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Wednesday, March 12, 2014
What happened to Miles Austin?

By Calvin Watkins

The big news in the Dallas Cowboys universe on Tuesday was the release of defensive end and franchise sack leader DeMarcus Ware.

The sidebar, as we used to call it back in the newspaper world, was Miles Austin.

Miles Austin
Miles Austin spent all eight seasons of his NFL career with Dallas, catching 34 TDs for 4,481 yards.
Austin was released too, labeled a post-June 1 cut that gives the Cowboys $5.5 million in salary cap savings. It leaves the Cowboys with Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams as the projected starters at wide receiver for 2014.

What happened to Austin?

He was supposed to be this productive player with the high price tag whose average salary was $9 million per season. Hamstring injuries became more of his story than any Pro Bowl appearances.

The Cowboys valued Austin's skills but spent more time defending whether he even wanted to play than building him up.

Production is all that matters in the NFL and with Austin the 2010 season, his last Pro Bowl appearance, said it all. Austin's 1,041 yards were the third most among NFC East receivers. In 2012, Austin's 943 yards were also the third most in the division behind Bryant (1,382) and Victor Cruz (1,092).

Austin battled through hamstring injuries in 2012 and still came through with a solid season. Some wondered if Austin should remain with the Cowboys after that 2012 season.

But it all ended last season when Austin finished with just 244 receiving yards, that's the eighth-fewest yards among receivers in the NFC East. Austin battled hamstring problems and was shut down for three weeks so he could get healthy. He was just never the same explosive player last year.

He was productive, but you never got the feeling he was a dominant force like Bryant is. At times, Austin seemed to take defenses away from Bryant because of his own abilities to make plays in the open field. When defenses decided to place more defenders near Bryant last year, Austin was a ghost. Maybe his hamstring problems prevented him from making the plays that earned him two Pro Bowl appearances.

Austin was always this happy-go-lucky guy who was very smart and well liked in the locker room.

It was almost as if Austin was just happy to be here and was living the dream until somebody woke him up. Well the receiver from New Jersey should be wide awake now after the Cowboys sent him packing Tuesday.

Austin was never one to give you his thoughts totally on things. He would chat with you about the Yankees or Derek Jeter, yet when it came time for a real discussion about the Cowboys, he shielded himself by sticking with the company line.

The last moment of Austin's time with the Cowboys came on Kyle Orton's interception that sealed the victory for the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2013 regular-season finale.

Orton said he made a poor throw and took the blame.

I remember asking Austin to talk about what happened on the play and in a rare moment of insight, he said he should have done more to break up the pass. It was as if Austin didn't want his time with the Cowboys to end this way, second-guessing himself, about the final offensive play of the season.

Austin's production will be missed, but his inconsistency and hamstring issues won't.