Cedric Thornton Has New "Dads" on Cowboys Staff

DALLAS -- New Cowboys defensive lineman Cedric Thornton made his first public appearance since joining the club on March 10 and had time to answer a few questions about his ambiguous role, playing for a division rival, and also who are his new fathers.

Thornton donned a white Cowboys jersey with the number 75 and his surname emboldened in blue on the back as he helped new teammates running back Lance Dunbar and defensive tackle Terrell McClain bring cheer with WWE Superstars and Divas to the kids at the Ronald McDonald House.




"It's one of my first events as a Cowboy," Thornton said. "I'm liking it."




Still, the 27-year-old won't know what it's like to be a Cowboy until he "puts on some pads."


Admittedly, the six-year defensive lineman out of Southern Arkansas grew up admiring the extinct WCW's headliner Goldberg in the pro wrestling circuit. On Wednesday, he was on the right side as he joined WWE Superstars Mark Henry, Darren Young, Goldust, Jack Swagger, and Eva Marie in serving birthday cake, ice cream, and signing autographs. To Cowboys fans, Thornton is on the "right side" of the NFC East rivalry as well now that he inked a four-year deal worth $18 million in free agency this year.


"All the important stuff is I'm here," said Thornton. "I used to be there. All the people that understand this is a professional business and they understand that. They know I did the best thing for my family. So, the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia rivalry still exists. I'm just on the other side."


Thornton promised to "wreak havoc" on the Cowboys side of the defensive line, a unit where he at this time does not know his defined role. Wherever he ends up, he will endeavor to "bring the ability to this team and on the defensive line."


One of the intriguing aspects of Thornton's game is his position flex. Originally, from 2011-12, Thornton played in the Eagles 4-3 scheme under defensive coordinators Juan Castillo and Todd Bowles where he racked up 27 tackles, a sack, and a fumble recovery. When Chip Kelly came to Philadelphia and switched the Eagles to a 3-4 scheme, Thornton blossomed in 16 games with 52 tackles, a sack, and three fumble recoveries, including one for a touchdown, along with a safety. In '14, along with teammates Fletcher Fox, Bennie Logan, and Vinny Curry emerging, the Philadelphia defensive line appeared to be an unstoppable force in the division until backup quarterback troubles dashed the Eagles playoff hopes.


In 2015, Thornton played only 13 games, the lowest total since his rookie season when he was floating on and off the Eagles practice squad. The 6-4, 309-pounder recorded 32 tackles and had but one sack. Nonetheless, the Cowboys gave him a four-year deal and the coaching staff has already made an impression on him.


Said Thornton: "They all treat you like they're your dad and you're their son. very family oriented. I like it so far."


The Cowboys fathers have had to look for new sons with free agent defensive linemen Greg Hardy and Jeremy Mincey not expected to rejoin the family. Even Jack Crawford, another player with considerable position flexibility like Thornton, has flirted with the Steelers in free agency. Though Mincey and Hardy are long shots to come back, losing Crawford puts a premium on Thornton's abilities, who is confident he can play any spot on the defensive line.




"I played defensive end the last three years," Thornton said. "I played inside some the last three years. It's all about defeating the man in front of you in the trenches. And I think wherever they line me up at, I'll be effective. I'm going to be up front, and I'm going to go wherever they're doing."


Though every NFL player would love to start, Thornton is all about contributing to the good of the team and helping the Cowboys regain the division. He is willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure that goal -- starting or subbing.


"My role, whether I start or not, we'll see. It's all dictated in training camp and determines my health and all the situations, productivity obviously. We're just excited to be here. We're definitely in the off-season putting in work. We'll see."


For the second straight off-season, a player from the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry has switched sides. Last year, running back DeMarco Murray, now a Tennessee Titan, switched sides when he signed a five-year, $42 million deal with Philadelphia after the Cowboys front office allowed him to test the free agent waters. Fans in Dallas were bitter to see Murray embrace the uniform of a hated division rival, and Cowboys players were bittersweet about their former teammate's new beginnings.


How was it any different for Thornton?


"They were kind of excited believe it or not," Thornton recounted of his Eagles teammates' reactions to his new team. "They congratulated me a lot and told me that the market is easier. So, this would be my opportunity to shine. I got a lot of encouraging words, so I'm just happy to be here."


Just as his former teammates were happy to see him earn a contract that can, as Thornton calls it, "take care of my family," his new Dallas teammates have been very welcoming towards him inside the locker room at Valley Ranch.




"I played against these guys: Doug Free, Jason Witten, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, La'el Collins," said Thornton. "I played against them for years. They accepted me in and I'm happy to be here. I've been working out with these guys for three or four weeks and they treat me pretty good."


"Nice guy, man," defensive tackle Terrell McClain said of his new teammate. "New additions to the team is always a good thing. Brings a new style to the D-line. He's a great. We played against him the last two years in Philadelphia. He's a great player. I think that he's going to play."


The contract the Cowboys gave Thornton suggests he will be given every opportunity to play and contribute as the club looks to erase the disappointing 4-12 season that relegated them to the bottom of the NFC East. Thornton and the Cowboys are hoping that with his addition they will be able to regain their lost division crown they earned in 2014 when they finished 12-4 and won a playoff game.

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