Coach Jason Garrett used the example of baseball legend Derek Jeter, and John Madden's thoughts on him, to describe what he sees in the 2016 Dallas Cowboys.
Garrett, speaking in front of a crowd of Cowboys sponsors, supporters and alumni on the floor of AT&T Stadium, recalled the famous Yankees play that saw Jeter in the right time and the right place to make an assist by flipping the ball towards home plate for an out in a playoff game. He recalled Madden talking about the play during that weekend's NFL broadcast, paraphrasing Madden by saying Jeter "is the kind of guy you pick for your team ... and then you worry about what sport you're playing later.''
"Football, basketball, baseball, you're opening up a hamburger stand, you pick that guy, and worry about the game later,'' Garrett said.
And yes, his view is that the 2016 Cowboys are made up of "Jeters.''
Certainly QB Tony Romo qualifies, though he wasn't at the Luncheon, focusing instead on treatment for a broken bone in his back that will keep him from starting the season on the field. His replacement, rookie Dak Prescott, received applause from the crowd nearing the level reserved for the iconic Jason Witten. Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott entered AT&T Stadium together, fitting because they share rookie status, and a certain level of importance here ... and because they hang out all the time together, anyway.
Even in Romo's absence, he was a topic of conversation, COO Stephen Jones opining that the break was a "freak accident'' and that Dallas might keep Romo on active roster, hoping for sooner-rather-than-later good health.
“We’re certainly getting our hands around it,” Jones said. “We’ll be needing to make that decision obviously sometime later in the weekend. Whatever we do with him, he’ll need to be on our 53 when we cut it on Friday. So you’ve got to have him through the 53 cut before you can put him on designated-to-return, if we wanted to consider that. But it may be that we just keep him on the roster. We’ll just see.”
Fish has written that the Joneses think of Romo as if he's "Tom Cruise in 'Top Gun,''' and here's proof:
"The last thing in the world we’re worried about with Tony,'' Stephen said, "is being fragile.''
Sean Lee is also a "Jeter,'' as his conversation with our own Mike Fisher on 105.3 The Fan establishes.
Fish apparently went up the AT&T Stadium players-only elevator with Lee, who was armed with a pair of team-honor trophies, a newly-restructured contract and a promise.
“If there was a game this Sunday, I’ll be playing in it,’’ the Cowboys star linebacker told Fish following the team’s Kickoff Luncheon, during which he was awarded the 2015 Ed Block Courage Award and the 2015 Defensive MVP Award as voted on by teammates. “As it is, I’m feeling great. I had a really good camp, our defense had a really good camp, and I’ll be ready for (the Giants on Sept. 11) game day.’'
Lee has been the subject of speculation this week because of reports he underwent an MRI on a knee that kept him from practicing this week. Owner Jerry Jones even called 105.3 The Fan's "G-Bag Nation'' as he was traveling to the stadium to chastise critics of the Jones overseeing of Lee's situation.
But Lee tells Fish he's full-speed-ahead.
“I’m fine, relatively speaking,’’ said Lee, who does not shy away from the fact that his Pro Bowl career has been marred by injuries. “It’s football; you deal with stuff off and on. But I also know I’ve done a good job controlling what I can control. And I know that I always find a way to come back — and to come back better.’'
As Fish (and ESPN's Todd Archer) report, Lee has agreed to convert some base salary into bonus money while giving him the chance to earn $2 million more in weekly roster bonuses than can increase his salary to $9 million. That $2 million, not coincidentally, is exactly what Lee sacrificed by volunteering to sit out last year’s meaningless Week 16 game.
According to 105.3 The Fan, the base-into-bonus technique is also being used with cornerback Orlando Scandrick, which when finished can open up as much as $3 mil in cap room.
Is there a specific spending target for Dallas, which entered the week with about $6 million of room? The Cowboys are shopping for help at quarterback, but Wednesday visitor Austin Davis isn't a pricy proposition and neither is Chiefs extra QB Aaron Murray, who Dallas hopes gets cut this weekend. But no, we think this is more about existing bookkeeping on existing Dallas players, not about a coming blockbuster.
In fact, finding a few extra million bucks is motivated by something rather mundane: With a guy like Kellen Moore and a guy like James Hanna and a guy like Darren McFadden on injured lists -- but also part of your salary cap -- you have to account for them ... and for their replacements. So at tight end, you will pay Witten as planned, and Escobar as planned. But now, instead of just paying, say, Hanna as the third guy ... you've got to pay Geoff Swaim AND still pay the non-rostered Hanna. Additionally, all the waived/injured guys take up cap space, too. Next thing you know, you need to find an extra $3 mil. Which Dallas will do.
Boring, but CBA-necessary.
(By the way: There is no heat behind the Mark Sanchez-to-Dallas trade rumor. The Cowboys personnel department doesn't hold him in high regard; if Denver cuts him, Sanchez joins a long list of "maybes,'' but the Cowboys don't want to burn an asset here. Meanwhile, Dallas had no interest in putting in a claim for QB Zach Mettenberger, dumped by San Diego and reportedly claimed by Pittsburgh. We believe there are off-the-field issues there that concern Dallas scouts.)
The Cowboys would also like to find pass-rusher, but again, in this first wave of cuts, there do not seem to be a great number of pass-rushers, expensive or otherwise, who are superior to present roster members.
Amid all the shuffling, all the questions and all the hope for the 2016 Cowboys, Lee told Fish feels supported by ownership, by the staff and by his teammates.
"I’ve had so much support,’’ he said. “I’ve also had lots of injury issues. But lots of support, too, from my teammates, the Joneses, everybody. That support is what makes me emotional.’'
The emotions came out when on the stage at AT&T Stadium, speaking to Cowboys Nation while clad in a bold-plaid sports coat.
“I remember when I was a rookie and camp to my first Kickoff Luncheon, and I was the most-plained-dressed guy up there,’’ Lee told Fish. “I still don’t have good taste. But other people do. They help me out.’'
Other 2015 award winners include special-team co-MVPs Dan Bailey and Chris Jones and offensive MVP Darren McFadden, in a weird spot on this team now because he might be the No. 5 running back on a team that figures to keep no more than four. McFadden is presently on an injury list but could be lifted off of it if the right trade offer comes rolling in. CowboysHQ.com is told that while Dallas has received calls, the Cowboys like the insurance of keeping McFadden here (on the cheap while he's off the roster but on NFI) better than any offers they've received.
Dallas wasn't compelled to chase Paul Kruger and in indications from to Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com, doesn't seem compelled to chase Quinton Coples, either. But when it comes to a McFadden trade, or a Leary trade, and to salary, if somebody wants to give up a pass-rusher they like? Maybe more changes are coming.