Target Practice

Two things are abundantly clear. Alfredo Roberts needs to steer clear of the contractor referral business, and Michael Irvin needs to stop consulting former teammates for future fountain needs.

Hey Mike, there are these two things called the Yellow Pages and the Better Business Bureau. Not sure about taking a contractor referral which also comes pre-qualified with the terminology "He's broke and down on this luck." That my friend signifies "looking for the jackpot."

No one is faulting The Playmaker for leaning on a former teammate and friend for information, but much to Michael Irvin's chagrin, those actions find him in the local news again, and it has nothing to do with his upcoming induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Michael has a broke, down on his luck, apparently easy fix landscaping fountain contractor on his hands. Michael loves Pearl (Mother) so much, he was bound and determined to have a lawn fountain erected before her holiday arrival. That process has gotten him served with court papers alleging assault via unlawful touch. Thanks Fredo, next time I'll get my own lawn boy or call Emmitt for a recommendation.

While Michael vehemently denies the allegations, this is not unfamiliar territory for the future Hall of Famer. It's a wrinkle-sheeted bed he made for himself a few years back. These petty attempts to get into his wallet bother Irvin to no end, but he's also quick to note, "I did it to myself." Unfortunately, this is common ground for those choosing to mark their territory with bravado and arrogance. With it comes the big bulls' eye. It's the same exact behavior Roger Goodell and the NFL Front Office are attempting to head off by putting the 2007 annexation on Adam "Pac Man" Jones.

It's Goodell's way of saying, and Michael Irvin would support the move, bad things seem to happen or follow those choosing to handle themselves in an "I'm bulletproof" manner. Unfortunately, The Playmaker and the Pac Man are learning the hard way. One forced to use personal funding for legal representation on a countersuit, and the other becoming completely devoid of 2007 paychecks. Hey, if you want to run with your dawgs, you're bound to get the fleas. It's a safe bet this year's Rookie Symposium is chocked full of "don't go there's." Will the just-turned-millionaire Rookie mindset allow reality to settle in, or will it be passed over with "Pac Man's just stupid, that won't be me?" If Agents aren't caring enough to advise their clients to steer clear of Pothole Row, then shame on both of them for counting their cash instead of avoiding the temptations of the real world.

Goodell's message is half image management and half Father Figure. It'll be most interesting to see how the League-wide message is received. Hopefully the Player Reps are smart enough to let this one slide, sink in and cultivate "think twice" advice. The Union is yet to step forward with any type of disapproval, and the masses can only hope Gene gets the message, loud and clear, as well. Gil Brandt was recently cited as saying he feels the amount of non-conforming behavior is down from day's past, but points to the media blitz and mega outlets as taking on magnifying glass capabilities. Brandt is as respected as they come, and while he may be right, it's perceived the seriousness of the acts has intensified. Beer drinking hellions and the occasional pot smokers have been replaced with brandished weapons, strip club violence and the most gut-retching of all, domestic abuse. As Goodell purports, it's time to curb some behavior.

Moving from behavioral management to architectural design, a visit was recently paid to the construction site of the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium. In a nutshell, Phoenix and Indianapolis, good freaking luck with your Super Bowl bids. You might want to consider a HGH boost to the previously-submitted paperwork. No disrespect to these two fine cities, but one glance at the sub-ground bowl and concrete jungle where the Cowboys will reside, and it's "This Dog will Hunt." So when it's time for the Owners to convene in Nashville later this summer, they might as well move on to the next agenda item. Cowboys Faithful, this is a done deal.

Once again it's statement time for Jerrel Wayne Jones. Not that he's ever been remotely removed from the NFL spotlight, but he's about to be on top of the pigskin world again. If the Cowboys can somehow manage to get their tail feathers into postseason play, and Lord, help us, hoist another piece of hardware, the Cowboys will return to their birthright. Hopefully those who help Jones tend to personal matters will see fit to annually send Laura Miller a bird's eye view Christmas card. Happy Holidays short-sided Laura, Love Your "Could Have Had" Cowboys!! If the Cowboys continue the tradition of bringing in pre-Draft hopefuls, the welcome kits must contain drool towels and apparatus envy medication. Kids are going to want to play in the Big House. And it's big. Very big.

So, how many projector bulbs is Jeff Ireland burning up these days? It could have been a case of bad eyes, but Sylvania and GE trucks have been spotted all over Valley Ranch. A few "How are you doing?" emails have been exchanged with Ranch Report friend Jeff Ireland over the last couple of weeks. Judging from the date and time stamps on these volleys, you get the vision of a Jeff Ireland primed and ready to promote Visine, Norelco and Starbuck's all in one take. Not to speak for him, but his words would most likely be, "Just doing my job." Amen to that and Cowboys fans would have it no other way. Burn a few more bulbs, Brother.

To be expected, everything is played extremely close to the vest, and there are no sneak previews of the Cowboys preliminary Draft board. As you've heard Mike Fisher say on more than one occasion, they don't even know what their final board will look like at this juncture. For some, two weeks is too close, but for NFL personnel evaluators, it's an eternity. The midnight oil continues to be consumed by the gallons as Pro and Collegiate Scouting departments dot I's and cross T's. It's been rumored this will be the Scouting Department's Draft. Not exclusively, as they don't make decisions in a vacuum, but the coaching staff and front office will take their leads from Ireland and staff. It'll be most interesting to catch up with Jeff Ireland, post-Draft, to see how the mechanics and environment differed from the Parcells' era.

So, as the fandom compiles its Christmas (In April) wish list, and the Mock Draft enthusiasts proclaim to have a handle on the upcoming proceedings, rest assured none of them knows who the Cowboys will select at #22 in the first round. Know why? Because the Cowboys brain trust doesn't even know who they're taking. The numbers and selections will shake out on the 28th and 29th, but it's hoped the organization adopts a different strategy than years past. It's time to take a page out of the Ron Wolf manual of drafting philosophies. Wolf consistently adhered to a discipline of taking a quarterback annually at some point in the Draft. The selections, for the most part, due to the presence of Brett Favre, were for developmental and trade purposes. A look back reveals the strategy worked pretty well for him throughout the years. There will always be teams looking for the "right guy" behind center. It may just be good business to formulate a QB farm system. When deals get cut, and it involves a quarterback, teams tend to reach and overextend themselves just a bit. Move over Matt Baker, the train and trade show could be coming to town.

Not a personnel evaluator by trade, but more than a few nights have been spent in a Holiday Inn Select. There is continued amazement at the Draft pundits and prognosticators who champion the cause for Ted Ginn, Jr. in the first round. A talent? Sure, no one is denying that fact, but a first rounder? As what? Wide receiver, return specialist or athlete? If seen as a wide receiver first, you best have a legit #1 and #2 receiver already in place. This kid is no "sure fire" NFL receiver. If seen, and drafting, as a return specialist, you're greatly overspending first round money for a 10-play Sunday participant. Where is the value? You'd be trying to draft Devin Hester, and he was a second round selection of the Bears. The proper classification is probably athlete, and not many organizations or scouting departments earn their keep by drafting athletes with their first pick. For the Cowboys fans that are campaigning for Ginn, let some other club make that first round mistake. The Texans are in this Draft, correct? Or did the League institute that ban effective this year?

The Achilles tendon injury has traditionally been a nightmare setback, but no longer as dicey as it was when Kevin "Pup" Smith went down on a Monday night in the Meadowlands. Medical advancements and sophistication have made rehab a much more palatable process. This bodes extremely well for the Cowboys as Greg Ellis continues his efforts to get back on the field of play in 2007. While Greg Ellis may not have been the sole or primary reason for the defensive collapse down the 2006 stretch, his absence was definitely, and almost immediately, felt. For as much preseason discontent Ellis displayed, this is one of Bill Parcells' noteworthy contributions during his stay. Truly unfortunate, but the move from defensive end to outside backer was greatly overshadowed by the injury itself.

Parcells was confident Ellis could make the transition, and early indications proved to be right on the money. Fortunately for Ellis, he does not play running back, wide receiver or defensive corner. The Achilles is important to all, but the physical taxation is a little less at linebacker than required of the other three. Injuries are wished upon no one, especially Cowboys, but if there was ever a player sustaining one, you wanted it to be Ellis. The organization is guaranteed a dedicated and motivated rehab. No one will work harder than Greg Ellis to return to action. It will be most interesting to see how Wade Phillips and Brian Stewart utilize Ellis' unit. There is a ton of talent and versatility within the ranks.

As a side note, has Joe Juraszek received or been considered for a raise lately? If not, Jerry needs to show some love through the coin. This guy, along with trainers Jim Maurer, Britt Brown and Greg Gaither, deserve some major league credit. The Cowboys, relatively speaking, have been one of the more healthy squads in recent years. The Injury Gods are never kind, but the team needs to take advantage of their good fortune, especially with the talent level being what it is. Nonetheless, a tip of the cap for the job Juraszek and the others continue to successfully demonstrate.

To wind this up, and with everyone fully-engaged in the Draft guessing game, here's a shot (although extremely DARK) over the bow. Utilizing Jerry's propensity and penchant for wheeling and dealing, coupled with Jeff Ireland's due diligence and eye for talent, the Cowboys are going to link up with either Tampa Bay's Bruce Allen or Chicago's Jerry Angelo to execute a trade out of the first round. In a move most reminiscent of the Julius Jones' deal, the Boys acquire an additional second round selection this year while stock-piling an additional first in 2008. With the chips falling systematically, the Cowboys pull the trigger on a Justin. Justin Timberlake it won't be, but OL Justin Blalock or DT Justin Harrell finds their way into a Cowboys uniform. Just old fashioned, foundational football, building from the inside out.

Without reaching, the Cowboys can groom a Jason Ferguson speller and eventual replacement, or they can effectively address offensive line succession planning. With Marco Rivera remaining a question mark for this year and Flozell becoming a free agent following the 2007 season, it's high time to stock the trench cupboards.

Now, like every other Draft guru out there, the darts will be retrieved from the board, and a diddle or two will be recreated another thousand times before the Raiders are officially on the clock.

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