Sanders.

"I teased him," said receiver Terrell Owens. "We went inside and were playing around on the basketball court, and I asked him if he was ready to play. He said, `Yeah, but we're not going to no strip clubs this year either.' I think he's going to try to keep his nose clean, and I think that's going to be best for him anyway in order for him to stay in the league."

The beatin' goes on for Cowboys' Roy Williams

By Jaime Aron


Friday, May 30, 2008

IRVING — Dallas Cowboys safety Roy Williams is used to dealing out big hits. Lately, his reputation has been taking its share.

Williams has gone from fan favorite to fans' favorite punching bag in recent years, mostly because of how often touchdown passes are thrown with him in the vicinity.

He hasn't helped himself, in or out of the locker room, by blaming others, from reporters he accused of not understanding what was happening to teammates he claimed to be bailing out. At least, that's what he would say the few times he was willing to be interviewed.

Coaches keep insisting the big hitter is just fine as a cover guy, even though last season they began sending him to the sideline in obvious passing situations.

All that is merely background to set up how things have gotten worse in recent weeks.

It started with Williams going on a local radio station and admitting there were times last season when he lined up against someone he knew he couldn't cover, leaving him hoping the quarterback wouldn't throw his way.

Then longtime teammate Greg Ellis said in a radio interview that Williams grumbled about not fitting into coach Wade Phillips' defense. He also accused Williams of avoiding teammates by working out early in the mornings, leaving before anyone else arrives.

Soon, coaches invited Williams in for a heart-to-heart chat.

The first week of organized team activities would have been a great time for Williams to step forward and clear the air, with teammates and fans, via the media.

Instead, he took his family to Mexico.

He was probably back in time to hear cornerback Terence Newman tell a local television station Sunday that there were times last season that Williams came into the huddle with the "deer in the headlights" look.

When Williams returned to work Tuesday, he was greeted by a local newspaper column headlined, "Status of Dallas Cowboys' Roy Williams slowly sinking."

On Wednesday, when the locker room was open to media, Williams had another chance to voice his side of the story.

He never showed up at his locker.

So much for the changes he talked about in January, when he said he was switching from No. 31 to 38 as a way of reinventing himself.

By staying away from the cameras, Williams left others to talk about him again. Predictably, coaches and team owner Jerry Jones came to his defense, and Newman was forced to break down his buzzworthy quote.

"I think every DB in the league has looked like a deer in the headlights at times," Newman said, adding he heard the same thing from then-coach Bill Parcells early in his own career. Of course, Parcells chided Williams by saying he's "a biscuit short of a linebacker.''

"It wasn't like I said during the whole season last year Roy was looking like a deer in the headlights. I said 'at times.' It happens. I stick behind it,'' Newman said.

Phillips is living up to his reputation as a player's coach, insisting that Williams "did not give up a deep pass last year, not one," and giving him credit by association: "He was on a 13-3 team that, pass-defense wise was in the top five."

"He can do better, but he was voted into the Pro Bowl. He was our second-leading tackler missing two games, so he had a lot of positive last year that I think people are overlooking."

DMN Gosselin: Super heroes? Teams with top QBs have best shot at title

There's an urge every NFL off-season to be different. Go against the flow.

I did in 1996. The Cowboys were coming off their third Super Bowl championship in four seasons. I put the Green Bay Packers No. 1 in my annual off-season rankings that June. I hit – the Packers won it all that year. That was my best call.

My worst call? I put Pittsburgh No. 1 in 1998 and Philadelphia No. 1 in 2005. The Steelers and Eagles missed the playoffs those seasons, both with 6-10 records. I learned my lesson – stay away from the Keystone State.

Parity has taught me another lesson. The meek can inherit the earth. I placed St. Louis 23rd in my annual off-season rankings in 1999, New England 22nd in 2001 and the New York Giants 21st in 2007. All went on to win Super Bowls.

I picked New England No. 1 last June, and the Patriots came within 36 seconds of being labeled the greatest team in NFL history. But when Plaxico Burress caught that 13-yard touchdown pass on a fade rout with 35 seconds left in the Super Bowl, the Patriots lost the game and their bid for a perfect season.

The Giants won the Lombardi Trophy, but I'm still of the belief the Patriots are the best team in football. That's why I'm putting New England atop my off-season rankings once again in 2008. It's the first time I've gone with a team in back-to-back off-seasons since the Packers in 1996-97. Green Bay went to the Super Bowl both years.

The NFL always has been and always will be a game of quarterbacks – and the Patriots have the best in Tom Brady. He presides over the highest-scoring offense in NFL history. His prolific right arm produced 4,806 passing yards, a record 50 touchdown passes and 598 points in 2007.

Brady always seems to have the Patriots playing in front. He put them up 14-0 in the first quarter of a game against Buffalo last season. By halftime in other games, he had the Patriots up 20-0 against Cleveland, 24-0 against San Diego and Washington and 28-0 against Miami.

New England played 1,140 minutes of football in 19 games last season and trailed on the scoreboard only 160 of those minutes.

The 2006 NFL champion Indianapolis Colts also are allowed to have Super Bowl aspirations in 2008. They have Peyton Manning. That's why I put them No. 2. The Cowboys are allowed to have Super Bowl aspirations. They have Tony Romo. That's why they are No. 3. The San Diego Chargers are allowed to have Super Bowl aspirations. They have an emerging Philip Rivers at quarterback. That's why they are No. 4.

Find the quarterbacks and you'll find the legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

Truthfully, who could have envisioned the Rams in 1999, the Patriots in 2001 and the Giants in 2007 winning Super Bowls? Except that St. Louis quarterback Kurt Warner was the NFL MVP in 1999, Brady the Super Bowl MVP in 2001, and New York's Eli Manning outplayed Romo, Brett Favre and Brady in consecutive games in winning Super Bowl MVP honors in February.

Manning is the reason the Giants didn't stray far from the top in the rankings this off-season. New York sits sixth. He's one of only four quarterbacks to take his team to the playoffs each of the last three seasons, joining his brother Peyton, Brady and Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck.

I also included Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Seattle in my top 10. All three teams sent quarterbacks to the Pro Bowl last season. I slotted Jacksonville at No. 5 and Philadelphia No. 9.

David Garrard finished third in the NFL in passing for the Jaguars last season with a league-low three interceptions, and Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb gets the John Elway pass because of his five Pro Bowl appearances.

Quarterbacking also is the reason Green Bay slides from NFC runner-up in 2007 to No. 18 this month. With the retirement of Favre, the Packers are no longer automatic contenders.

Rick Gosselin's NFL Off-Season Rankings (NFC East only)

Rank Team Comment

1. New England
2. Indianapolis

3. Dallas' '07 rank: No. 6 Let's face it – the Cowboys should have been in the Super Bowl last year. For 17 weeks they were the best team in the NFC. They owned a record 13 Pro Bowlers and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. But the Cowboys haven't won a post-season game in 11 years. You must win in January before you can win in February. December also has been a mystery for this team with a 4-5 record in the Tony Romo era. Talent-wise, the Cowboys rank with the Patriots and Colts. But the two AFC teams have proven they can win in the pressure situations. The Cowboys haven't.

6. New York Giants' '07 rank: No. 1 The Giants became the sixth wild card to win a Super Bowl. Of the first five, three didn't qualify for the playoffs the next season. The only wild card to repeat was Denver in 1998 – and the Broncos had John Elway. Have you bought into Eli Manning yet? The Giants played shutdown defense in the postseason, taking out the high-powered offenses Dallas, Green Bay and New England in consecutive games. But three starters have left that New York defense in free agency.

9. Philadelphia's '07 rank: No. 15 A slow start – 0-2, then 1-3 – doomed the Eagles in the NFL's most competitive division in 2007. But victories at Washington and Dallas in the second half of the season reminded the East that Philadelphia continues to lurk. The Eagles intercepted an NFL-low 11 passes last season and forced a league-low 19 turnovers. So the Eagles signed Pro Bowl CB Asante Samuel away from the Patriots in free agency. He had 10 interceptions himself in 2006.

20. Washington's '07 rank: No. 13 The highest-paid coaching staff in the NFL delivered a 9-7 record and wild-card finish in 2007. Now head coach Joe Gibbs, offensive coordinator Al Saunders and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams are all gone. Novice Jim Zorn is calling the shots at head coach. The lineup returns virtually intact with some new young pass catchers.

TIDBIT: Dolphins, Taylor could soon be forced into a decision

By Adam Schefter | NFL Network

Dancing with the Stars is over, but the Jason Taylor reality show is just beginning.

In the next week, the Dolphins and Taylor get to run an option play, with each having multiple choices to make.

The pressure point is the three-day mandatory minicamp that starts Friday June 6. The Dolphins already have said Taylor will not be attending, but declined to make clear whether that was their choice or the player’s.

If it was Taylor’s, he would subject to an $8,638 fine for each day of minicamp he missed. The fines would increase in training camp to $15,116 per day.

But if Taylor opts to show up for Friday’s minicamp, it would force an unwelcome showdown that could lead Miami to bar one of its all-time franchise greats from the Dolphins training facility the way the Titans once did with quarterback Steve McNair.

In the coming days, each side has a choice to make. Yet before it even reaches that point, the Dolphins could step up efforts to trade Taylor –- wiping out the aforementioned scenarios.

Then the options would be where Taylor would land. At this point, at least five teams have shown a varying degree of interest. They are: (New Orleans, Philly, Tampa Bay, San Diego, and ...)

TIDBIT» Dallas –- Of all the potential landing spots, none is more intriguing than Dallas. It is a longshot, granted, but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones never can be ruled out. The Cowboys have debated the merits of trading for Taylor and they already hold additional draft picks in 2009 -– Cleveland’s in the third round, Detroit’s in the fourth. Dallas could decide to package picks and/or a disgruntled player such as defensive end Greg Ellis or safety Roy Williams that former Cowboys coach Bill Parcells knows well. Dallas knows its loaded at defensive end now with Ellis, DeMarcus Ware and last year’s first-round pick, Anthony Spencer. But Cowboys owner Jerry Jones never bypasses big-name, talented players such as Taylor. He has thought about the possibility of Taylor in Dallas and, despite the long odds, could wind up taking action.

VEGAS: 2008 NFL Point Spreads For Week 1

Week One NFL Football Point Spread
- NFL Spreads 9/4 - 9/8, 2008

Date & Time Favorite Spread Underdog
9/4 7:00 ET At NY Giants -4 Washington
9/7 1:00 ET At Baltimore PK Cincinnati
9/7 1:00 ET NY Jets -3 At Miami
9/7 1:00 ET At New England -15 Kansas City
9/7 1:00 ET At Pittsburgh -7 Houston
9/7 1:00 ET Jacksonville -3 At Tennessee
9/7 1:00 ET Detroit -1 At Atlanta
9/7 1:00 ET At Buffalo -1.5 Seattle
9/7 1:00 ET At New Orleans -3.5 Tampa Bay
9/7 1:00 ET At Philadelphia -7 St. Louis
9/7 4:15 ET Dallas -3 At Cleveland
9/7 4:15 ET At San Diego -10 Carolina
9/7 4:15 ET Arizona -2.5 At San Francisco
9/7 8:15 ET At Indianapolis -9 Chicago

Monday Night Football Point Spread

9/8 7:00 ET At Green Bay -3 Minnesota
9/8 10:15 ET Denver -1 At Oakland

DMN Blog: Dallas makes sense as destination for Jason Taylor

by Tim MacMahon

At least NFL Network reporter Adam Schefter thinks so. He mentioned Dallas as one of five potential destinations for the disgruntled Dolphins pass rusher/Dancing With the Stars stud.

» Dallas -- Of all the potential landing spots, none is more intriguing than Dallas. It is a longshot, granted, but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones never can be ruled out. The Cowboys have debated the merits of trading for Taylor and they already hold additional draft picks in 2009 -- Cleveland's in the third round, Detroit's in the fourth. Dallas could decide to package picks and/or a disgruntled player such as defensive end Greg Ellis or safety Roy Williams that former Cowboys coach Bill Parcells knows well. Dallas knows its loaded at defensive end now with Ellis, DeMarcus Ware and last year's first-round pick, Anthony Spencer. But Cowboys owner Jerry Jones never bypasses big-name, talented players such as Taylor. He has thought about the possibility of Taylor in Dallas and, despite the long odds, could wind up taking action.
(Pretend that Schefter wrote outside linebacker instead of defensive end.)

Todd Archer explained some of the salary-cap complexities of an Ellis-for-Taylor trade yesterday. And that's what this would have to be.

You can't bring in Taylor and keep Ellis. It'd simply create too much drama. If Ellis is all worked up about splitting reps with Anthony Spencer, just imagine how he'd feel if the Cowboys added one of the league's best players at his position.

Plus, as we've gone over before on this here blog, the Cowboys need Roy Williams this season. They simply don't have enough depth at safety to send him packing.

I'm sure Bill Parcells would try to pry a pick or two from the Cowboys, but Trader Jerry has big plans for those extra picks. He talked on draft Sunday about bundling a bunch of them together to move up for an elite receiver next year.

Cowboys | Glenn recently fired agent

Clarence E. Hill Jr., of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, reports Dallas Cowboys WR Terry Glenn recently fired his agent, James Gould.

Troubled Dallas cornerback Pacman Jones could be reinstated as early as June 2nd

Pacman Jones, CB Saturday 5/31, 1:39 PM CT

Despite reports indicating the NFL would put forth a decision by Thursday, May 29th, a day that has come and gone, the folks at are now reporting troubled Dallas cornerback Pacman Jones could be reinstated as early as June 2nd or could, in fact, face new levels of discipline, according to

Our View: PFT notes a report from NFL Network's Adam Schefter that states a decision could come "any day" and seems likely to be made during the week of June 2nd. The Cowboys appear to be optimistic, but PFT has put forth three scenarios they believe could lead to quick action. (1) If Pacman has pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge in Las Vegas and a felony charge pending in Florida, with the NFL suspension originally being laid in April of 2007, the league's Personal Conduct Policies would support fresh discipline due to the timing of these incidents. (2) If Jones is found to have been fraudulent when speaking with Commissioner Roger Goodell in 2007 upon discussing his legal troubles and the events that took place, Goodell could have standing to impose new discipline. (3) If Jones is found to have lied upon being asked by Goodell on May 20th if any potential legal issues were pending, not including the "make-it-rain-but-don't-take-that-money" incident and shooting in Vegas as well as several incidents that followed shortly after, then Goodell could have standing for a fresh round of discipline if the recent failure to pay $20,000 in gambling markers in Vegas is considered a legal incident. All three have Pacman suffering additional discipline, and that makes us wonder why the Cowboys would be so "optimistic." We will update as news becomes available.

Salary Cap figures for all 32 teams (as of 30 May 2008)

Thanks to AdamJT13 (Salary Cap Analyst) from a sport forum:

Through Friday --

Kansas City Chiefs $36.57 million
Green Bay Packers $32.08 million
Tampa Bay Buccaneers $28.21 million
New Orleans Saints $25.88 million
Buffalo Bills $23.86 million
Philadelphia Eagles $18.39 million
Chicago Bears $17.95 million
San Diego Chargers $15.28 million
Jacksonville Jaguars $13.26 million
Miami Dolphins $13.06 million
Tennessee Titans $12.86 million
Atlanta Falcons $11.49 million
Cincinnati Bengals $10.44 million
San Francisco 49ers $10.40 million
New England Patriots $9.97 million
New York Jets $9.85 million
St. Louis Rams $9.83 million
Cleveland Browns $9.15 million
New York Giants $8.95 million
Seattle Seahawks $8.77 million
Indianapolis Colts $8.47 million
Denver Broncos $6.62 million
Washington Redskins $6.12 million*
Houston Texans $6.11 million
Minnesota Vikings $5.50 million
Dallas Cowboys $5.34 million
Arizona Cardinals $3.64 million
Baltimore Ravens $2.91 million
Carolina Panthers $2.73 million*
Oakland Raiders $2.15 million
Pittsburgh Steelers $980,000
Detroit Lions $390,000*

*--Carolina, Detroit and Washington all have June 2 credits coming (for previously released players who were designated post-June 1 cuts). Carolina will get $7.45 million in additional cap room, Detroit will get $4 million, and Washington will get $2.405 million.

Here's the list with those credits already applied --

Kansas City Chiefs $36.57 million
Green Bay Packers $32.08 million
Tampa Bay Buccaneers $28.21 million
New Orleans Saints $25.88 million
Buffalo Bills $23.86 million
Philadelphia Eagles $18.39 million
Chicago Bears $17.95 million
San Diego Chargers $15.28 million
Jacksonville Jaguars $13.26 million
Miami Dolphins $13.06 million
Tennessee Titans $12.86 million
Atlanta Falcons $11.49 million
Cincinnati Bengals $10.44 million
San Francisco 49ers $10.40 million
Carolina Panthers $10.18 million
New England Patriots $9.97 million
New York Jets $9.85 million
St. Louis Rams $9.83 million
Cleveland Browns $9.15 million
New York Giants $8.95 million
Seattle Seahawks $8.77 million
Washington Redskins $8.52 million
Indianapolis Colts $8.47 million
Denver Broncos $6.62 million
Houston Texans $6.11 million
Minnesota Vikings $5.50 million
Dallas Cowboys $5.34 million
Detroit Lions $4.39 million
Arizona Cardinals $3.64 million
Baltimore Ravens $2.91 million
Oakland Raiders $2.15 million
Pittsburgh Steelers $0.98 million

USAToday: Inside Slant - Dallas Cowboys

Slowly but surely, suspended cornerback Adam Pacman Jones is taking the necessary steps to get back into the league and join the Cowboys.
He moved to Dallas. He has passed his physical. He is bonding with teammates.

And now he has met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to give him an update on his activities.

Goodell has said all along that he wanted to meet with Jones before making a decision on his status.

Well, now that the meeting has taken place, Jones and the Cowboys are simply waiting on the commissioner's decision.

"At the risk of looking presumptuous or looking any way, I don't want to speak to that," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "I do agree with Roger's policies and sense with what he wants to do with any given player and I respect that. I know Adam is working hard and zeroing in on doing everything it takes to be an NFL player.

We're trying to make that as possible as we can."

Jones would like to participate in the Cowboys' OTA workouts and/or the minicamp — which run the next three weeks.

Or he would he would like to at least visit the team's Valley Ranch headquarters, where he can meet with team counselors and work out with the conditioning staff.

Players under suspension are barred from the team facility and participating in team functions.

Jones, who moved to Dallas a couple of weeks ago, is currently working out with Bengals receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Bears receiver Devin Hester and Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree at SMU under the guidance of former Cowboys star Deion Sanders.

"I have no idea when the commissioner is going to decide to allow him to have some involvement or all involvement with the team," Jerry Jones added. "That's not something that I can speculate on right now."

What is certain is that Jones has made a solid impression on his owner and new teammates already.

Defensive tackle Tank Johnson, who was suspended last season when he signed with the Cowboys, plans to be a mentor to Jones. He said he talks to him weekly and believes the Cowboys offer a good situation for him.

"He's still going through the process. He's still got things ... he's still got loopholes he's got to get through," Johnson said. "When you come to a new team and you don't really have any real friends that you know very well. They make the transition a lot more smooth.

"The important thing is getting him here and getting him acclimated. I have told him, 'You are a good kid. We know you and we're looking forward to having you on the team and we're excited about you proving everybody wrong.'"

Madden 09: Quarterback Ratings

May 30, 2008 2:47 pm - Author: Shanker Srinivasan
Madden 09: Quarterbacks

The return of all-time greats to the Madden franchise will finally allow us to see how the Bradys, Mannings, and (gulp) the Grossmans of today compare with players who defined the position. You can even check out how close the rookies are to becoming NFL ready. Who got inflated ratings and who got the shaft? Let us know what you think!

The list below largely speaks for itself but we will point out a few of the surprises. The first has to be Brady's arm strength (99). His arm strength is now the highest of any player in the game, active or otherwise. Another year of Michael Vick behind bars has resulted in a Vince Young repeat as the fastest quarterback in the game (though Tarvaris Jackson and newcomer Josh Johnson gave him a run for his money).

Check back in over the next few weeks as SportsGamer will be breaking down ratings for every position culminating with the release of the full Madden playbooks. Also be sure to stop by our forums and share your opinions on the quarterback rankings or leave us specific requests and we'll try to get the answers!

OTA Notes & Observations (PART I)

By Steve Lansdale
Posted May 28, 2008

VISIBLE BY THEIR ABSENCE: The optional team activities (OTAs) are just that — optional … sort of like changing the oil in your car is optional. You don’t have to do it, but it’s generally a really good idea. Jimmy Johnson was the first to make it clear that the word “optional” was only listed because the NFL said that’s the name of these sessions, and made it clear that he was aware of which players didn’t show up.

A handful of players are absent this week, whether it’s because of injury, contract dispute, or as was the case with Roy Williams last week, vacation. Missing from Wednesday’s session (or at least very well hidden): rookie punter Jay Ottovegio, rookie wide receiver Mark Bradford, cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones, safety Ken Hamlin and outside linebacker Greg Ellis.

LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING: New linebacker Zach Thomas is listed at 5-foot-11 and 228 pounds. No way — if he’s 5-11, then Tony Romo is about the same height as Dirk Nowitzki. When he stood next to Bradie James, whose listed height of 6-2 is pretty close to accurate, the difference is more than three inches. The 13th-year veteran from Texas Tech looks like a fire hydrant: short, squatty and impossible to move.

However, anyone who thinks the old man can’t cover some ground is mistaken. He’ll never be a sprinter in the mold of DeMarcus Ware, but he moves extremely well, and was around the ball all day, from one sideline to the other. If the Cowboys’ medical staff can keep him from getting knocked loopy with his battering-ram playing style, they just might have pulled off a real heist with the addition of Thomas.

TAKING AIM WITH BOTH BARRELS: When the Cowboys drafted tight end Martellus Bennett out of Texas A&M, speculation swirled that offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was locked away in his basement, working up ways to deploy two tight ends to take advantage of the talents of Bennett and Pro Bowler Jason Witten. That might well be the plan, as the offense worked on a new look with two tight ends — except it was Witten and Tony Curtis — broken out wide on the same side.

It’s not unusual for a team to deploy two tight ends on the same side, but generally that scheme uses a faster tight end (i.e. Witten) as basically an oversized wide receiver, with the other tight end left inside as an extra blocker. In Wednesday’s sessions, Witten and Curtis were lined up side-by-side, about two feet apart from each other, and ran a series of routes in which they cut behind each other, presumably in an effort to make defenders run into each other. If they can iron out the wrinkles in this setup, the possibilities are numerous.

SOMEONE'S LISTENING: Speaking of Bennett, remember the rookie mini-camp, when he got lambasted by coaches for breaking off routes instead of finishing them with strong sprints to the end zone? Someone got his attention. He still didn’t catch everything thrown his way Wednesday, but when he did, he tucked it and headed toward the end zone every time.

LINE UP! There weren’t any surprises in the personnel on the first-team offensive and defensive lines. On offense, the starting five remained the same quintet that started last year: LT Flozell Adams, LG Kyle Kosier, C Andre Gurode, RG Leonard Davis and RT Marc Colombo. The second unit had LT Doug Free, LG James Marten, C Cory Proctor, RG Joe Berger and RT Pat McQuistan. On defense, the first-team unit was as expected: LE Marcus Spears, NT Jay Ratliff and RE Chris Canty. Running with the second team was LE Stephen Bowen, NT Tank Johnson and RE Jason Hatcher.

HAVES AND HAVE NOTS: RB Marion Barber was at Valley Ranch with his teammates Wednesday, with the ink still drying on that fat new contract he signed with the team last week. He went through drills, but nobody touched him all day, and he laughed with teammates and coaches between drills. Backup Alonzo Coleman, on the other hand, ran like Barber does in the waning moments of a close game with the Cowboys nursing a small lead: violently.

Coleman plowed through teammates with both arms wrapped around the ball and his legs churning, initiating plenty of contact with defenders (and probably even blockers). Perhaps he didn’t notice that nobody was wearing pads, or the sign on the door that reminded players that there was to be “no contact” and that the sessions were for teaching purposes. If he didn’t notice

Friday, May 30, 2008

DMN Blog: Cowboys' D didn't force many bad decisions

by Tim MacMahon football geek KC Joyner did what must have been a tremendously time-consuming study to come up with a bad decision metric for defenses. He basically studies every single passing play and determines how often each defense forced the opponent to make a bad decision.

That's something the Cowboys didn't do very often at all last season. Their forced bad decision percentage (2.55) ranked 26th in the league, which is surprising considering their status as a top-10 defense with two Pro Bowl pass rushers.

Part of their problem is the numbers say they don't disguise their coverages very well. Only two of Dallas' 15 forced bad decisions came as a result of the opposing quarterback not seeing a defender in the passing lane, a total that left the Boys tied for 23rd in the league. This may be a direct result of Wade Phillips' credo of always rushing four or five players and not leaving many defenders in areas to bait passers into making mistakes.
As an official Wade Phillips apologist, let me also point out that personnel limited his creativity last season, particularly at cornerback. Jacques Reeves, a guy the Cowboys weren't comfortable with as a nickel corner, spent much of the season as a starter because of injuries to Terence Newman and Anthony Henry.

The Cowboys made cornerback their top offseason priority, trading for Pacman Jones and drafting Mike Jenkins in the first round and Orlando Scandrick in the fifth round. The upgrade at that position, especially if Pacman is cleared to play, ought to result in a few more mistakes by opposing offenses.

RUMOR: Roy Williams for Roy Williams swap after June 1?

by Mike Florio

Buried in the bottom of a puff piece about rookie running back Kevin Smith and his “armor” for football season is a mention that five veteran members of the Detroit Lions didn’t show up on Thursday for a voluntary Organized Team Activity practice session.

Missing were receiver Roy Williams, linebacker Ernie Sims, running back Tatum Bell, running back Artose Pinner, and offensive tackle George Foster.

Coach Rod Marinelli only said that attendance was “good” and that he knew everyone’s whereabouts.

The most notable name on the list is Williams, who is entering the final year of his contract and who has been linked to trade rumors for much of the offseason. With the Cowboys possibly inclined to trade their own Roy Williams after June 1, could a Roy Williams for Roy Williams swap be in the offing?

Regardless, at a time when more and more teams are seeing nearly every player present for nearly every voluntary offseason practice, the absence of five recognizable names from Thursday’s session is cause for at least a mild eyebrow raising.

Schefter reports the NFL could make a decision on suspended Cowboys CB Jones next wk

NFL Network's Adam Schefter reports the NFL could make a decision on suspended Cowboys CB Pacman Jones as early as next week.

An internet report surfaced early Friday claiming that Jones will be reinstated. Schefter indicates that commissioner Roger Goodell hasn't formally decided yet, but says Dallas remains "optimistic" about having Pacman in 2008.

Cowboys OG Leonard Davis, one of the best FA acquisitions of the last 15 years?'s Jason Feller responds
by BigBlueShoe

I got an email yesterday from writer Jason Feller regarding my critique of his free agency article, where he ranked the Cowboys OG Leonard Davis as one of the best free agent acquisitions of the last 15 years. Here's the email:

It was profoundly entertaining for everyone because I actually grew up in the Washington DC metro area as a Redskins fan and am the farthest thing from a Cowboys fan you could find. That said, you made some very good points in your critique and that’s what these pieces are for -- to remind people about the history of free agency and get people thinking.
I stand by my choice of Leonard Davis as he was the only addition on an offense that was the second best in the NFL and had a breakout season after struggling much of his career. Kerney would have also been a fine choice as would have Garcia. I felt that while Kerney played great individually, the Seahawks as a team had a nearly identical record with him (10-6) as they had without him the year before (9-7) and advanced to the second round, the same stage they advanced to in 2006. Garcia I did not include, because projecting out I see Garcia as a relatively short-term solution for the Buccaneers, while Davis stands a chance to contribute for most, if not all, of his seven year contract. Again any of those players could be argued as the correct choice, but I’ll stick with Davis.

Many thanks to Jason for two things: 1) Reading the site, and 2) Offering a good response and a kind email. I also apologize to him profusely for suggesting he (a Redskins fan) was a Cowboys fan. I might as well have shown up at his home, slapped his wife, and spit on his kids. My apologizes, Jason.

Despite his thoughtful response, Jason is still wrong in picking Davis as one of the best free agent acquisitions in recent memory. I know he decided to pick one for each year, but the numbers and the production still clearly favor Tampa Bay QB Jeff Garcia or Seattle DE Patrick Kerney. Yes, I know Seattle's record with Kerney in 2007 is the same as Seattle's record without him in 2006, but come on. Circumstances and players change from year to year. Without Kerney, the Seahawks don't make the playoffs in 2007.

In the comment thread in the last Feller post, shake n bake posted Seattle's d-line ratings in 2006 and 2007:

2006 10th vs the run, 11th vs the pass
2007 4th vs the run, 7th vs the pass

That's a damn significant jump, and with all the struggles and injuries Seattle has faced on offense since their Super Bowl appearance, it was their defense (in particular their pass rush) that guided them through the year. Their pass rush also helped them win a playoff game against Jason's beloved Redskins, a game where Kerney went bonkers.

Garcia had a similar impact on Tampa Bay:

Jeff Garcia: 11th in total value, 7th in per play value
Tampa’s overall offense improved from 30th to 10th
Passing offense up from 31st to 14th

The Bucs also won the NFC South and hosted a playoff game, losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champion NY Giants. So, knowing all this, the question lingers: How did Leonard Davis help the Cowboys improve? If you look at the numbers, they didn't improve much:

2006 8th in run blocking 23rd in pass pro

2007 14th in run blocking 7th in pass pro

So while the Cowboys improved in pass protection (do in part to having the mobile Tony Romo start an entire season) their running got worse. This is a team with Marion Barber III folks. He could run through a brick wall. And while Dallas' record improved from 2007 to 2008, the numbers clearly show that it had very little to do with Leonard Davis.

And really, did the Cowboys really improve from 2006 to 2007? They lost another playoff game. They haven't won one in almost 15 years. In the grand scheme of a season, your regular season record means nothing. The Giants are the best team from 2007. No one cares who won the NFC East. No one cares who went 13-3 or 10-6. No one.

All that matters is winning in the playoffs. If you get there and win, people will remember your team more so than the division winner who showed up and lost. Trust me, as Colts fans, we all know. And if your supposed key free agent acquisition cannot help his team win in the playoffs, he isn't very "key."

Dallas coaches cover for Roy Williams

by Anthony Brown

The big sport with the Dallas Cowboys this off season is to bash perennial Pro Bowl safety Roy Williams. The chief bashers are his teammates, although I don’t think they mean to be.

Dallas linebacker Greg Ellis revealed on a Sirius NFL Radio interview earlier this month Williams’ discomfort with head coach Wade Phillips’ defensive schemes. Cornerback Terence Newman said in a separate interview that Williams sometimes had that “deer in headlights look” when he came into the huddle.

With friends like that you better have the support of your coaching staff. Williams gets it from head coach Wade Phillips in an Associated Press story yesterday.

“I hate to see somebody get bashed, and it’s kind of a Roy Williams bash here for some reason,” Phillips said. “He can do better, but he was voted into the Pro Bowl. He was our second-leading tackler missing two games, so he had a lot of positive last year that I think people are overlooking.”

Defensive backfield coach Dave Campo calls doubts about Williams coverage ability “a bunch of baloney.” Campo was Cowboys head coach when the team drafted Williams in 2002.

This is just an off-season brouhaha when there’s not much real football news to report. Williams has long been considered a so-so coverage guy. He’s more of the enforcer in the Cowboys’ secondary known for big hits and horse-collar tackles, now banned.

When faced with an area that could use a little improvement, organizations from sports teams to the office next door must figure how to best motivate a change. Is it better to do it quietly behind closed doors, or expose it to the cleansing light of day? Whether by design or not, this story is getting the sunlight treatment.

Can’t tell if this will make Williams better and smarter in coverage, but opposing defensive coordinators are sure to take a second look at the tape on him, especially those teams with good receiving tight ends. Cleveland, Washington, NY Giants, Green Bay, San Francisco and Pittsburgh are on the Cowboys’ schedule this season. All have a top 15 tight end.

If you get one of those guys on your fantasy football team, be sure to start them when Dallas is on the schedule.

Meanwhile, Greg Ellis skipped the last day of OTAs yesterday in a snit over his lack of reps in practice.

DMN Blog: Hashmarks puts Glenn under microscope

by Albert Breer

Morning News alumnus Matt Mosley analyzed key injuries for each NFC East team over at Hashmarks. And since we've already been through the Terry Glenn thing 10 times over, we'll give you the link, and then pick out the one thing we haven't discussed 98 times -- the fantasy impact of Glenn's injury.

Here's Matt's take (I have no idea, by the way, about the fantasy skills of this blog's pioneer) ...

Fantasy spin: Draft Terry Glenn as a deep, deep sleeper for your fantasy team, but be very wary of making him one of your starting receivers. Granted, if his knees hold up, Glenn becomes an intriguing deep threat for one of the league's most explosive offenses. But it seems more likely that he'll struggle with injuries again, in which case Patrick Crayton will resume the starting role he inherited all last season. Crayton probably isn't an every-week fantasy starter, either, but he's certainly a safer pick than Glenn.
In case you're wondering, the other three "key injury" guys in the East are Jason Campbell (Redskins), Jeremy Shockey (Giants) and LJ Smith (Eagles).

DMN Blog: Greg Ellis for Jason Taylor trade?

by Todd Archer

Since some of you have asked, could the Cowboys and Dolphins make a Greg Ellis-for-Jason Taylor trade?

Before Sports Illustrated's Truth & Rumors picks this thing up, like it did on Timmy Mac's Joe Horn blog a few weeks back, please know this is all hypothetical.

Taylor wants out of Miami, and the Dolphins have said he won't be attending mini-camp or training camp. Ellis has skipped the OTAs but has not said he wants to leave the Cowboys.

From a cap standpoint, it would be difficult because Taylor would have to re-structure his contract to fit under the Cowboys' cap. He is scheduled to make base salaries of $7.5 million and $8 million over the next two years. And I believe he might have some roster bonus money due as well. Ellis is scheduled to make $3.3 million and $4.1 million the next two years.

Taylor, who turns 34 in September, had 11 sacks last year and 117 for his career. Ellis, who turns 33 in August, had a career-high 12.5 sacks last year and 69 for his career.

Taking the economics out of it, would you do the deal?

Cowboys first-round picks RB Felix Jones and CB Mike Jenkins are both candidates to take over kickoff returns this season

They will battle incumbent Miles Austin who averaged 25.5 yards per return last season. With Jones only scheduled to see change of pace and passing down work, this shouldn't have a significant impact on his offensive potential. The team hopes that Pacman Jones can take the punt return job assuming he's reinstated this summer.
Source: Dallas Morning News

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Big News in Big D

By Andy Benoit

The Dallas Cowboys have been making a lot of headlines these past few weeks. Here is a chronological overview of the news from Valley Ranch, along with quick, to-the-point reaction? You’ll notice that most of the stories – especially those toward the middle and end – are like a slab of ribs: juicy in appearance until you pick them up and realize that there is actually very little meat on each bone.

Marion Barber and Terence Newman locked up long term

Great move by Jerry Jones getting this taken care of. If Barber stays healthy, his value is only going to rise. To get him in a seven-year deal with just $16 million guaranteed is a bargain. Signing Newman was an even better move. Few realize that the sixth-year pro is the best cornerback in football. Newman’s presence is the main reason why Roy Williams’s coverage woes have not absolutely killed this defense yet. Speaking of….

Roy Williams’s status in question

It is hard to believe that a 27-year-old perennial Pro Bowler is in jeopardy of not making the team, but such is the case with the hard-hitting safety. Williams’s struggles in coverage have been immense, which is why his discomfort in Wade Phillips’s defensive scheme has become public knowledge. Expect Williams to remain the starting SS in Big D, but expect a short leash on him as well.

P.S. ESPN tried to make a story out of Williams’s teammates “criticizing” his situation, but there’s simply nothing there. Nobody has said anything about Williams that he himself hasn’t already acknowledged. Nice try anyway.

Pac Man Jones

ESPN has glorified this story as well. There are a lot of dimensions to this story.

*Jones met with Roger Goodell about reinstatement. No news here – this was scheduled to happen anyway. And, as you might expect, no news on how the meeting went.

*Jones paid off $20,000 in gambling debt to a Las Vegas casino. This one is hard to figure out. Do we care or not care? Is gambling debt a form of player conduct? Given who we’re talking about, yes, probably so. But then again, given the legal trouble history of who we’re talking about, it’s hard to see the big deal here. Fortunately, the debt is paid, which means the story is dead.

*Terrell Owens will mentor Jones. Let’s pounce on ESPN some more here. SportsCenter used this story as a tease, saying something along the lines of “Coming up, if Pac Man gets into trouble this year, find out which Cowboy will be to blame.” Yeah, that’s fair media coverage. Jones will have countless mentors and veteran role models in Dallas – just like he had countless mentors and veteran role models in Tennessee. The onus is still on him (as if anyone needs to be reminded of this).

*The Cowboys have said they may use Pac Man at wide receiver. Yet more news that is over-hyped. Of course Dallas may use Jones on offense – every speedy cornerback gets consideration on offense at some point.

Terry Glenn asked to sign injury settlement

First off, this is not relevant to the possibility of Pac Man playing receiver – no way would Dallas replace a veteran wideout with an inexperienced corner. It is good business by the Cowboys to protect themselves should Glenn’s knee problems recur in 2008. However, Glenn is only set to make $1.74 million this season, which means if he were to sign the injury settlement and then get hurt, the Cowboys would save just a little under $1.25 million. These aren’t pennies, but they’re not necessarily big bucks either. Glenn is a sensitive guy – slight him and face retaliation. Remember how his Patriots career ended?

Cowboys Trying to Integrate Pacman into the Gameplan . . . But There's a Limit

Source: The Dallas Morning News

IRVING, Texas _ He has taken a physical. He has met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. He has moved to Dallas and recently worked out with a handful of pro and college football players at SMU.
But the Cowboys have no idea when _ or even if _ Pacman Jones will be reinstated.

"Do I have information that makes me think something is imminent?" owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "The answer is no."

Whenever Goodell makes a decision to reinstate Jones, whose suspension is about to enter its 14th month, the Cowboys will have a plan in place for Jones off and on the field.

The Cowboys' player development program _ which is headed by Bryan Wansley, with Calvin Hill as a consultant _ is among the best in the league.

Jones introduced himself to teammates at a charity bowling event hosted by Jason Witten.

"When you come to a new team, you really don't have any friends that you know very well," said nose tackle Tank Johnson, who came off an eight-game suspension last season after signing with the Cowboys.

"Those guys make the transition easier by introducing you to the guys and having you go out to dinner and taking you out with those guys."

Because of the suspension, Jones is not allowed at Valley Ranch. He has not received a playbook yet, but secondary coach Dave Campo has readied a few tapes to help facilitate the learning curve if reinstatement comes.

Campo said Jones' biggest adjustment will be learning the system, although Jones' two years of experience helps.

The Cowboys have two more weeks of organized team activities before their mandatory minicamp June 17-19. The off-season conditioning program runs through early July, and under league rules, players are not allowed at a team's facility 10 days before the start of training camp.

"Pretty much coverage is coverage, but the terminology is different," Campo said. "When I left here (in 2004), I'd been in the same defensive system for 16 years and then went to Cleveland and used the same system, so that's 18. Then in Jacksonville, completely different terminology. It was like reading a new dictionary."

There will be a physical adjustment, too, although Jerry Jones said Pacman Jones "relatively speaking is in good shape. Certainly not ready to play in a ballgame, but nobody else out here is either."

Jones has not played competitively since the 2006 season finale against New England.

During the weekend, he took part in Deion Sanders' Prime U at SMU for informal workouts with players such as Cincinnati's T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chicago's Devin Hester and Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree.

"It'll probably be a little shock when he gets back because of the speed of the game is what he's got to get used to," Pro Bowl cornerback Terence Newman said. "He can do a lot of things, but you never can simulate going against a receiver or pressing a guy and having a guy run full speed. . . . The sooner he gets here, the better."

Cowboys whine festival starts early

Posted by's Matt Mosley

Because of a developing situation at Valley Ranch, the Hashmarks Dallas bureau was temporarily called back from assignment. It seems that 32-year-old defensive end Greg Ellis, one of the most respected players on the team, is upset about his role and has taken the desperate measure (wait for it) of skipping the final day of OTAs.

Ellis is one of the best guys I've ever dealt with on the beat, but his annual offseason complaints are starting to wear thin. His latest fine whine involves the Cowboys' decision to give 2007 first-round pick Anthony Spencer more reps at Ellis' outside linebacker position. Coach Wade Phillips and owner Jerry Jones think the extra time will help Spencer's development and keep Ellis fresh for the season. Ellis, who owns one of the best insecurity systems in the area, doesn't see it that way. Even though he's coming off the best season of his career, he thinks Wade and Jerry are trying to phase him out of the defense.

In 2006, he complained publicly about Bill Parcells' decision to move him to outside linebacker, a position he'd never played. In 2007, the drafting of Spencer caused Ellis to question his future -- especially since he was coming off a season-ending Achilles' tendon injury. Jones finally eased Ellis' mind by restructuring his contract through the 2009 season.

You could make the argument that Ellis is the second-best player on the defense, although I'd put both DeMarcus Ware and Terence Newman in front of him. That said, his offseason griping no longer holds any weight. The truth is he's already shown his hand. He's such a good person that he's incapable of doing something to hurt the team. Last year he tutored Spencer while complaining about his own status.

Other than soothing Ellis' ego with some reassuring words, Jones knows he doesn't have to go out of his way to keep Ellis happy. After all, he had an excellent season after a summer of unrest.

Oh, there's one other player who's unhappy with his current role on the team -- and he just happens to be a starting wide receiver. Jones has spent a good portion of the offseason reminding folks that Terry Glenn, who missed 15 regular-season games last season with a knee injury, could be a major part of the 2008 plan. I've said several times that counting on Glenn is a ludicrous idea, and now it turns out that Jones is looking for some insurance. According to Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys have asked Glenn to accept a $500,000 settlement that would take effect if he re-injures the same knee that kept him out for most of last season.

Glenn's current contract calls for him to make $1.74 million in 2008. If he got injured at the Cowboys' practice facility or during training camp, he would receive that entire amount. And that's why Jones is locking him out right now. I've never gone out of my way to defend Jones, but this is a simple business decision. He paid over $5 million to Glenn last season. This season, he'd like a little insurance.
Sure, he could afford the $1.7 million, but Jones didn't become a billionaire by paying people to do nothing. Actually, he did some of that from 1996-2002, but that's beside the point.

What else is going on at Valley Ranch? Well, Newman sort of slammed teammate Roy Williams during a local TV interview, Pacman's about to lose his townhouse in Nashville and defensive end Chris Canty still hasn't signed his one-year tender worth about $2 million. In other words, it's business as usual.

Balanced NFC East will put Cowboys to ultimate test

By Pat Kirwan |
Senior Analyst

Question: What are the Cowboys' chances to go all the way this season? Scott Collier, Edinburg, Texas

The Cowboys have a quarterback in Tony Romo who can win in this league, a defense that can apply pressure and a few playmakers like Terrell Owens. That adds up to Dallas likely being in the hunt.

Coach Wade Phillips has the demeanor to lead these players and keep an even keel. The NFC East is brutal and there are questions surrounding DB Roy Williams, as well as the second wide receiver and possibly the nose tackle positions. My fear for the Cowboys is the same worry I have for the Giants, Eagles and Redskins. They may cannibalize themselves during the season leaving very little for the deep playoff run.

Taking it to the House 2008 NFL Key Dates

The list of key dates around the NFL that will make talking heads like John Madden say “Boom”

(Philadelphia, Pa) — Here is a list of key dates that I believe every football fan will need to know going into the 2008 NFL season. I am sure every NFL talking head including John Madden, Peter King, Chris Berman, Fran Charles, Ray Didinger, and others will have some kind of variation of this document in their stack of NFL propaganda.

Late May thru June - Rookies from all 32 NFL teams are scheduled to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame during June 2008. The program will run for five weeks with the first team being the Oakland Raiders on May 28th. The Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins rookies will visit in August, when their teams participate in the Hall of Fame Game.

June 1 — Deadline for old clubs to send tender to unsigned unrestricted free agents to receive exclusive negotiating rights for rest of season if another club does not sign player by July 22.

June 1 — Deadline for old clubs to send tender to unsigned restricted free agents or to extend qualifying offer to retain exclusive negotiating rights.

June 1 — Under CBA rules, this date allows veterans that have received signing bonuses in the past to be cut by their teams without their entire signing bonus kicking-in for the current cap year. By cutting a veteran after this date, the past signing bonuses can be stretched into the next cap year rather than taking a hit all at once.

June 15 — Deadline for old clubs to withdraw original qualifying offer to unsigned restricted free agents and still retain exclusive negotiating rights by substituting tender of 110 percent of previous year’s salary.

June 29-July 2 — NFL Rookie Symposium in Carlsbad, California. This is the yearly NFL freshman basic skills prep course.

Around July 12 — NFL Supplemental Draft - The NFL’s “special” draft for players wishing to enter the NFL for a number of reasons (Academics, Family Obligations, etc) that missed the main NFL Draft in April. If a team elects to use a supplemental draft pick on one of the eligible prospects, that team will give up its pick in the same round in next April’s draft (2009).

July 22 — Signing period ends at 4:00 PM ET for unrestricted free agents who received June 1 tender. This means that a player unhappy with the contract tendered to him can either sign the deal or holdout. Once the deadline passes, franchise players can sign only one-year deals with their current teams. Watch for franchised players Titans DT Albert Haynesworth and Dallas FS Ken Hamlin

July 27 — The Arena Football League (AFL) season will commence with the playing of ArenaBowl XXII in New Orleans at 3 pm (ABC)
Late July — Training camps open. The Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins will be the first to open camp as both have rookies reporting on July 22nd. The last teams to report will be the Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, and Baltimore Ravens with all checking players in on July 29th.

August 2 - Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2008 Enshrinement Ceremonies. The newest class of enshrinees (WR Art Monk, CB Darryl Green, LB Andre Tippett, DB Emitt Thomas, DE Fred Dean, and OT Gary Zimmerman) will be formally inducted into the PHOF in a ceremony held at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

August 3 – Pro Football Hall of Fame Game. The NFL’s 2008 season kicks off with the preseason opener featuring the Indianapolis Colts vs. Washington Redskins at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio. Game time is 8:00 p.m (NBC).
August 7-11 — First full week of preseason games with featured match-ups: Baltimore @ New England on 8/7, New Orleans @ Arizona on 8/8 (ESPN), and Cincinnati @ GB on 8/11 (ESPN).

August 14-17 - Week 2 of preseason games with featured match-ups: Carolina @ Philadelphia on 8/14 (Fox), OAK @ TEN on 8/15 (CBS), and NE @ TB on 8/17 (NFL NETWORK)

August 21-25 — Week 3 of preseason games with featured match-ups: HOU @ DAL on 8/22 (CBS), PIT @ MIN on 8/23 (CBS), and SEA @ SD on 8/25 (ESPN)

August 26 — Roster cutdown to maximum of 75 players.

August 28-29 — Week 4 of preseason games with featured match-ups: JAC @ WAS on 8/28 (NBC) and SD @ SF on 8/29

August 30 — Roster cutdown to maximum of 53 players.

September 2 — NFL teams can sign up to 8 players to their practice squad.

September 4 — First game will feature the Super Bowl Champion playing on Thursday night as usual with WAS @ NYG, 7:00 PM (NBC).

September 7 — First slate of Sunday Games with featured match-ups: KC @ NE, 1:00 PM (CBS), DAL @ CLE, 4:15 PM (FOX), and CHI @ IND, 8:15 PM (NBC)

September 8 - Monday Night Football Doubleheader with MIN @ GB, 7:00 PM (ESPN) and DEN @ OAK, 10:15 PM (ESPN)

Around October 17th — NFL Trade Deadline - This is the last chance for teams to grab players from other teams via a trade, but don’t hold your breath.

November 06 - Players on NFL teams’ Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list must be activated by Week 10. If they are not moved off the list, they must be removed from the team’s active roster.

November 23 — The Canadian Football League (CFL) season will commence with the playing of the 96th Grey Cup game at Olympic Stadium in Montreal (TSN)

November 27 - NFL Thanksgiving Day Games with TEN @ DET, 12:30 PM (CBS), SEA @ DAL, 4:15 PM (FOX), and ARI @ PHI, 8:15 PM (NFL NETWORK)

January 3-4 — Wild Card Weekend (NBC, CBS, and Fox)

January 10-11 — Divisional Playoffs (CBS and Fox)

January 18 — AFC and NFC Championship Games (CBS and Fox)

February 1 — Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, Florida (NBC)

February 8 — NFL Pro Bowl with AFC All-Stars vs. NFC All-Stars in Honolulu, Hawaii (NBC)

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer/Analyst for BIGPLAY Football and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

DMN Blog: Cowboys ready for uncapped year

by Albert Breer

So says John Clayton at ...

2) Dallas Cowboys: Gene Upshaw, head of the NFLPA, reminded reporters last week that Jerry Jones locked up starters from his three-time Super Bowl-winning team during the last uncapped year, which happened in 1993. Jones is trying to do the same thing in anticipation of an uncapped 2010 season. Last week, he signed halfback Marion Barber and cornerback Terence Newman to long-term deals. With a new billion-dollar stadium, Jones will have the money to keep his key players.
Overall, the Cowboys have 13 players who have been to the Pro Bowl among the starters. Jones does have some work to do. The contracts of four starters -- wide receiver Terrell Owens, safety Ken Hamlin, right tackle Marc Colombo and linebacker Zach Thomas -- are up after this season. Defensive end Chris Canty is different from the previously mentioned four starters because he won't have six years in the league in 2010 and thus won't be a free agent then. Linebacker Greg Ellis will be a free agent in 2010 but he also will be 34 at that time.

According to Clayton, on the Chargers are more ready, though there is a mistake in there. The Cowboys have Thomas under contract for the next four years. Aside from that, it makes sense and would be a credit to the club managing its resources.

Cowboys OLB Greg Ellis will skip the team's final day of OTAs Thursday because he's upset with his reduced repetitions

His annual paranoia is kicking in because Anthony Spencer is seeing more reps. Ellis is justifiably worried about being replaced, but it won't happen this year. He's an integral pass-rushing piece. The Cowboys are taking it easy on Ellis because they don't want his 33-year-old body to wear down in May.
Source: Dallas Morning News

First-round pick Mike Jenkins is "entrenched" as the Cowboys' nickel corner, according to the Dallas Morning News

He'll likely keep the job unless Pacman Jones is reinstated. Jenkins will play left cornerback in sub-packages, with Terence Newman moving to the slot.
Source: Dallas Morning News

Cowboys secondary coach Dave Campo doesn't believe SS Roy Williams is a lost cause

Source: unknown

"All of a sudden, everybody thinks he can't play," Campo said. "That's a bunch of baloney." The Dallas media has been extremely rough on Williams this offseason, but there's reason to think he can be effective if used correctly.

ESPN: Knee a big issue? Glenn says Cowboys want injury settlement signed

The Cowboys did not want Terry Glenn, who played in only one game last season while recovering from a pair of knee surgeries, participating in team workouts last week.

Now, according to Glenn, the Cowboys don't want to be on the hook to pay him, either, if the receiver hurts his knee again.

Glenn told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for Thursday's editions that the Cowboys have asked him to sign a $500,000 injury settlement. Such an agreement would free Dallas of any obligation to pay him if he cannot play this season because of his knee.

Glenn is due to make $1.74 million in 2008.

"I should have seen this coming," Glenn told the Star-Telegram by text message.

Glenn reported to Valley Ranch last week prepared to work out with the Cowboys, but the team held him out of on-field activity, saying he was an experienced player and the coaching staff would be better served by getting a good look at Dallas' young receivers.

Glenn has worked out in the offseason without any problems with his knee. Even Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Glenn looked good during the offseason and in individual throwing sessions.

Then, heads turned when the team barred Glenn from last week's workouts. Jones created more confusion by saying, "Well, this is voluntary, so to each his own," as if Glenn was the one who decided not to participate.

Jones said recently that newly acquired cornerback Pacman Jones might be asked to play some wide receiver next season, a sign that Dallas might not have full confidence in Glenn's health.

DMN Blog: A different look at Glenn situation

by Todd Archer

As Calvin reported this morning, the Cowboys want Glenn to accept a split-salary of sorts should he be placed on injured reserve in 2008 because of his right knee, which required two surgeries last year.

Glenn doesn't want to do it because he doesn't want to cost himself any money. That makes sense. I'm on a player's side on this one. They play a sport filled with violent collisions. They need to collect as much as they can when they can. We've all seen the stories of the retired players having difficult times with walking or dementia. It's a huge risk to play in the NFL.

But the Cowboys deserve some protection too, don't they? Glenn made $5.82 million last season, split between a $5 million roster bonus and a base salary of $820,000. The club's return on that investment was four regular-season snaps against the Redskins.

Glenn is due to make $1.7 million this year. If he gets placed on IR because of the right knee injury then they want him to collect $500,000. If he goes on IR with a left knee injury, he still gets the $1.7 million. I half wonder if he would get the full amount if he had his right knee rolled up while blocking for Marion Barber. Something tells me Jones would consider giving him the full amount.

Where do you guys come down on this?

Healthy Terry Glenn would be 'giant plus'
by Tim MacMahon

Jerry Jones has talked up Terry Glenn like he expects the guy to get right back to being a 1,000-yard receiver. Jerry's actions, however, indicate that he isn't very confident that Glenn's right knee will allow him to return to pre-injury form.

Calvin "Lucky" Watkins reports that the Cowboys want Glenn to accept a $500,000 settlement if he suffers another season-ending injury to the knee. Glenn isn't budging, wanting his $1.74 million salary no matter what.

Jerry has pumped sunshine about Glenn publicly. Wade Phillips had a much more realistic response when asked about Glenn while chatting with a couple intrepid bloggers.

"He'd be a plus," Phillips said. "I think you look at him, because you have him, as a health issue. If he's healthy, he's going to be a giant plus. That's the way we look at him."

James will wear the defensive communicator in his helmet for the Cowboys


Bradie James will wear the defensive communicator in his helmet for the Cowboys this season, according to the Star-Telegram. James said, "I feel like I am going to break the thing because I play linebacker. I am going to try and break it. That's my goal is knock it out. We'll see how that things go. I'm still old-school in that manner."

Our View: James has been chosen over Zach Thomas, as he has more experience and seniority within the Cowboys' defense. James racked up 101 tackles (64 solo) in 2007, with three sacks and three fumble recoveries. Wearing the communicator ensures he will remain an every-down player, and should register another 100 tackle campaign.

Glenn revealed that the Dallas Cowboys were keeping him out of the team's off-season workouts


Last week, wide receiver Terry Glenn revealed that the Dallas Cowboys were keeping him out of the team's off-season workouts. Per Glenn, the team has asked him to sign a $500,000 injury settlement - relieving them of any further obligation if he is sidelined for the season due to his surgically repaired right knee, according to the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.

Our View: So far, Glenn has declined to sign the waiver and has not been allowed to participate in the "organized team activity" workouts the past two weeks. If Glenn were injured without the waiver, the team would be on the hook for his entire 2008 salary of $1.74 million.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cowboys burning question: Finally, a playoff win?

Vinnie Iyer
Sporting News

In just 1 1/2 seasons as a starter, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has become a star, brighter than the one that shines on his helmet, as the most visible athlete on America's Team. With his playmaking and playfulness on the field and his apparent playboy lifestyle off the field, he has become the biggest name in Big D.

Because Romo plays in Dallas, and not Hollywood, however, his biggest fans are focused on his football and not his celebrity. Considering the rich tradition and popularity of the Cowboys, that translates into winning big games in January and February.

That hasn't quite happened. In fact, the proud Cowboys, with five Super Bowl rings and their ever-expanding Ring of Honor, haven't won a playoff game since Dec. 28, 1996.

Romo enjoyed a breakout season under Bill Parcells in 2006 and followed it with a crazy good '07 in leading the team to a 13-3 record, an NFC East title and the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.

But when the playoffs rolled around after last season, it was a quick exit again, this time at the hands of the division rival New York Giants, whom Romo and the Cowboys had swept in the regular season, combining to score 76 points in the two victories.

The teams' third meeting, however, saw the Giants and their league-best pass rush hold the Cowboys to 17 points, and Romo saw his attempt to orchestrate a last-minute, game-winning drive finish with a pass being intercepted in the end zone.

So the pressure is on the Cowboys -- and Romo, at their most important position -- to deliver playoff success now. And don't think the Super Bowl expectations have gone away.

The Cowboys remain, arguably, the most talented team in the NFC.

That's not to say the heat or responsibility all falls on Romo, just like Eli Manning didn't deserve all of the credit for the Giants' surprising Super Bowl run. The Cowboys' defense must take the next step as an elite, aggressive 3-4 unit, and the offense must take more pressure off Romo by again titling the balance toward the run.

For example, Marion Barber ran all over the Giants in the first half of the playoff game but rarely had his number called in the second half. And although the Dallas secondary sent three players to the Pro Bowl last season, a major coverage lapse allowed Amani Toomer to convert a long, backbreaking 52-yard play.

So right under the glare of the spotlight turned heat lamp are the Cowboys' coaches. Everything was rolling with player-friendly Wade Phillips during the regular season, but then came Romo's much-publicized cavorting in Cabo during the Cowboys' well-earned first-round bye.

Did the trip to Mexico directly cause Romo and his team to trip up against the Giants? Of course not. The team still played hard and fought to the final gun. But to everyone else, especially to Cowboys fans who treat football as serious business, it seemed like "fun, one and done."

The Cowboys should be plenty motivated this season after the disappointments of the past two Januarys. They are one of the closest sure things to a projected playoff team in '08. With players as talented as Romo, Barber, Terrell Owens, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, Terence Newman, Ken Hamlin and Roy Williams around, few teams can even come close to matching that cadre.

Still, the Cowboys have one of the most demanding fan bases -- and ownership -- in all of sports. As long as the players develop amnesia and just focus on executing, a playoff win is probable.

So maybe the true burning question is what's beyond that. Can they make the expected jump to NFC champs one season late? If the answer is no, just like we saw in San Diego after the '06 season, expect some kind of shakeup on the sidelines. As for Romo, if that playoff win drought is finally going to end, it's hard to see the Cowboys doing it without him in a starring role.

Camp countdown '08: Dallas Cowboys

May 27, 2008

Jean-Jacques Taylor
For Sporting News

The first of a series of 32 in-depth analyses of NFL teams counting down to the opening of training camps:

Jerry Jones has never been more frustrated than he is right now.

Or motivated.

Last season, the Cowboys left him despondent after tying the franchise record with 13 wins, earning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and sending a league-record 13 players to the Pro Bowl -- only to lose in the first round of the playoffs.

That it occurred to the eventual champs -- the New York Giants -- didn't make him feel any better.

So Jones has made up his mind to do whatever he can to end the Cowboys' embarrassing streak of 11 consecutive seasons without a playoff win.

There's no reason it shouldn't end this year because the Cowboys are among the league's most talented teams, and that was before Jones added Zach Thomas in free agency for leadership, controversial but talented Pacman Jones and a pair of highly regarded first-round picks in speedy running back Felix Jones and cornerback Mike Jenkins.

The Cowboys certainly look ready to win a playoff game this year, but it's clear Jones has his sights set on something higher than that. He wants to hold the Lombardi Trophy for the fourth time in his life.


Coordinator Jason Garrett believes in using a multiple offense that's built around a power running game and deep passing attack. Dallas doesn't use much motion or shifting -- compared to teams like Washington -- because it has so much talent. Garrett just wants to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers so their talent can flow.

Dallas threw the ball 54.5 percent of the time last season, and there's no reason to think that trend will change this year, because Tony Romo is such an accurate passer and so adept at avoiding pressure. But at the end of games, Garrett is stubborn about giving running back Marion Barber a chance to close it out, especially if there are fewer than four minutes left in the contest.


Head coach Wade Phillips, an expert at creating pressure from the 3-4, calls nearly all of the Cowboys' defensive signals. But he gets a lot of game-plan help from second-year defensive coordinator Brian Stewart.

Under Phillips and Stewart, the Cowboys play a one-gap scheme built on pressure. They try to put outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis in position to pressure the quarterback, and the duo combined for 26 1/2 sacks last year and were both Pro Bowl selections.

Phillips really likes to use first-down blitzes in hopes of creating long-yardage situations on second and third down.

The book on: Roy Williams

A rival sizes up the Cowboys' safety:

"First, he's not as bad in coverage as everyone thinks. He has some flaws, but the Cowboys don't do a good job of keeping those hidden and they expose him, especially in quarters (cover 4), where he sometimes has to cover a receiver 40 yards down the field. He's much better underneath, where even if he gets beat, there's plenty of help behind him to keep it from being a big play.

"Roy can be good in coverage because he's been good in the past. But he has to be technically sound. Too many times, he's not. He doesn't stay low enough in his backpedal and he has stiff hips. If he's low, then he can quickly get in and out of breaks and stay with the man he's covering.

"He also needs to do more film study, because he's not an instinctive player. The more he studies, the more familiar he can become with different route combinations and the more he can anticipate certain routes given the down and distance."

Bottom line

This is one of the NFL's best teams, and it should be considered a serious contender to win the Super Bowl. The Cowboys have upgraded their roster and added playmakers. Now, it's just a matter of whether this group of players can move past their poor finishes of the last two years and get the breakthrough playoff win that can propel them to a championship.

There's no reason it shouldn't happen. After all, those 13 Pro Bowl players are back. Prediction: 13-3, first in NFC East.

Spencer received extra repetitions during the Cowboys’ OTAs


Linebacker Anthony Spencer received extra repetitions during the Dallas Cowboys’ organized team activities, and had about as good a practice as possible without pads on, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Our View: Spencer, the 2007 first-round pick who has bulked up to 260 pounds, no longer has to think his way through his steps at outside linebacker. His transition from college defensive end is complete to the point where he's reacting on the field. Unfortunately, he has DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis ahead of him on the depth chart, which puts a major hurt on his IDP value.

Jones explained to the Dallas Morning News the absence of Terry Glenn from OTAs this week


Cowboys owner Jerry Jones explained to the Dallas Morning News the absence of Terry Glenn from OTAs this week. "I'm very encouraged, he's improved from where he was in the last ballgame," Jones said. "He's made a lot of progress. And I do think if he keeps making the progress -- he's very strong, very quick and we want to get his timing down with Tony -- but as far as the work out here, he doesn't necessarily need the work."

Our View: Glenn is coming back from a pair of knee surgeries, and recent reports on him have been very positive, so you shouldn't get too worked up over him not participating in OTAs.

Romo-Owens bond stronger; reloaded Cowboys hungry

By Jim Corbett, USA TODAY

Terrell Owens couldn't watch the New York Giants' Super Bowl XLII sacking of MVP quarterback Tom Brady and his previously unbeaten New England Patriots.
Rather than exacerbate the ache of what might have been after the eventual champions dealt the NFC's top-seeded Cowboys a 21-17 divisional knockout, T.O. got away Super Bowl night to ease the pain of a second consecutive one-and-done postseason flameout.

"I treated myself to a movie," Owens revealed at the Pro Bowl. "I watched The Bucket List.

"Good movie. Two of the best actors ever (Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman). A must see.

"It was a tear-jerker."

Owens has his own experience with tear-jerkers beyond the aforementioned comedy about two terminally ill old guys who go on a life-affirming road trip to fulfill as many dreams as possible before they kick the bucket.

The wrenching ending to a 13-3 season left Owens sobbing and deflecting insinuations that quarterback Tony Romo's Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, bye-week getaway with pop star girlfriend Jessica Simpson and teammate Jason Witten and his wife played a role.

"You guys can point the finger at him, you can talk about the vacation, and if you do that, it's really unfair," an emotional Owens told reporters, referring to Romo. "That's my teammate. That's my quarterback. … And if you guys do that, that's unfair. We lost as a team."

Owens explained in Honolulu why he pulled a Dick Vermeil.

"Tony's a good friend," Owens says. "From Day One when he wasn't a starter, we established a good bond. And we talked about getting to the Super Bowl."

Care to guess what's atop T.O.'s bucket list?

"A Super Bowl title," he smiles.

Suffice it to say, winning Super Bowl XLIII is foremost on nearly every Cowboys' 2008 to-do list.

From T.O. and Romo to owner Jerry Jones, coach Wade Phillips and creative offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, who declined head coaching interest from the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons, America's Team is rededicated to raising a record sixth Lombardi Trophy.

Everything is big in Texas. But after adding suspended cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones, first-round running back Felix Jones and former Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas to a roster studded with 13 Pro Bowlers, expectations are bigger than at any time since the Cowboys won three Super Bowls in the 1990s.

"The pieces are definitely there to go ahead and finish the way we want to," linebacker Greg Ellis says.

They are considered early favorites to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLIII.

"They're so close," CBS analyst Boomer Esiason says. "The Cowboys, Seattle and the Giants should be the best three teams in the NFC."

Romo the best fit so far for Owens

The Owens-Romo bond is the best the star receiver has enjoyed with a quarterback; he took shots at Jeff Garcia in with the San Francisco 49ers and Donovan McNabb with the Philadelphia Eagles.

His friendship with Romo is another reason people are compelled to peer behind the Cowboys' curtain.

With their mix of star power, swagger and potentially combustible character risks, the Cowboys are not just America's Team. This summer, they will be HBO's poster 'Boys, starring in the cable network's training camp reality series, Hard Knocks.

From their flamboyant receiver to their fun-loving quarterback and his singer/actress girlfriend to the talented and troubled "Pacman" Jones and rehabilitating defensive tackle Tank Johnson, America's Team is a producer's dream.

"It's fair to say this should go through the roof," HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg says of ratings.

Hard knocks?

Hardest hurdle might be a more appropriate title considering the Cowboys haven't won a playoff game since 1996.

Will a high-profile team finally play up to its potential?

"There's a lot of extra motivation," Owens says.

Sealing the deal is one reason Garrett returned. Another is because his owner made Garrett the league's highest-paid assistant at $3 million a year. His first season as a play-caller Dallas averaged 28.4 points, second to the Patriots.

"I just have a really fond feeling for what's happening," Garrett says. "It's what we can accomplish.

"I work for a great owner, with a great head coach and assistant coaches. And when you have leaders like Tony Romo, T.O. and Jason Witten, when your best players set the tempo for what your work ethic is, you really have a chance."

The rising coaching star was Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman's backup on two Super Bowl winners.

"All of our star players were so committed and worked so hard it became easy for the rest of us to follow that example," Garrett says.

"We have the same kind of things in place with our marquee guys."

Romo is the marquee Cowboy

The 28-year-old from Burlington, Wis., is a third generation Mexican-American on his father Ramiro's side. His rise from 2003 undrafted free agent to face of America's Team is testament to the American dream.

"He's done it the way you really want to see it done, and that's the hard way," Jerry Jones said before signing Romo to a $67.5 million extension in October.

But twice with his team's Super Bowl dream on the line, Romo fell hard. His 18-for-36, one-touchdown, one-interception passing against the Giants wasn't exactly a screen-saver moment. His fourth-and-the-season pass was intercepted in the end zone.

The previous January against the Seattle Seahawks, Romo mishandled the snap for a potential game-winning field goal and was tackled a yard short of the goal line in a 21-20 Seahawks wild-card win.

So, yeah, Romo and his teammates are driven to follow the Giants' lead.

"You wouldn't be competitive if that loss didn't affect you for a while," Romo says. "At the same time, I've always been a guy who looked to take the next step and figure out what I have to do better.

"If we're two plays better, we're hopefully in the Giants' situation."

Romo has only been the starter for a season and a half and is 19-9.

Beneath his baseball-cap-on-backwards, unassuming personality is a stone-cold competitor teammates rally around.

Romo has the same kind of quiet fire that drove Super Bowl XLII MVP Eli Manning to answer his critics with a postseason epiphany in his fourth season.

"You can never take for granted what going through these experiences does for you as a team and an individual, as far as learning and getting better," Romo says.

"I'd like to think the next time we're in those playoff situations, we're going to succeed."

This time last year, the question dogging Romo was how he would recover from "The Botch."

He rebounded all right, setting franchise records for touchdown passes (36) and passing yards (4,211).

Garrett was a huge catalyst.

"He's been a quarterback before and understands what goes through your brain," Romo says. "He gets that the rhythm of the game is very important … take two, three steps, throw it in rhythm. We worked a lot on footwork. It was definitely key to my development."

When Jerry Jones retained Garrett at $3 million, it was an investment in a bigger payoff.

"Jason was so meaningful to Tony's progress," Jones says. "Tony really hasn't had the same guy working with him two years in a row. Not to take anything away from Jason's potential as a head coach, but that's how meaningful it was for him to return.

"Frankly, that's just part of my plan to make Romo as good as he can be as quick as he can be."

Cabo criticism

Asked if he's surprised Romo is more remembered for the trip to Mexico than for throwing 36 touchdowns, Aikman says: "No, I'm not surprised. Do I think it impacted his performance against the Giants? Absolutely not.

"When he went to Cabo, he opened himself up to scrutiny …

"We all know perception is perception. There are times you do have to make decisions based on perceptions, or else you have to accept whatever criticism comes."

Romo also caught heat when Simpson showed up in her pink and white No. 9 Cowboys jersey at Texas Stadium for a 10-6, Dec. 16 loss against Philadelphia.

Romo shares something in common with Brady, last year's league MVP: the intense news media scrutiny a star quarterback attracts by dating a celebrity.

Fox analyst Howie Long has a phrase for the relentless paparazzi blitz Brady, Romo and other quarterbacks such as Arizona's Matt Leinart face in this time of camera cellphones and celebrity websites.

Long calls their lives constantly in the spotlight, The Truman Show, referring to the 1998 movie starring Jim Carrey, whose character's life became an unwitting 24/7 reality show.

Still, Witten felt bad for his good friend.

"I didn't take any flak, and I went on the same trip," says the franchise record-setting tight end, who had 96 catches. "The best thing Tony could do was get away, get his mind off football and focus on the next few weeks when we got back.

"Tony prepares really hard, just like Tom Brady does. To catch that flak was really undeserving."

Even President Bush couldn't resist, when he cracked at the White House ceremony honoring the Giants, "We're going to send Jessica Simpson to the Democrat National Convention."

Romo shrugs off the Cabo criticism. "I thought that was better than going to Las Vegas and drinking," he smiles. "I don't fault people because I'm sure if I was in that position, I would see and read things and go, 'Oh, what are they doing?'

"Nobody's going to remember me in five or 10 years anyway. I'm OK with it."

Thing is, the Cowboys have invited more potential distractions after Jones traded for "Pacman" Jones. The former Tennessee Titans cornerback seeks reinstatement from commissioner Roger Goodell after his indefinite suspension for multiple violations of the league's player-conduct policy.

Owens recently made his sitcom debut on the MyNetworkTV show Under One Roof, playing the long-lost brother to Flavor Flav, the show's star.

Romo got Simon Cowell-ish reviews from the Wrigley Field crowd for his off-key, Take Me Out to the Ball Game during the seventh-inning stretch of a recent Chicago Cubs game. Maybe he should have let Simpson handle that one.

After Romo failed to qualify for the U.S. Open golf tournament, some wondered if he was spreading himself too thin.

But his mentor is not concerned.

"He's dedicated and wants to get better," Garrett says. "Tony wants this team to be great.

"He's been a really good example for the rest of the group that way.

"It all starts with the work ethic you have. Tom Brady is the greatest example of that with what he's been able to do.

"We're trying to get to that level. And Tony's approaching it the right way."

Wide receiver Patrick Clayton wondered if a team that went 1-3 down the stretch "got a little complacent." Eleven penalties worth 84 yards in the playoff loss to the Giants could be an indicator.

Owens and Terry Glenn were hobbled and, after rushing for 101 first-half yards, running back Marion Barber gained just 28 second-half yards.

The Giants' run to the championship re-emphasized the importance of getting hot late.

"We didn't finish the way we had hoped," Romo says. "But the great thing about sports is you usually have another year.

"We're going to keep trying to realize our goal of winning the Super Bowl.

"It'll be fun trying to win it this season."

With all those cameras, potential distractions and the Giants motivated to repeat, it figures to be much harder as well.

DMN Blog: Wade Phillips doesn't want Marion Barber to change his style

by Tim MacMahon

When Emmitt Smith visited Valley Ranch earlier this month, he suggested that Marion "The Barbarian" Barber learn how to conserve energy now that he's a starter.

"I think he spends a lot of energy that may not be necessary," Emmitt said. "For a starting back, I'm all about putting your heart into it, but you're doing a lot of kicking, running up, bucking and you're exerting a lot of energy. We need you for four quarters -- and I'm going to say we because I'm a Cowboy, too. We need you for four quarters.

"If Marion has to carry the load for four quarters, there's no way he can handle it."

With all due respect to the NFL's all-time leading rusher, Wade Phillips would rather Barber not take Emmitt's advice on this issue. Phillips doesn't want or anticipate Barber changing his bruising style.

"He's going to run the way he runs, and that's why he's successful," Phillips said. "His health has been good. He hasn't had any problems as far as that's concerned, so his style doesn't seem to hurt him that way.

"It looks like he hits them harder than they hit him most of the time. When the hits come, he's the guy hitting. He doesn't take a lot of big licks really. He gives some."

Phillips dismissed fatigue as a factor for Barber in the playoff loss to the Giants, when he had 101 yards in the first half and finished with 129 yards on 27 carries.

And fatigue shouldn't be a factor for Barber this season with Felix Jones around. It's Barber's job to keep running hard. Let the coaches worry about when he needs to rest.

RotoTimes: Pacman Jones will be reinstated by the NFL Thursday afternoon sources have learned that Pacman Jones will be reinstated by the NFL Thursday afternoon. Jones missed all of the 2007 season while under suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

Our View: We figured it was just a matter of time before Pacman was given the green light. He'll provide a big boost to Dallas' secondary and special teams.

Monday, May 26, 2008

LOL...Raiders, T.O. a perfect match

Article Launched: 05/25/2008 05:37:41 PM PDT

THE RAIDERS AND Terrell Owens, a match made in ... 2009?

It could happen.

It could not.

But let's delve into the possibility of merging the NFL's most notorious wide receiver with the Raiders' future cornerstones, quarterback JaMarcus Russell and running back Darren McFadden.

That would be a potent cocktail of offensive talent, and perhaps that could entice Owens into a Bay Area encore, having fled the 49ers in 2004 after eight seasons.

So why bring this up now? Because his three-year contract — and three-step career revival — with the Dallas Cowboys ends after this coming season.

When the Cowboys signed two players to lucrative contract extensions last week, neither was named Terrell Eldorado Owens. Running back Marion Barber and cornerback Terence Newman were the ones racking up contracts worth a combined $95 million.

Owens reacted calmly. For now. He'll want to get paid, too, and he'll command more than the three-year, $25 million pact he got as a Philadelphia Eagles castoff in 2006. To paraphrase his former publicist, he'll want another 25 million reasons to live.

"It's not a big deal. I don't even feel comfortable talking about it," Owens told the Dallas Morning News last week regarding his contract status. "It's easy for me because of the relationship."

He means his relationship with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who rarely lets his superstars escape to another galaxy. With a $1 billion stadium opening in 2009, Jones surely will want Owens on that field.

"I met with Jerry my first year (2006) and talked to him on the phone more than I ever did with the owners in San Francisco and Philly. He's a guy that's very personable," Owens added. "He interacts, and he talks with his players. And that's all you ever want."

Gosh, if an interactive owner is what he wants, it's Al Davis that he should have.

The Raiders have been throwing money around this offseason to try climbing out of their five-season swoon. Their collective wallet shouldn't snap shut next offseason if Owens is available. He'd love to succeed where Randy Moss failed.

The Raiders addressed their void at wide receiver for 2008 by bringing in Javon Walker and Drew Carter to complement Ronald Curry. All three have injury concerns, and even if they all pan out OK, there's still room for Owens in '09.

If Owens hits the free-agent market next spring, he'll be much more coveted than he was when the Eagles cut bait with him in 2006.

Since leaving Philadelphia, Owens' career has returned to a Pro Bowl level. Aside from his near-death experience in September 2006 after overdosing on painkillers, he's had a surprisingly unselfish existence in Dallas.

He's producing quite well, too. His two-season totals in Dallas: 166 receptions, 2,535 yards, 28 touchdowns. Michael Irvin is the only other Cowboys receiver to ever produce a better two-year stretch. The Cowboys would be wise to keep Owens linked with quarterback Tony Romo.

As well behaved as he's been, Owens certainly has the capacity to fall out of favor quickly with an organization, especially if he feels disrespected in terms of a lame-duck contract. And especially if the Cowboys stumble out of the gate, fall from their perch as an NFC favorite and thus deny Owens another shot at his first Super Bowl ring.

Owens' size (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) and penchant for finding the end zone will make Davis reminisce about 1960s star Art Powell (6-3, 211).

At age 34, Owens isn't a spry kid. But he's famously well conditioned. And because he wants to be the next Jerry Rice, Owens likely has another six years in him.

If those years aren't with the Raiders, another Bay Area team is crying out for wide receiver help. Owens didn't burn bridges on his way out of the 49ers locker room in 2004 as much as his agent misjudged the void date of Owens' contract. Now here's an image: Owens rejoining the 49ers, along with quarterback Jeff Garcia (in his last year of a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and coach Steve Mariucci (on call at the NFL Network).

Nah, it's easier to envision Owens in silver. But will that silver helmet feature a Cowboys star or a Raiders shield? Tune in next year.

Marcus Dixon: The Story

by Dallas Wilson

Every morning and every night, Marcus Dixon opens his Bible and reads Psalm 23 that states,

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

Marcus Dixon is a person who needs comforting and protection.

Dixon, who was born and raised in Rome, Georgia, is a very good football player currently on the Dallas Cowboys' team. During his first three years of high school, he was arguably the best defensive end in the nation. He had many different Division I schools offering him scholarships, including Georgia University, Georgia State and Vanderbilt, whom he ended up signing with.

Then, all his success and achievements fell down around him in one foolish moment.

On February 10, 2003, Dixon had consensual sex with 15-year-old Kristi Brown in the back of the girl's trailer. The girl was white, and she came from an abusive, racist family. She knew that if she became pregnant with a black man, her father would probably kill her, so she did the only thing she though she could do, and called rape on Dixon.

To many people, including various local law enforcement officers, this did not come as a surprise—after all, Dixon was black, and he had prior record of various sexual actions at school, which got him suspended twice. These things, in the minds of the predominately white jury, were enough to convict him of rape.

Several charges were brought up against him, including assault and battery, rape, statuary rape, and false imprisonment. When the case came up on appeals, a new jury heard the story, saw it as a case of racial discrimination, and acquitted Dixon of all charges.

After spending a year and a half in jail, Marcus Dixon was released as a free man and with apologies from the state of Georgia.

He wished to put the incident behind him and just play football. But Vanderbilt had long since rescinded the scholarship, and no other major school would sign him. Even though he had big time talent, he had to sign with Hampton Virginia College.

After starring there for 4 years, Dixon again proved he deserved a shot at the pros. But, most scouts were skeptical of drafting Dixon because of his "character issues," which caused all teams to bypass him, until the Dallas Cowboys signed him as an un-drafted free agent.

The Dallas Cowboys, long known as America's Team, should now be known as the city of second chances.

After being suspended for half of last season and cut by the Chicago Bears, Tank Williams signed with the Cowboys and has succeeded on and off the field. Pacman Jones, the All-Pro corner and kick-returner was suspended for all of last year, but the Cowboys think they can turn the troubled man back into the superstar he should be. And now for Dixon!

Though he committed no crime, he was still marked as a "problem player." But, in Dallas, Texas, people saw through that and were willing to give him a second chance.

Once face of the franchise, Williams facing hazy future

By Matt Mosley

IRVING, Texas -- To know Roy Williams is to misunderstand him.

Six years ago, he was given the opportunity to become the face of the Dallas Cowboys. As a rookie in 2002, he was one of the few bright spots on a 5-11 team, and his No. 31 jersey quickly overtook No. 22 in the Texas Stadium crowd.

But now as the Cowboys prepare to christen a $1 billion stadium in 2009, there's a good chance Williams won't be around for the grand opening. How could a player with so much promise fall off the map? Well, it's important to go back to the beginning.

In his first two years, Williams became one of the most feared players in the NFL because of his punishing style. Turns out, though, that Jerry Jones and his scouting department overlooked flaws in Williams' game leading up to the 2002 draft.

In recent conversations with men who were privy to those discussions, I learned that former secondary coach Clancy Pendergast, now the defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals, had serious concerns about Williams' ability to learn the defense. When he traveled to the Oklahoma campus and put Williams on the dry erase board, he quickly learned that it would be a difficult transition for the college All American. Veteran scout Jim Hess, a former college coach, agreed with Pendergast's assessment.

Jones and his right-hand man, Larry Lacewell, were able to look past that potential flaw because they knew Williams would be playing next to Darren Woodson, one of the league's best safeties.

The Cowboys thought Williams could be much like John Lynch was in the vaunted Tampa 2defense, but even more dynamic. And for the first two years of his NFL career, they were rewarded. Playing next to Woodson in 2002 and 2003, Williams was a bone-crunching playmaker. Running backs and receivers flinched when they sensed his arrival.

Williams began his string of five Pro Bowl appearances in 2003, although you can make a strong argument that the past couple have been on name-recognition alone. The 2004 season started off with a bust when QB Quincy Carter was released only days into training camp. The story line that got buried was that Woodson's injured back was preventing him from practicing. The Cowboys placed him on the physically unable to perform list and hoped for the best.

But it was apparent from the start that the odds were against Woodson, and he was eventually forced into retirement. Suddenly Williams was thrust into a leadership role in a secondary that included cornerback Terence Newman, a first-round pick in 2003, and safety Keith Davis, who had starred in NFL Europe the previous spring.

"I take a lot of blame for what Roy has had to endure," said Woodson, now an ESPN analyst.

He could change the whole outlook of a game because of his ability to separate players from the ball. But we probably kept it too simple for him.
--Darren Woodson, ESPN analyst and former Cowboys defensive back, on tutoring the young Roy Williams

"[Former defensive coordinator Mike] Zimmer and myself just wanted him to be a football player when he first came into the league. He didn't have to think about where he needed to be because we made the scheme pretty simple. He could just come downhill and wreak havoc. I'd never seen a player with that type of ferocity. But I didn't involve him in what the corners were doing and some of the linebackers' gaps. He could change the whole outlook of a game because of his ability to separate players from the ball. But we probably kept it too simple for him."

In Woodson's defense, he thought he had at least two more seasons left in the league before his injury forced him from the game.

"I would have approached it differently if I'd known," Woodson said. "He looked at me like a big brother, and we were always honest with each other. He used to ask me why I was in such a bad mood during practice, and I'd say, 'This is the way I am in practice.' We could say anything."

Though he has the capacity to be gracious and outgoing, Williams -- who had an excused absence from recent Cowboys' voluntary workouts -- often has been a brooding presence in the locker room. A few years ago, a Dallas-area TV station paid him a large amount of money to appear every Sunday night during the season. In a rare moment, Williams once questioned his teammates' effort following a loss and suggested some of them had surrendered. But when reporters swirled at his locker the next day, Williams immediately backed off those comments.

It has almost become cliché to bash Williams' performance in Dallas. But the side of the player that not enough people hear about is his charitable work. Members of the organization say he donates vast amounts of money to underprivileged children around Christmastime, but for the most part he does it in a private manner.

But for all the good he does, he's fallen out of favor with the local media, not because of his play, but because of his pettiness.

When a Dallas Morning News reporter approached his locker after a road win against the New York Giants last season, Williams angrily told him that he wouldn't be allowed to ride the team plane home because he'd picked against the Cowboys in the newspaper. Since the paper's policy always has been to fly separately from the team, it was moot. But it didn't prevent Williams from causing a scene in the locker room.

When another Dallas reporter wrote that Williams wasn't meeting expectations three years ago, the player responded by authoring a rambling note that contained several expletives. He had it posted during an open locker room session. Williams never officially admitted to writing the note, but teammates pointed to him.

All of this serves as a backdrop for the latest chapter in Williams' strange path. About a month ago, he went on Michael Irvin's local radio show and admitted that he often hoped quarterbacks wouldn't throw the ball his way in certain coverages. Head coach Wade Phillips quickly tried to do damage control, saying he wasn't troubled by Williams' comment and had a different interpretation of what the player said. But behind closed doors, there is growing concern about Williams' future at Valley Ranch.

Despite being the eternal optimist, Jones, I've been told, is open to the idea of a future without Roy Williams.

If that's true, it is a pretty remarkable development. When Jones hired Phillips to take over, he thought Phillips' 3-4 defense would be a much better fit for Williams. The new coaching staff talked about putting Williams in a position to do what he does best: making plays downhill. In 2006, he had been beaten repeatedly on deep balls. In the defense run by Phillips and defensive coordinator Brian Stewart, Williams didn't get beat deep, but still ended up allowing five touchdowns.

Not long after Williams confessed to Irvin, Cowboys defensive end Greg Ellis came to Williams' defense in a national radio interview.

Ellis said he was concerned because Williams was choosing to work out by himself at 6a.m. and wasn't interacting with his teammates. He also shared that the safety had been frustrated with having to learn a new 3-4 scheme, which went directly against some of the comments Williams made when Phillips was hired.

At some point, Stewart finally had enough. He ordered a meeting at Valley Ranch with Williams earlier this month and said it was very productive. Williams later agreed with that assessment. He believed the media and the coaching staff were against him, but he's apparently more comfortable for the time being. And Stewart says Williams probably received too much criticism last season.

"In breaking down the film, he's done a lot more good than bad," Stewart said. "He's very capable of doing everything we ask him to do. I believe he had 100 tackles, and that's a busy guy. If we can get him to stop horse-collaring guys, I think he's very, very capable of playing at a high level in our system."

We've got to drill him on his approach to the ball carrier. A lot of it is 'want to.' If I get suspended or fined $100,000, I'm going to want some alternatives to that style of tackle.
-- Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Brian Stewart on trying to break Roy Williams' horse-collar tackling habit

Stewart said Williams has a good feel for defending against the inside run and talked about him "coming downfield heavy-handed," which is another way of saying that Williams remains a punishing defender. The horse collar topic is one that will follow him the rest of his career. After all, he was the man who "inspired" the 15-yard penalty, and it's still not out of his system.

"We've got to drill him on his approach to the ball carrier," Stewart said. "A lot of it is 'want to.' If I get suspended or fined $100,000, I'm going to want some alternatives to that style of tackle."

Most of Williams' teammates gathered this past week for organized team activities. Williams had an excused absence because he'd already planned a family trip before the dates were released.

Unfortunately, a couple of his teammates weren't quite as understanding. I talked to two players who were shocked Williams didn't show up -- especially in light of recent events. One player, a starter on defense, said that most players assume that "voluntary" OTAs will occur in mid- to late May and plan their schedules accordingly. They want to be supportive of Williams, but he's not making it easy.

There are even rumblings at Valley Ranch that Williams could be released sometime after June 1, but a high-ranking member of the organization told me that he will be on the roster for the entire 2008 season. After that, all bets are off.

Jones recently made some glowing remarks about Williams' future at a team golf outing. And I do believe that Jones still is rooting for Williams because his release would complete a remarkable fall for someone who was supposed to be one of the best safeties in the game.

Is there a market for Roy Williams? We'll save that for another column.

Matt Mosley covers the NFL for