Translating Jerry

If you remember the movie "Jaws,'' you remember the concept of "chum.'' Chum is the oily, bloody hunks of fish that gets dumped off the back of the boat to fool, and lure, the big catch.

Years ago, I told Jerry Jones that he'd become a master at "dumping chum.'' He liked the analogy. So I'll use it again:

When it comes to trying to decipher the words that emerge from the Cowboys owner's mouth this time of year, beware of chum.

This view once led me to a weekly radio segment we called "Translating Jerry.'' By virtue of my relationship with Jones and his Cowboys, I felt qualified to first interview Jerry. ... and then to later in the show replay the interview but this time with yelps of "Stop!'' so the tape would quit rolling, giving me a moment to consume what Jerry had just said -- in his unique Arkansas-Salesman Native Tongue -- and translate it into English.

I'm about to do that here, but first, it's time for a sort of author's/editor's note:

Guys, I've been with for only a year. But I've been covering the Cowboys for 16 years, as a newspaper beat writer, newspaper columnist, radio talk-show host and TV commentator. And I'd covered the NFL for newspapers for a decade before that. So in 26 years of doing this for a living, I've developed the very fine lines between things like "sources'' and "speculation'' and "gossip'' and "fact'' and "opinion'' and "news.''

Know that as we move forward through this offseason, through free agency, through the draft, and into training camp. In his writing and reporting, Roy Philpott has a very clear way of expressing the differences between speculation and fact. So do I. Let us know if we fail in this effort, but I am careful to properly frame each and every story, punchline, scoop, rumor, whatever.

In the '90's, I was involved in breaking virtually every major Cowboys story there was. That ain't braggin'; it's a fact. From Emmitt Smith's contract resolution to Michael Irvin's legal battles to Troy Aikman's feud with Barry Switzer to Jones' "Quit or Commit' declaration to Jimmy Johnson to the signing of Deion Sanders (which I reported two months in advance), there is a track record here.

Keep following us. You'll see more of the same. In the meantime, again, you should know that WE know the difference between speculation and "scoop.'' And that when it comes to the Cowboys, we're experts at separating the chum from the filet.

In that spirit, let's play "Translating Jerry.''

Here's some of what Jones told reporters during his time at the NFL Combine in Indy. ... and the real truth behind his statements:

1) Jones said the Cowboys will not sign a big-money tackle in free agency, paving the way for them to possibly draft an offensive lineman in the first round.

TRANSLATING JERRY: Detroit's Jeff Backus was the "big-money tackle'' who was worth pursuing. He's been tagged by the Lions, so he's out. And there isn't a "big-money tackle'' left on the radar. That doesn't mean, however, that Dallas doesn't want to pursue medium-money people like Buffalo-ex Mike Williams and Jets ex-Jason Fabani. And as to how that directly correlates to drafting an OT in the first round? It doesn't. FA is for need; the draft is for talent. Even more immaterial is Dallas' history of skipping over offensive players and offensive linemen. Completely coincidental historically, and completely immaterial as it applies to this draft.

2) Jones said the Cowboys are still doing their homework, but he would lean toward taking an offensive player in the first round.

TRANSLATING JERRY: Nothing but chum. The draft is two months away. Nobody has yet been pinpointed as being the 18th best player. Mel Kiper Jr. may have his "Big Board.'' But teams do not.

3) Regarding a kicker, Jones said the Cowboys will depart from their history and pursue a veteran in free agency. Jones, however, said pursuing top free agents such as Adam Vinatieri and Mike Vanderjagt is unlikely because of their big-money demands.

TRANSLATING JERRY: I sense truth. I sense a pursuit of Tampa Bay kicker Matt Bryant.

4) Jones said the Cowboys would like to improve at receiver. He said those plans don't include controversial receiver Terrell Owens.

TRANSLATING JERRY: The above line is from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, given that impression after visiting with Jones. At the same time, the Dallas Morning News wrote about the same issue and quoted Jones in a different way: "I want to say this so we don't get something going here: There's so many issues that I can't today put that into the equation. ... We've not gone down those issues. We haven't sat down and said, 'How do we do something like that?'"

Call the following a guarantee: Jones has bad Poker Face when he insists the Cowboys "haven't sat down'' and examined Owens' availability. That's simply not true. Why bluff there? Why are there multiple impressions left from the same answer there? Because the Cowboys are hiding something -- maybe something innocuous, but something. Call the following an extremely educated guess: If this were Jones' call alone, Dallas would be a major player in the TO Sweepstakes.

5) Jones is excited about the NFL Europe work of QB Drew Henson.

TRANSLATING JERRY: Hey, the guy completed 50 percent of his passes in a scrimmage! Of course, he only threw four passes total.

6) Jones concedes the Cowboys might need help at free safety.

TRANSLATING JERRY: This one is out of the boss' hands and he probably doesn't even know it. Marcus Coleman just got cut by the Texans. Coleman is 32, but he's a Parcells-era ex-Jet, he's got size, and as a former cornerback, he's got coverage skills. But you know what he has most of all? An agent named Jimmy Sexton (who, as you know if you read this space, also happens to rep Parcells). The law firm of Sexton & Parcells is already handling this case.

7) Jones makes it clear the Cowboys might very well be moving up in the NFL Draft.

TRANSLATING JERRY: What is also clear: The Cowboys might very well be moving DOWN in the NFL Draft. If he ever found a way to incorporate other favorite games into the game that is the draft -- like, say, Scrabble or Monopoly -- Jones would also announce the possibility of his Cowboys moving sideways in the NFL Draft, of the Cowboys moving diagonally in the NFL Draft, and of the Cowboys using the NFL Draft to Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200.

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