OXNARD, Calif. -- The Dallas Cowboys opened training camp with their traditional State of the Franchise address from Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones and Jason Garrett. The inquiries revolved around the suspension of middle linebacker Rolando McClain, who the NFL slapped with a 10-game suspension without pay after a second failed drug test since entering the Substance Abuse Program. McClain is one of two players, the other being defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory, who will miss playing time due to failed drug tests.
"I think each individual stands on its own," Stephen Jones answered when asked if such suspensions reflected poorly on the franchise and its culture. "I think we’ve had tremendous successes in our program and our infrastructure we have in place and players have come in here and been successful. As we know, some of the suspensions we’re dealing with are sicknesses and they are truly sensitive situations. As we all know, it’s a journey when you have those type of issues and we’ll continue to be supportive of our programs."
Garrett wouldn't let a few bad apples spoil the whole barrel.
Said Garrett: "To me, the overwhelming strength of this football team is the culture of the football team. That starts with the guys we have on our team. I think if you look at the individual guys, and you guys who know me know I’m always reluctant to point guys out, but if you go down the line. Look at Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Doug Free, Jason Witten, Tony Romo, Tyrone Crawford, Sean Lee, Barry Church, then keep going on and on and on."
Even if true, dozens and dozens of players are being held to Garrett's ideal standard while one is a standard unto himself. Recently, second-year receiver Lucky Whitehead posted a picture of T-shirts with "17'' printed on them, a subtle reference. we assume, to Coach John Scolinos' speech to the '96 American Baseball Coaches Association. Without getting too technical, the "17 inches'' means everyone is held to one standard, one measure, and no exceptions.
That is all well and good, but the longer the Rolando McClain saga is allowed to drag, the more likely the T-shirts will have as much meaning as "2007 New England Patriots: Undefeated Super Bowl Champs."
Whether watching the presser on DallasCowboys.com or reading all off-season CowboysHQ.com and listening to Fish on 105.3 The Fan, there had been some sort of split on McClain's expulsion from The Star, and anyone since 2007 can figure out who stands where. The club is teady to move on McClain, but "salary cap nuances" prevent them from outright cutting the mercurial linebacker the way the Bengals did recently with Taylor Mays.
“Lot of nuances," said Jerry Jones, who has always been a Ro advocate. "Lot of nuances that we’re really not going to get into, but there are many nuances that, basically, would mitigate that clean a shot, right there. Lot of them – cap. I don’t even want to start down them because some of them compromise our team or compromise other aspects of it. But your cap situation has a big issue to do with a lot of decisions.”
Cap implications aside, the 2011 collective bargaining agreement prevents teams from releasing players due to suspensions without the threat of litigation from the NFLPA, which could be part of the "nuance" the Joneses refer to. As training camp progresses and McClain stays away, the Cowboys can fine him for not reporting to camp and also establish more reasons to cut their losses and move on.
The Cowboys will have four players start camp on the physically unable to perform list: running back Lance Dunbar, defensive end Benson Mayowa, tight end James Hanna, and defensive lineman Maliek Collins. Additionally, running back Darren McFadden, linebacker Jaylon Smith, and linebacker Damien Wilson (eye injury from paintball!?) will start off camp on the non-football injury list.
The good news in the injury report is who is not on it. Bryant, cornerback Orlando Scandrick, and tight end Gavin Escobar are expected to be ready on Saturday, though the team will keep them in the "monitor group." Romo is also expected to be a full go after returning from a twice-broken collarbone that shortened his 2015 season.
McClain and Gregory will begin in Oxnard by not beginning at all with spots on the reserve/did not report list. Fish's 105.3 The Fan Facebook Live post, here, suggests that McClain is actually on the "Get-The=Hell-Out-Of-Here List.
FOLES ME ONCE ...
The release of Rams quarterback Nick Foles has drawn more interest from Cowboys fans and observers than from the scouting department and front office. The bulk of it is based on what Foles was in Philadelphia in 2013 as the league's best passer with a 119.2 passer rating. Wouldn't having a division-winning journeyman like that make more sense at backup than an undrafted Boise State hero who was the fourth-stringer in Dallas?
Garrett, with his patented corporate approach, tried to explain that Foles could be a potential progress stopper with the staff also trying to give enough reps to Jameill Showers and fourth-rounder Dak Prescott along with prepping Romo and Moore for the season. But his boss interrupted him.
"Foles isn't an option," Jerry declared.
When asked to elaborate, all the Cowboys boss would say is that the club had discussions about Foles and had seen enough of him to know he wouldn't be worth the time in Dallas.
"At some point you have to develop guys," Stephen Jones said. "And Cincinnati last year had a really solid football team. You look at what they did with A.J. [McCarron], a fifth-round pick out of the SEC and he came in and had every opportunity and, nothing to do with him, had a chance to win a playoff game for them. So, at some point you've got to commit your resources to getting your young guys ready or you're always in that mode of older, veteran guys."
Fish dismissed the idea of Foles on Thursday. (Simply put, the personnel dept. doesn't love him and the coaching staff prefers working with what it's got.) Now that's official ... and we move on to Saturday, when Tony Romo takes the field and has visions of "sugar plums,'' as Jerry put it, dancing in the Cowboys' heads.
Keep it right here at CowboysHQ ... and CLICK HERE to get FOUR MONTHS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE (5 bucks!) WITH THIS WEEKEND'S FLASH SALE ... as the gang here breaks down further training camp happenings. In the meantime, catch Fish and his daily Cowboys reports on 105.3 The Fan, Matt Postins on Fox Sports Arkansas, and myself on Fox Sports Texarkana daily at 5:15 p.m. Central.