The Cowboys have always been known as a class organization; it's something that you consistently hear from current players, draft prospects and free agent visitors. Today was no different, as owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett opened up their press conference with kind words towards two entities not related to their 2014 roster.
Jerry Jones took the time to acknowledge both Cowboys legend Robert Newhouse, who passed away earlier this week, and Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, who will step down due to his battle with Alzheimer's. It was precisely the type of things that classy organizations do.
The Cowboys have also been known for press conferences that have a whole lot of words and not a lot of substance. Those in attendance got a lot of that, as well, as the Cowboys begin a camp with 47 players that have never been on a Cowboys roster before. That's over half of their roster, and a lot of change.
The State of the Team address that is the annual kickoff to training camp has given us memorable moments in the past, like Jones declaring how he wants him some "Glory Hole", referring to the glory days of the past, when the team was winning Super Bowls. For some reason though, Jones using the word fungible, correctly, seems to have tickled the fancy of the collection of people whose profession it is utilize the far reaches of the English language.
Jones used 'fungible' to describe the money saved by releasing Kyle Orton; saying it is not just a one-to-one, dollar-for-dollar exchange that can be used to extend Dez Bryant or Tyron Smith. Jones' point was that the $3.25 million saved might mean they could add an extra $1 million in Bryant's extension up front so that they don't have to prorate as much signing bonus, or something along those lines. For those cap-inclined, it was a great, financial point being made, but being lost in the obsession over Jerry-speak. More on Orton later.
When asked about another former Cowboys quarterback, Jones gave a ringing endorsement. Head coach Jason Garrett is entering the final year of his contract. When asked about his status, the owner quickly replied, "In terms of the record of this team, this is not a make or break year for Jason or members of this staff."
Garrett indicated that the only players currently on the 90 man roster that weren't expected to take part in the early days of training camp were Anthony Spencer and Amobi Okoye. Of course, the most important of those 90 is quarterback Tony Romo, who is recovering from off-season back surgery.
When asked about Romo's status for full-go activities and drills, Garrett replied, "we anticipate him being ready to go for all aspects."
All of the players that were held out of the competitive portions of the OTAs and minicamps, such as Matt Johnson, Devonte Holloman and George Selvie, appear ready to go for tomorrow's first practice.
Garrett also indicated that Henry Melton, the team's prize free agent signing at defensive tackle, would be a full participant as well. When asked about free agent LB Rolando McClain, who Dallas traded for recently, Garrett had interesting words. He said that Coach Nick Saban called McClain the "best player he ever coached" back in 2009. McClain will practice tomorrow before heading to Alabama to deal with a court matter on Friday.
McClain of course is a huge question mark after twice retiring, but the Cowboys seemed to indicate that was a confluence of family and financial issues that strayed him from the path.
As for Jones, he was busy proclaiming that, on paper, the Cowboys are a better team than they were last year during their Week 17 NFC East Championship game against the Eagles. It's a hollow proclamation, considering how many street players were on their 46 man game day roster and how many of them aren't even invited to this year's 90 man offseason squad.
One interesting take from Jones' talking is that he seemed to indicate that the club's willingness to say goodbye to high-priced veterans like what they had to do with Demarcus Ware last season, was not a one-time occurrence. Jones said that the Ware that was on the field last year was not the Demarcus that "you and I know." That might be a direct notice to players like Brandon Carr, and possibly even the new Mr. Cowboy, Jason Witten.
Ware of course has signed with the Denver Broncos and recently proclaimed he feels healthier than he has in the last two years.
But the defensive change was the theme of the press conference, after Dallas ranked 26th in points allowed and 32nd in yardage in 2013. Garrett said that the coaches are excited about their defensive group, even though it doesn't have the marquee players that they've had in the past. He also spoke of improvements he was excited to be making about "his" coaching of the defense", an indication of his being more in tune with his "walk-around" coach status, as opposed to being segmented only to the offense.
That, as well as the overall health of the team, will be the key factors as the Cowboys try to escape the three straight 8-8 campaigns and the malaise of being average.
One hot topic of the offseason is that of the possible return of Josh Brent. Jones indicated that the team would be open to a Brent return, but only after all of his legal dealings have been sorted out.
Back to Orton, Jones revealed that the Cowboys waited as long as they did to release Orton for a few reasons. First, he referenced the possibility that another team might be interested in trading for Orton. While some fans scoff, there was plenty of talk that Dallas was working on a trade of Orton during the draft weekend that never panned out.
Jones also mentioned that they just went the offseason waiting for Orton to stand true to his talk of retirement, and it just never happened. Jason Garrett hinted that Orton claimed that he was dealing with a family issue and that's why he wanted to retire. However Jones seemed very clear in stating that Orton didn't plan to retire at the present moment. Another Ratliff burrito wrapped in a different tortilla?