NFC East: Dallas Cowboys
IRVING, Texas – Teams in the NFL like to have it both ways when it comes to their world of non-guaranteed contracts.
If a player is underperforming, then they will ask that player to take a cut in pay. If a player is outperforming his contract, they like to say a player is under contract.
In agreeing to a new deal with cornerback Orlando Scandrick on Friday, the Dallas Cowboys showed they are willing to work with one of their core players who is expected to be around for the long term.
The Cowboys didn’t have to do anything with Scandrick’s contract. They could have enforced the $500,000 de-escalator in his deal for not taking part in 90 percent of the offseason program. They could have said he’s under contract.
But they were willing to add a year to his deal with some more money up front to make sure one of their defensive leaders is happy.
Does this mean every player unhappy with his deal will get the same treatment? Absolutely not.
Does it have anything to do with Dez Bryant’s contract? No.
The Scandrick and Bryant deals are vastly different. Bryant’s deal is more complex in terms of the amount of money he will receive and where he will rank among the highest-paid wide receivers. With Demaryius Thomas (franchise tag), Julio Jones and A.J. Green in roughly the same boat as Bryant, the Cowboys aren’t sure where the wide receiver market will take them in the future.
In order to buy themselves some time, they put the $12.823-million franchise tag on Bryant. If need be, they can put the tag on him again in 2016 and Bryant will pull down roughly $28 million over the next two years. There is no doubt the Cowboys want Bryant for the long term, but finding the way to get there is more difficult.
Does this have anything to do with the team not paying DeMarco Murray? No.
The Cowboys drew a line in the sand on Murray – four years, $24 million, $12 million guaranteed. The Philadelphia Eagles’ offer buried their offer and Murray had to take it. I believe the Cowboys might have been penny-wise and pound-foolish in their thinking in allowing the NFL’s leading rusher to walk, but the complexities of a deal for a running back are different than a cornerback.
And with a quick look at the value of the deal, the Cowboys still appear OK financially.
Scandrick’s new deal averages $4 million a year through 2019. There were deals in free agency this year for cornerbacks not as good as Scandrick that averaged $6 million a year.
By re-doing Scandrick’s contract, the Cowboys kept the player happy and showed his teammates that they are willing to work through tricky situations.
IRVING, Texas -- Through the years the Dallas Cowboys have been able to coax productivity from early-round draft picks that did not produce at previous spots. Linebacker Rolando McClain (first round, Oakland Raiders, 2010) is the most recent example.
On Thursday, the Cowboys worked out two former first-round picks and two former second-round picks at running back and wide receiver.
The most curious workout was Felix Jones, one of the Cowboys’ two first-round picks in 2008. The Cowboys made no attempt to re-sign him when his contract expired in 2012 after he struggled with his health and production. Jones played for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013 and was out of football last season.
The Cowboys also worked out wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, a first-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2012. After failing to catch a pass as a rookie, he was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs and caught 17 passes for 223 yards in two seasons there.
Word of Ben Tate's visit circulated early Thursday morning. He was a second-round pick of the Houston Texans in 2010. Daniel Thomas was the Miami Dolphins' second-round pick in 2011, nine spots before the Cowboys took DeMarco Murray. In 52 games with the Dolphins, Thomas (6-foot, 225 pounds) ran for 1,480 yards and 10 touchdowns on 409 carries.
The Cowboys also worked out wide receivers Kris Durham, Tommy Streeter and B.J. Cunningham. Durham played for offensive coordinator Scott Linehan for two years with the Detroit Lions with his best season coming in 2013, when he caught 38 passes for 490 yards and two touchdowns. He caught four passes for 54 yards in a win against Dallas that year.
The Cowboys also worked out former Arkansas running back Ronnie Wingo Jr.
IRVING, Texas – Last December, the Dallas Cowboys moved ahead of the New York Yankees as the United States’ most valuable sports franchise at $3.2 billion, according to Forbes.
Maybe part of that value has to do with how much (or little) the Cowboys pay their players.
According to an ESPN/SportingIntelligence Global Salary Survey, the Cowboys check in at No. 175 out of 333 international teams ranked. The Cowboys were No. 73 in payroll ranking at $91.4 million.
While the Cowboys are among the most valuable franchises in the world, the salary cap keeps the Cowboys from testing the limits of some of the other high-valued franchises they are compared with: Real Madrid, Barcelona and the New York Yankees.
But among NFL teams in the survey, the Cowboys came in at No. 32 in average spent per player ($1.8 million). The only team that was lower than the Cowboys was the New York Jets (No. 176, $1.7 million).
The Miami Dolphins had the highest average payroll among NFL teams, spending $2.4 million per player.
Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys would keep their “eyes wide open” for running back help in the future.
Ben Tate, who has rushed for 2,363 yards on 540 carries in his four seasons with four teams, will work out for the Cowboys today at Valley Ranch, according to ESPN’s Josina Anderson.
It is an interesting move considering the faith the Cowboys have expressed in Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar and Ryan Williams. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said the Cowboys' running game will be better in 2015 than it was in 2014 when Murray led the NFL with 1,845 yards.
But Stephen Jones has made sure to leave the light on for possible additions at the position, consistently referring to the New England Patriots’ late-season addition of LeGarrette Blount.
“Just because this is our current group of running backs doesn’t mean it will stay that way,” Stephen Jones said after the draft. “We are always looking to improve our football team, we will continue to look to improve it, obviously, here with minicamps and OTAs and rookie minicamps and things of that nature. We’re going to get to see these guys a lot and at the same time we’ll keep our eyes wide open and look if there are opportunities to improve, not just at running back but other positions, and we’ll improve the team.”
Tate was a second-round pick of the Houston Texans in 2010 but missed his rookie season because of a broken ankle. His best year came in 2011 when he ran for 942 yards and four touchdowns on 175 carries.
He signed with the Cleveland Browns as a free agent in 2014 but did not care for the committee approach and was released in November. The Minnesota Vikings claimed him but released him after three games. The Pittsburgh Steelers signed him in the playoffs after losing Le'Veon Bell to an injury and he had 19 yards on five carries in the wild-card loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
There are two ways to look at this: The player acquisition business never ends, or the Cowboys are not as content with their runners as previously thought.
McFadden was signed early in free agency to a deal that included just $200,000 guaranteed. Coaches and teammates have noticed a more serious approach by Randle this offseason after two off-field incidents in the last nine months. Dunbar was tendered a deal as a restricted free agent worth $1.542 million, and Williams was given a $240,000 signing bonus to stay after spending last season on the practice squad.
Of the bunch, only McFadden has had a 1,000-yard season, but he has not averaged better than 3.4 yards a carry since 2011.
If the Cowboys add Tate, it might not end their running back search but it would crowd the competition.
But Lee then suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament during the first organized team activity of the offseason and would be lost for the season. On July 1, 2014, the Cowboys made a trade for McClain, the former eighth overall pick of the 2010 draft, and he ended up being credited with 108 tackles in 12 games by Eberflus.
Now Eberflus has Lee and McClain available to him, giving him two playmakers that can help the Cowboys greatly improve their No. 19 overall defense ranking from 2014.
When the Cowboys start OTAs next week, Lee will be back on the field for team drills for the first time getting hurt but will be moving to weak-side linebacker. McClain, who will remain at middle linebacker, will be taking part in his first OTAs since 2012.
Eberflus doesn’t foresee any issue in Lee’s slight position switch.
“A few years back before we went to this defense he played Will linebacker,” Eberflus said of the Cowboys’ 3-4 scheme under Rob Ryan. “We were in a lot of under fronts and he was playing behind the three technique (defensive tackle) and you kind of saw what his capabilities were there. If you marry him to the three technique, he’s going to be more of a run and hit guy, and that’s where his instincts and natural abilities sort of lean that way. So he’ll be really successful at that position.”
Lee has yet to play a full season because of injuries but had 121 tackles in 11 games in 2013 before his season came to an end with a neck injury. He also led the Cowboys with four interceptions and had five tackles for loss, two quarterback pressures and six pass deflections.
The ball has a way of finding him, just as the ball had a way of finding McClain last season.
In addition to the 108 tackles, he had one sack, nine tackles for loss, five quarterback pressures, two interceptions, five pass deflections and a forced fumble. And he did so without the benefit of any offseason work. When he arrived for training camp, McClain had to work himself into physical and football condition.
Eberflus believes McClain’s work in the spring will make him better when the season starts.
“Just really the strength and conditioning part of it,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest thing and really getting a foundation of the calls and the fundamentals that we’re teaching here: how to take on a block, how to drop to a zone, how to set up on the quarterback and all of those things. Just being here, strength and conditioning, fundamentals, that’s only going to get better.”
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Within the first few minutes of his introductory news conference with the Dallas Cowboys, La'el Collins made a profound boast: "This is going to be the best offensive line in NFL history. Mark my words."
"That's not something that I personally am going to say," Frederick said Tuesday after taking some swings in Reliant's Home Run Derby at Globe Life Park, an annual Cowboys fundraiser. "I know that we have a long way to go to reach anything like that, you know? For us to come in and try and do what we want to do, and what that is is -- do as well as we did last year and continue to improve. But we have long way to go. We're just now grinding, trying to continue to work on technique and strength and speed, and hopefully we can have another good year.
Said Smith, "For us, it's just to do our part on the team and kind of work hard every day and just kind of be the hardest-working group on the team."
Call Collins' comments youthful exuberance or tremendous belief, but after the Cowboys took Smith with their first-round pick in 2011, he said his goal was to make the Hall of Fame.
A Pro Bowler the past three years, Smith may be on that kind of trip. Maybe over the next three years, Collins' statement will look more prescient than it does right now.
Collins was one of three linemen the Cowboys added during the draft process. They took Chaz Green in the third round and Laurence Gibson in the seventh, but Collins is the prize. He was viewed as a first-round talent before the draft, only to see his stock fall when he was sought for questioning by Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police in a murder investigation.
He has since been cleared, and the Cowboys were able to sign him to a three-year deal that included a $21,000 signing bonus and roughly $1.6 million guaranteed for the next three years.
Smith, Frederick and Martin were at the meeting with Collins at owner Jerry Jones' house.
"I think him and all the new guys, they're coming to work," Martin said. "Like we've always said, our group sets a very high standard for how we work, and they've come in and done that."
Although Frederick won't step out on the same limb as Collins, he did acknowledge the talent inside the offensive line room.
"A lot can be said about the guys that are there, but there's also a lot of times where talent goes wasted if it's not put to good use," Frederick said. "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. We have a long way to go, and we're going to continue to work and continue to try to get better."
ARLINGTON, Texas -- After helping raise $50,000 for the Salvation Army's Youth Education Town at Reliant's Home Run Derby at Globe Life Park on Tuesday, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett learned of the change in the NFL's point-after attempt.
Gone is the traditional extra point, replaced by a 33-yard kick after touchdowns. The two-point conversion will remain at the 2-yard line but defenses will now have the opportunity to return a turnover for 2 points.
"Well obviously it makes the extra point that much more challenging," Garrett said. "I think the percentage to make a PAT the way it is is north of 98 percent and I think it's about 93 percent to kick a field goal that's 33 yards. So there's a little bit of a difference there obviously. I'm glad they did the thing where the defense can return it and get two points. I think that's a good rule, and I'm glad they kept it at the 2-yard line."
Garrett was ushered away to a photo op before he could discuss a potential strategy change in how he may or may not deal with the point after attempts. Since Garrett lost the interim tag in 2011, the Cowboys have converted 4 of 7 two-point tries, but they did not have such a conversion attempt in 2014.
Dan Bailey is the most accurate kicker in NFL history at 89.8 percent and has made every point-after attempt in his career (179-of-179). He has made 38 of 40 tries from between 30-39 yards in his career with both misses coming from 35 yards.
While Bailey is virtually automatic from any distance, it will be interesting to see if Garrett's strategy changes with the two-point conversion. He has one of the best tight red-zone targets in Dez Bryant and the best offensive line in football.
IRVING, Texas -- Over the weekend, Jason Witten hosted his football camp for school-age kids in grades 1-8 at Liberty Christian School.
He could have put his name on the event, stood off to the side and glad-handed people over the two days. Instead, he hopped from drill to drill, age group to age group, working the field. He knows no other way.
He has 10 Pro Bowls to his credit. No Dallas Cowboys player has more catches in team history. Only Michael Irvin has more yards. Only Tony Gonzalez has more catches and yards than Witten among tight ends in NFL history.
Yet he wanted to make sure the 500 kids on hand for the camp got a piece of him.
"I love playing football," Witten said. "I love the offseason. I love the studying, going through and watching the tape, the grind of the evaluation process and what you can do better. I enjoy that. Then have the opportunity to see the excitement during events like this, and obviously giving back to the community is huge part of that platform that I want to have as a player and as a person all into one, and hopefully be a champion."
The last part of that sentence is what drives him. He turned 33 earlier in the month. He is signed through 2017. He has accomplished more than he ever thought possible individually. Off the field, he has proven to be one of the NFL's best too, through events like his camp, helping him win the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2012.
But he has yet to come close to winning a Super Bowl. The Cowboys have not advanced past the divisional round of the playoffs in his 12 seasons. Last season came to an end almost as painfully as 2006, when they lost at Seattle in the wild-card round of the playoffs when the snap for the game-winning field goal slipped through Tony Romo's hands. Dez Bryant's fourth-down catch at the Green Bay 1 was overturned by replay. The Cowboys wouldn't get the ball back again, and the Packers advanced to the NFC Championship Game.
How the Cowboys lost to the Seahawks drove Bill Parcells to retirement. How the Cowboys lost to the Packers added to Witten's incentive. When he no longer enjoys the grind of an offseason, he knows it will be over.
"It's not about another 50 catches, so that's what's exciting," Witten said. "I feel like I have to have that approach because that's the only way you can get to where you want to go -- have that approach every day of a little bit of a chip on a shoulder and you're motivated, and I think everybody in the building sees that and feeds off that.”
Athletes use slights -- real or perceived -- to keep them going. Despite all that he has accomplished, Witten still carries with him the pain of being a third-round pick in 2003. He could tell you the four tight ends picked before him and come close to their draft positions: Dallas Clark, No. 24 to the Indianapolis Colts; Bennie Joppru, No. 41 to the Houston Texans; L.J. Smith, No. 61 to the Philadelphia Eagles; and Teyo Johnson, No. 63 to the Oakland Raiders.
Witten went No. 69 to the Cowboys.
"That never leaves you," Witten said, laughing but displaying a knowing look of seriousness. "You always got to hold on to that ... Three second-round draft picks."
That last statement tells another story. In 2013, Gavin Escobar was the third of the three second-round picks the Cowboys used on tight ends in Witten's tenure. In 2006, they took Anthony Fasano. In 2008, they took Martellus Bennett.
Witten has outplayed them all and could outlast Escobar, too.
"I think it’s the consistency of what's being asked," Witten said. "It was a little bit of a different role last year than in years past, something that I had to embrace and learn to be that kind of in-line blocking tight end in some areas and the run-action passes that we did. But I think just playing at a high level, the standard is high for me and what I want to accomplish, so I’ve got to go back and do it again."
The chase for perfection will never end for Witten. He hopes one day the chase for a championship will.
IRVING, Texas -- When the Dallas Cowboys had their rookie minicamp the week after the NFL draft, Charles Haley was in attendance with his doberman dogs. When the San Francisco 49ers had their rookie minicamp last week, Haley was spotted there, too.
Haley's Hall of Fame career had two different stints with the 49ers (1986-91, 1998-99) and one with the Cowboys (1992-96). He won two Super Bowls with the 49ers and three with the Cowboys. He is in the Cowboys' Ring of Honor.
This summer he will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where he will be presented by former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo.
"I wanted to do like a combo but the Hall of Fame wouldn't [allow it] and I stressed to them there's not going to be anybody that's going to be with one team the rest of their careers," Haley said. "You're going to start having guys play five years here and five years there and have great success at both plays so what do you do? And they're toying with that right now.
"I promised Bill Walsh before he died that I wanted him to present me and he called me like two days before he passed and he just followed my whole career. He was there for me and I could call him about anything. Hey, that was an easy thing for me to go with the 49ers."
But it's not a slight toward the Cowboys and owner and general manager Jerry Jones. The Cowboys will still be involved in Haley's Hall of Fame festivities.
"Jerry's always been real with me and he knows my heart and he knows what I'm about," Haley said.
Haley admitted his life has changed since being selected for induction. The long wait to get in will be worth it in August.
"The best thing is I've been to the dentist twice whitening my teeth," he said, "because that's all they're going to see."
IRVING, Texas -- Growing up, Jason Witten's life was touched by domestic violence, and the Dallas Cowboys tight end has made it the highest priority to help families that have been affected by it with his SCORE Foundation.
When the Cowboys signed free-agent defensive end Greg Hardy, who missed all but one game last season because of a domestic violence issue and has subsequently been suspended 10 games this season by the league for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, many wondered about Witten’s thoughts.
“I think more than anything I think everybody knows (I’m against) domestic violence,” Witten said. “That’s unwavering. That’s something that I lived, my family lived. But that guy is a teammate of mine, so I think you have to look at it from that standpoint. As coach (Jason) Garrett says, it’s our job to invite those guys in and create a standard of how we do things. I think he’s done a great job since he’s been here. It’s not my job to decide who comes in. I’m a tight end. But I’ve been really pleased how he’s approached it and how he goes to work and what kind of teammate he’s been. The day he got suspended, the next day he’s in there working out, so I think that’s kind of the mentality he has, what kind of work ethic (he has) and what he’s trying to prove in Dallas.”
Hardy is appealing the league’s suspension. He was initially found guilty of a domestic violence charge by a North Carolina judge, but the charges were dismissed when the accuser did not make herself available for a jury trial. Hardy has since asked for his record to be expunged and has relinquished all of the weapons from the case to the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s office.
Cowboys front-office personnel, coaches and teammates have commended Hardy for his offseason work, and Witten is no different.
“I think when you add the guy like that and then he gets suspended and you never know how it’s going to come out,” Witten said. “The guy works his tail off. Our job is to welcome him and show him the way we do things and embrace him as a teammate, and he’s done everything that you want. He’s a hard worker. Obviously he’s a talented player. I think he’s learned a lot from what he’s gone through in the last year. He’s had a good offseason.”
While Dez Bryant's absence from the offseason program so far has been the focus to many, Witten is not worried about the Pro Bowl wide receiver.
“You’d love to have Dez there,” Witten said Sunday at his football camp at Liberty Christian. “I think that would be great. Dez loves playing ball. He’s a great teammate. You miss him when he’s not out there because of the passion and the energy that he brings. He’s a tone-setter. I think everybody understands the business side of that. If there’s one person who wants to be there playing catch and throwing and running and working out, it’s Dez. He’ll be there.”
On Friday Bryant was at Valley Ranch, where he talked to the team’s rookies as well as worked out. He has visited the team’s facility on a few occasions in the offseason to meet with coach Jason Garrett and others.
He has yet to sign the franchise tag tender, which would guarantee him $12.823 million. It’s not clear whether he will report to the organized team activities or the minicamp. Until he signs the tender, he would not be required to sign up for the minicamp.
Bryant and the Cowboys are hoping to work out a long-term deal by July 15, but there have not been any substantive talks as of yet. If a deal is not done by July 15, then Bryant would have to play the season on the franchise tag.
Witten, one of the team's captains and a close teammate, knows Bryant is working.
“He’s taking care of himself,” Witten said. “He’s going to be ready. It’s just part of the business. Hopefully it gets worked out. But if there’s going to be one guy that’s ready, it’s going to be Dez Bryant.”
IRVING, Texas -- When the Dallas Cowboys get back to work Monday in their offseason program, cornerback Orlando Scandrick will be on hand for the first time with hopes of getting a new deal by the end of the week.
Scandrick and his agent, Ron Slavin, met with the Cowboys last week in an effort to get a reworked contract. Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he was optimistic the sides could work something out.
The Cowboys are in the second week of Phase 2 of the offseason program that includes on-field teaching sessions with the coaching staff. Phase 3 of the organized team activities begins May 26 followed by the mandatory minicamp June 16-18.
Scandrick has not attended workouts since the beginning of the offseason program on April 20. While he forfeited $500,000 in his base salary based on a de-escalator for missing more than 90 percent of the program, he will make up for the loss in a potential new deal.
Scandrick, the Cowboys’ best cornerback, was scheduled to make $1.5 million this year, which is less than what third-down running back Lance Dunbar could make this season. Scandrick is the third-highest-paid cornerback on the roster behind Brandon Carr ($8 million) and Morris Claiborne ($2.607 million).
In 2013, the Cowboys reworked Scandrick’s deal, guaranteeing him $9 million. He is scheduled to make $3 million a year from 2016-18.
IRVING, Texas – Wednesday’s sponsors’ golf tournament gave the Dallas Cowboys a chance to catch their breath, at least for a day.
The rain all but wiped out the afternoon flight of the day, but executives, front-office personnel and scouts were able to get away from football for at least a few hours.
The Cowboys’ offseason has been eventful in their additions and their departures. A team that finished 12-4 last season, won the NFC East and a playoff game, saw leading rusher DeMarco Murray leave for the Philadelphia Eagles. Several other key contributors, such as Justin Durant, Bruce Carter, Henry Melton, Jermey Parnell, George Selvie, Anthony Spencer and Sterling Moore, also found new homes.
The Cowboys were able to sign Greg Hardy, Jasper Brinkley and Andrew Gachkar and keep Rolando McClain. In the draft they added three first-round talents with only one late first-round pick by selecting Byron Jones and Randy Gregory and signing La'el Collins as an undrafted free agent.
Without bountiful cap space and just one first-round pick, has the Cowboys’ offseason exceeded expectations?
“I wouldn’t say we’ve ‘exceeded,’” said executive vice president Stephen Jones, the maestro of the offseason symphony. “You always have high expectations of what you might accomplish in the offseason. I think it fell right for us. You might say ‘Well, you didn’t get a running back in the draft,’ but you’ve only got so many picks and you’re not going to be able to get everything at the end of the day. I think, for the most part, the draft fell in areas where we needed it to fall. I think we were able to get good players at the places we were thinking. I think we’ve had a really solid offseason. Our goal is to get better, and I think we got better and the proof will be when we go to training camp and get to work and then when we start playing football games.”
At present the Cowboys are sticking with what they have at running back. They will look for help at other spots (safety, wide receiver) as well.
“Everybody feels good about what we’ve accomplished in the offseason, buut we won’t stop here,” Jones said. “We’ll continue to look, we’ll continue to see if there’s other opportunities to make us better. If there is, we’ll do it.”
The golfing fun was for a day. Now it’s back to work. Since the Cowboys did not draft a runner, Jones has come up with a phrase he has repeated often.
“To me, it’s a good group of backs,” Jones said. “At the same time, I know a team that won a Super Bowl last year, the New England Patriots, that picked up a running back [LeGarrette Blount] late in the year and was a big contributor in them winning a Super Bowl. I’ve always said it: Player acquisition is 365 days a year. We’ll continue to look to improve our football team as we move forward.”
“We would like to get something satisfactorily worked out with him,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said at the team’s sponsorship golf tournament. “ … Hopefully we can get something worked out that can be in the best interest of the Cowboys and also accommodate what he needs to do. We didn’t get anything done, but we certainly are talking about it.”
Scandrick was set to make $1.5 million this year as part of a deal the Cowboys reworked in 2013 that guaranteed him $9 million. By not taking part in the offseason program so far, Scandrick will lose out on $500,000 but would more than make up for that with a new deal.
Scandrick and his agent, Ron Slavin, met with the Cowboys Tuesday morning and the hope is something can be worked to where Scandrick will begin working out with the team as soon as next week.
Scandrick is scheduled to make $3 million a year from 2016-18 on his current deal. He is the third-highest paid cornerback on the Cowboys’ roster behind Brandon Carr ($8 million) and Morris Claiborne ($2.6 million) but the team’s best cornerback.
“I don’t want to speculate our business,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “I don’t like to do anything like that. We did talk about that. He’s under contract and he should be in here working with his teammates. He’s a competitor and I think the world of Orlando. I also understand any player in terms of what their thoughts are, respect them, but at the same time he’s under contract to the Dallas Cowboys and in my opinion he should be out there working with us.”
IRVING, Texas -- When the Dallas Cowboys signed La'el Collins last Thursday as an undrafted free agent, owner and general manager Jerry Jones wanted the LSU offensive lineman to have his first-round moment, complete with the news conference and holding up a jersey in front of a throng of cameras.
When the media entered the locker room after the first day of the Cowboys' rookie minicamp last Friday, most of those cameras were around the team's second-round pick, Randy Gregory, whose fall from first-round pick to No. 60 overall was compelling.
Off to the side, Byron Jones, the Cowboys' actual first-round pick, No. 27 overall, had a handful of reporters around his locker. Coach Jason Garrett fielded 16 questions before one was directed to him about Jones at last Friday's news conference.
The lack of attention is fine with Jones.
"For me it didn't really matter where I go or where anybody else goes," Jones said. "I'm just here to work, here to do my job and that's play cornerback for the Cowboys."
Jones is less than a week into his first on-field time with the Cowboys. The minicamp ended Sunday and he will be around the veterans for the conditioning program and on-field teaching sessions with the coaches.
"I don't care where you were drafted, it's a transition," Garrett said. "There's a lot of things to like about Byron Jones as a person and physically you see that. All the stuff that we liked, you see on the practice field. But he has a long way to go, like all these guys do. He's certainly willing. He works hard at it. It's important to him. You see that right away. And he's focused on getting the details right, finishing things the right way. Technically he has a long way to go. But that's where rookies are at this point in their careers."
The day after Jones was picked by the Cowboys, he flew to Dallas for a media meet-and-greet. As he stepped off the team's luxury bus, the cameras followed his every move through the hallways. That type of attention at the University of Connecticut was reserved for the men's and women's basketball programs, not football.
When he went back home he said he laid low for five days and did some fishing.
"I didn't want to have any draft parties or anything like that," Jones said. "That's not really my type of deal ... Some neighbors came over. They were genuinely happy for me. You could tell everybody was excited for me, but I had a lot of shaking hands and saying hi and hello."
The position Jones plays -- cornerback -- will generate enough notice in time. The Cowboys need him to play well right away even if he is not a starter right away.
Even though he has been on the field just three days, he has seen the urgency required from defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli -- "He's a guy, I want him in my corner," Jones said. "I want him to push me." -- and secondary coach Jerome Henderson -- "Any chance he can get to coach me is great for me," Jones said. "I need feedback. I need to know what I do right and what I do wrong."
When he gets around the veterans more he will absorb their actions and words and try to do what they do. He might be a first-round pick, but he knows he doesn't know it all.
"I just want to perform and do what I've been doing in college being a good person and being a good player," Jones said. "I think I can add to the defense. They don't need much. They're a good defense already. It's not like you need to turn around and to anywhere else. They're going in the right direction. I'm just hoping to be a part of it."