The Cowboys’ 26th annual sponsors golf tournament was largely underwater on Tuesday. And what floated to the top? Organizational optimism.
You could sense it out on the course when early groups teed off. You could sense it later inside the Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine as players adorned in fluorescent yellow golf shorts mingled with sponsored enjoying (of course) Miller Lite, Pepsi and Papa John’s. You could sense it when Tony Romo popped on with "Ben & Skin'' on 105.3 The Fan and only half-joked that while everyone else at Valley Ranch is a year older, he feels so healthy and invigorated it's like he's Benjamin Button. And you could feel it as execs talked about this offseason and the workouts in the Valley Ranch backyard and the good feelings about Romo himself.
"I think,’’ COO Stephen Jones said of the quarterback, “he feels better about this football team than he's ever felt at any time in his career."
There are issues here, as I detail below. Football is business and business is football, to paraphrase "North Dallas Forty.'' As coach Jason Garrett noted, that's nothing new in the NFL. (And note that Pete Gent essentially conceived "North Dallas Forty'' 50 years ago.) So you work through the Hardy stuff and the Dez stuff and the Scandrick stuff and the Carr stuff and the Gregory stuff and the running-back stuff ... and you brace for more "stuff'' because it is so inevitable ...
But you let yourself frolic in the thrill of this offseason and you let yourself float on the wave of feel-good that splashes from 12-4 to 0-0 ... You are buoyed by it all, and that's OK.
About once a week now, some story comes from somewhere suggesting "all these problems'' in Dez Bryant's life or "all these problems'' in Dez Bryant's decisions or "all these problems'' in Dez Bryant's Cowboys future.
Yet the real "all-these-problem'' tales operate in direct conflict with what Dez himself says keeps telling me, keeps telling you, keeps telling teammates.
There are no sure-fire promises of happiness and peace here, just as there is no guarantee that negotiations focusing almost completely on years and guaranteed money (and yes, those are the issues, not some Walmart Unicorn) will result in the "Cowboys-For-Life'' deal that all involved wish for.
But what does Dez tell me about the "all-these-problem'' problems? Read that here.
And what does Dez tell teammates about the "all-these-problem'' problems? Read that here, with Dez joining Tony Romo in telling La'el Collins: "Jerry's Got Your Back."
With all due respect to the opinions of people not named "Dez'' ... shouldn't the opinions of the person named "Dez'' carry the greater weight?
Dez told me yesterday that he was in the middle of spending a few hours at Valley Ranch. I don't have many more details at this time. Was it a contractual visit? A chance to get in a lift? Picking up mail? I'll keep you posted. But the Thursday visit is another sign that contrary to what many say, there simply isn't a high level of acrimony here. A very good thing.
Is a criminal even more reprehensible when he lack repentance?
The New England Patriots continue to squeal about their penalties in the deflated-balls controversy (a $1 million fine, a forfeiture a 2016 first-round pick and a 2017 fourth-round pick and most of all, a four-game suspension for QB Tom Brady.
And through it all, Brady keeps grinnin'. And his agent, Don Yee, keeps attacking the Wells Report. And Patriots followers keep protesting in the streets (mostly just to gain cheap attention for their fan-boy websites, but still.)
Brady will appeal here and maybe he'll end up being active for the Pats' Game 4, which, CBS will be happy to remind, is scheduled for Oct. 11 at the Dallas Cowboys. Maybe he wins the appeal because he's in possession of such a winning smile. But the Patriots under coach Bill Belichick stand accused of operating within a "Culture of Cheating''; you don't really think this King, pleading ignorance, doesn't know where his generals are conducting battle, do you?
And to me, the denials and the smiles are at least as offensive as the initial "crime.''
Once upon a time, Cowboys COO Stephen Jones talked of his team possessing "secret sauce." Now comes controversial and colorful pass-rusher Greg Hardy saying his time so far as a Cowboy has been "awesome sauce!"
This is symbolic enough: This organization is on the same page with this player.
Hardy is readying for a May 28 appeal of that 10-game suspension for a domestic-violence incident in May 2014. There was the Davon Coleman argument during conditioning drills. There was the Twitter foolishness attempting to joke about 9-11. There was his Bentley stuck underwater on a Dallas roadway.
Some of it seems dangerous. Some of it seems knuckleheaded. But none of it, owner Jerry Jones said, is getting in the way of Hardy's "zesty'' effort.
“He comes to work,” Jerry said. “He’s ready to go at all hours. I’m excited about his zest. It’s contagious. ...He helps everybody work harder and that’s what you want from a player from a leadership standpoint. He’s a leader.”
The Cowboys totaled just 28 sacks last season - only two more than Hardy recorded by himself in 2012 and 2013. Depending on the length of his suspension, he can singlehandledly fix some numbers here.
"He's an animal," teammate Brandon Carr told reporters. "I love him. He gives it his all every single day. That's all you can ask for."
He also gives it all on the golf course ... with sketchy results.
Stephen Jones has taken a liking to saying he's in the "asset-acquisition business.'' It's a great "out'' when discussing Dallas' running back situation, a situation I break down here in "Truths and Fibs.''
It is possible to "feel good about'' Randle, McFadden and Williams. It's even possible to believe that if Randle keeps his head screwed on tight, he'll rush for 1,000 yards and do a reasonable job making folks forget DeMarco. At the same time, Dallas' wish to have a runner fall to 'em in the draft is a disappointment ... and I'm betting if we get to July or August and something isn't quite right with Randle, McFadden and Williams, the Cowboys will formulate a plan to grab another one.
Don't get too devoted to the idea of washouts like Chris Johnson and his ilk. Nor should you get tied into Matt Forte talk. (Sources tell me he's not in the Cowboys' front-burner thoughts.) Dallas will either see Randle and Co. do the job that merits trust in them ... or the Cowboys will use assets (trade-value depth in the offensive line, at linebacker or at tight end) to find someone deserving of that trust.
It's fun to throw out possible names; I wonder if Miami wants to give the load to rookie Jay Ajayi and get something in exchange for Lamar Miller, scheduled to make just $1.5 mil this year? In any event: The 2015 Cowboys will have a good running game. That, I think, is a promise.
The Cowboys are involved in contract negotiations with both starting cornerbacks from a year ago, which is important in itself.
But even more noteworthy is the absence of contentiousness here.
Brandon Carr is due to make $8 million in base salary and count $12.717 million against the cap in 2015. Dallas wishes to reduce those figures.
Said Carr, while representing the team at Wednesday's corporate golf outing: “I’m a Cowboy. I love being a Cowboy. As long as I’m in this building, I’m going to give it my all.”
Orlando Scandrick has been skipping the voluntary stuff but he his agent popped into Valley Ranch this week for a visit that included COO Stephen Jones and coach Jason Garrett.
Said Garrett: “I had a good visit with Orlando. I don’t want to share too much about it, but we had a good visit. We didn’t talk for real long. We had a real positive visit about our team and hopefully a plan for him going forward.”
That's an unusually friendly way to characterize a contract "dispute."
I think we're going to have some closure there soon. And eventually? Same with Carr, who rather than facing the axe could provide Dallas cap relief with an extension (and some money trasferred into a guarantee).
"All of the contracts that we don’t have closure on are a priority," Jones said, trying to politely conduct Cowboys cornerback business in what is usually an unfriendly world.
Want to start an argument about the Cowboys' projected 54-man roster and depth chart? KD Drummond gets you started here ... For one thing, why is it "54''? For another, why isn't Darren McFadden on the depth chart? For another, why does Dallas look so thin at safety?
Good, smart, argument-fueling stuff here. Dig in.
KD is joined by yours truly to discuss the upshot of the recent practices and rookie minicamp. Why is everyone talking about Greg Hardy ON the field? What was the takeaway from the La'el Collins signing? How is the cornerback situation going to play out?
Then, Keith Mullins joins the party as he and KD go over a roster projection and break down the few spots that are open to compeition. The Cowboys have improved the roster greatly over the years and now there is limited space for players with upside to make a deep roster. Position group by position group, things are dissected down to 53... err 54.
With so much focus on so much business, it's understandable how the newest Dallas Cowboys player who carries no "baggage,'' who has no "dispute,'' who seems the farthest thing from a magnet for "controversy,'' would slip under the radar around here.
Hey, how ya gonna make a living click-whoring by reporting that Byron Jones seems to be as fine a person as he is an athlete?
Here's CHQ's Video Look Inside Minicamp with Cowboys first-rounder Byron Jones ... so far impressive in every possible way.
“I think the main thing is trying to keep all the baggage outside the locker room,” rookie pass-rusher Randy Gregory says in our extensive report on his first week as a Cowboy. “I think that’s what Dez has done. I think that’s what guys in my position have done that’s been in the past, and that’s what I’m going to do.”