Each Sunday I provide 10 quick hits on the Dallas Cowboys. It's a suspension summary, starring Rolando McClain and Demarcus Lawrence, in this edition of First and 10.
And here I was thinking there would be nothing to write about now that mini-camp is over.
1. Let's talk about Rolando McClain for a minute. When the Dallas Cowboys first signed Rolando McClain back in 2014, I wasn't working with CowboysHQ.com at the time, but I was working for another site that covered the Cowboys and as part of that coverage I did a podcast talking about the McClain signing. I said one of the things that I would be really concerned about with McClain is the fact that he retired twice within a year. I had questions about his commitment to football.
I think the past couple of years have validated that concern.
When McClain is on the field he's really, really good. Problem is he's not on the field enough. The injuries are one thing. But assuming his appeal fails, he'll have missed 14 of 32 games the past two years due to violations of the league's substance-abuse policy. Last offseason he sat out OTAs and mini-camp recovering from injuries. This offseason he sat out OTAs due to family issues in Alabama, and that's fine as long as you keep yourself in shape. It doesn't appear McClain did, based on reporting out of mini-camp, as he just did work on the side.
Pro football requires an enormous commitment and if you're not into it, for whatever reason, trouble tends to follow. You're seeing it with McClain. Most of this is just plain not taking responsibility for yourself. And if you're considering signing a player who can't take responsibility for himself, chances are that player isn't going to take responsibility for the things you want him to on the field, too. Anyone who expects McClain to have any sort of impact on the field after his 10-game suspension is kidding themselves. I fully expect that McClain won't be in shape for his return on Thanksgiving Day and that his role will be part-time at best.
McClain's commitment appears to be to other things. The slack the Cowboys have provided him has not been rewarded. When the season ends it is time for McClain to go.
2. Now for Demarcus Lawrence. On the same day the Cowboys found out (or at least announced the Rolando McClain suspension — our Mike Fisher reported the Cowboys had known about it for a couple of weeks), the Cowboys learned that Lawrence's four-game suspension was upheld on appeal. So it's clear that the Cowboys will be without Randy Gregory and Lawrence for the first four games of the season, their presumed starters at defensive end.
I'm not sure how much better that makes Cowboys fans feel, frankly.
So now the spotlight falls on David Irving and Ryan Russell, two back-up defensive ends that could be starters by September, depending upon how Benson Mayowa's post-surgery recovery goes (by all accounts he should be ready for training camp). Any way you cut it, players like Irving and Russell will have to play well above what they've shown to this point for the Cowboys to mount any sort of a pass rush early on.
Oh, by the way, Jeremy Mincey is still out there post-elbow surgery. I'm just throwing that out there.
3. Is there a culture problem in Dallas? It's a valid question. The fact is every team in the NFL takes the kinds of risks the Cowboys have taken on players like Rolando McClain, Randy Gregory and, to a lesser degree, Demarcus Lawrence. Winning, consistently, trumps the off-field issues players might carry with them. A general manager's job, in this case Jerry Jones', is to do everything possible to minimize the risk to the team that could be inflicted by players with off-field issues.
Well, given that the Cowboys will be three players down to start the regular season on a defensive unit that must play better in 2016 for the Cowboys to have a hope of contending for anything, you would be well within your rights to say that Jones failed to minimize the risk this offseason.
As for the "culture" question? Well, hate on the organization all you want. But the fact is you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink, as they say. You can only provide so much guidance to players who are experiencing off-field issues before it's up to them to fix it. Some players respond to it, like Dez Bryant. Others don't, like Rolando McClain.
Or as I tweeted earlier this week:
4. I did some time with Wess Moore and Game On up on Fox Sports Arkansas earlier this week. Wess and I broke down how the Rolando McClain suspension affects the team and the roster, which players need to step up on the defensive line now that two ends will be suspended the first four games and what's next for the Cowboys entering training camp.
Listen to the appearance here and follow Wess Moore @WessMoore.
5. Jaylon Smith has, reportedly, not seen any improvement in the nerve in his injured knee. Anyone who was counting on Smith to play in 2016 was delusional, frankly. But this should not dampen expectations that Smith will play in 2017. It just underscores the risk the Cowboys took in taking a player in the second round that would help them in 2017, not 2016.
6. CowboysCast has all your suspension analysis. Our Mike Fisher chats with host Bobby Belt about the new suspension for LB Rolando McClain and the upheld suspension for DE Demarcus Lawrence and breaks down how they'll impact the Cowboys' regular season. Then, Belt has sixth-round pick Darius Jackson on the podcast to talk about his experience with the Cowboys so far and the opportunity that opens up with the injury to Darren McFadden.
Plus, Fish reflects on the coaching life of former Cowboys antagonist Buddy Ryan, who died earlier this week.
7. Apparently Jake Plummer thought he owed Jerry Jones an apology. So here's the backstory. Plummer was talking to the media about medical marijuana and NFL players. During that conversation he called Jones "a billionaire a--hole," in reference to Jones' comments about concussions and CTE at the owners' meeting earlier this year, comments most took as tone-deaf on the subject.
Well Plummer went on sports radio after the interview and felt he owed Jones an apology for the remark, saying he didn't know Jones well enough to call him that.
The funny thing is I find it hard to imagine a Cowboys fan that hasn’t at least thought that about Jones at one time or another the past 25 years.
8. It's our Tweet of the Week:
Yes, because the "slack" Jerry gave Rolando McClain worked out so well.
9. This week's Great Moments in Headline Porn? "Man in Dallas Cowboys jersey robbed bank in Ft. Worth, police say" from star-telegram.com.
Some headline porn is just too easy. So is the backstory. This guy was wearing a Miles Austin or Keyshawn Johnson jersey (a blue No. 19). Plus, he may have robbed the bank before. So this guy clearly has his personal thing together.
10. Looking for other things that set CowboysHQ.com apart from other sites? Mark Lane helped Mike Fisher and I out with Dallas Mavericks draft night (he did much of the video from that night that you saw at DallasBasketball.com). Mark and I had a long conversation at dinner and at one point he asked me what I was up to that weekend. I told him I was already committed to covering the Texas Rangers. On Saturday I found out what Mark was up to. Mark drove from Dallas to Star City, Ark., to cover defensive tackle Cedric Thornton's youth football camp, just for the opportunity to get a few minutes with Thornton. That would have been more than enough. But, no, Mark got in the car after that and drove down to Shreveport, La., and Independence Stadium to cover Morris Claiborne's youth football camp.
There are many great publications and web sites out there covering the Cowboys. But I know of few that would ask one of their writers to go to two youth football camps five hours away just for the chance to get a few minutes with Cowboys players. And here's the kicker — no one asked Mark to do it. He just did it. That's the commitment he has to covering the Cowboys, the commitment we all have to bringing you the best Cowboys news out there.
So if you're waffling on spending $5 per month on premium content at CowboysHQ.com, well stop and just do it and you'll get reporters that are willing to take advantage of every chance they can get to talk with Cowboys players, coaches and team officials. The proof is on the site every day. Five bucks. Click here!