Cowboys Minicamp: What's Up With Ro + Dez?

IRVING - The Cowboys know what they’ve bargained for by not yet coming to an agreement with Dez Bryant on a big contract. They also know what they bargained for by bringing Rolando McClain back on a little contract. Here comes mandatory minicamp ... how are those 'bargains' about to play out?

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A Talented Twosome

The Dallas Cowboys know what they’ve bargained for by not yet coming to an agreement with Dez Bryant on a contract. The bargain: He’s not required to show up for the team’s mandatory Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday minicamp this week.

The Cowboys also know what they’ve bargained for by almost reluctantly bringing Rolando McClain back for another season under the terms of a vet-minimum one-year deal. The middle linebacker is required to attend this week’s workouts, but …

"Rolando is doing a good job with his rehab, and we'll see what his plans are for next week,’' coach Jason Garrett.

McClain marches to the beat of his own drummer — though temporarily he isn’t doing much marching, the result of a clean-up right knee surgery. Privately, the Cowboys would prefer his rehab take place at Valley Ranch, not home in Alabama, where McClain has been while skipping all three rounds of the voluntary OTAs. was not sure if the linebacker will make an appearance.

But this week?


"Well, the minicamp is mandatory," Garrett said. "It's the only thing in the offseason that is mandatory, so it's important for us to make sure that's clear to everybody and express that to our players. There are some specific situations where things that you do in a mandatory fashion don't always happen. You know players miss practice during the season for different reasons and those are mandatory. So we'll work through the specific situations as we go.’'

The Cowboys have the option of fining McClain, of course. Or they can handle him with the kid gloves that allow him to frustrate coaches over the course of a week before his Sunday performances have them marveling, as was the case last season, when the controversial former first-round pick was arguably Dallas’ best defensive player. That roller-coaster ride is why Dallas remained uncommitted to bringing back McClain throughout much of the free-agency period before eventually setting on a cheap deal that is advertised as being worth $3 mil but really contains a base of just $750,000.


Bryant (who has yet to sign his franchise-tag tender while awaiting what he hopes is a Cowboys-For-Life deal that looks something like this) is arguably Dallas’ best offensive player. Going into this week, I might have said it would not surprise anybody if he shows up, as he did twice during OTAs, simply as a show of team unity.

My thoughts are altered on that, naturally, having spoken to Dez on Friday afternoon in this exclusive interview in which he told me the concept of a regular-season boycott is “Legit. It’s not bogus.’’ And when I asked him whether skipping Week 1 really accomplishes anything (after all, the contractual deadline is July 15; protesting after that accomplishes nothing), he added, "It could be longer than just the opener.’'

Given that there is so little precedent for a player skipping weekly paychecks worth about $755,000, one might think Dez' eventual action is predictable. (I break down the problems with Dez' position here). But predicting McClain’s behavior? That’s a different challenge.

Do the Cowboys even know if McClain will show up this week?

“I don't want to get into much more detail than that,’’ said Garrett, deflecting the question mostly because he has no answer.

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