Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Rice

Dez Bryant and offensive line coach Bill Callahan were engrossed in a fascinating discussion after practice ended Saturday afternoon about the technique Jerry Rice used to catch the ball.

They were talking hand placement.

Bryant, like most receivers, makes a “W” shape with his hands with his thumbs touching when he catches the ball. Callahan said Rice used to hold one hand under the other when he caught the ball.

Rice used that technique because it gave him more margin for error and reduced his drops because he always had one hand under the ball. After discussing the nuances of the technique, Bryant caught passes for several minutes using the new technique.

Callahan coached Rice when the Hall of Fame receiver played for the Oakland Raiders.

“I like it,” Bryant told the coach. “I see why it works. I’m going to keep working on it.”

Cowboys' split on Pro Bowl teams

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
IRVING, Texas -- The Pro Bowl is a painful game to watch, but the selection process this year was perhaps even more painful.

The two-day "draft" ended just minutes ago -- seemed like it anyway -- and three of the five Dallas Cowboys representatives are on Jerry Rice’s team and two were selected by Deion Sanders' club.

On Team Rice are DeMarco Murray, Tyron Smith and Jason Hatcher. On Team Sanders are Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Maybe there is a thawing of the ice between Bryant and Sanders after their partnership with Under Armor back in 2010 went awry.

The faux trash talk made for an unfunny and never-ending broadcast.

The game already had the highest television ratings of any all-star game, so I don’t know why the NFL felt like this was a positive way to get some interest in a game that really isn’t football.

Anyway, kickoff is Sunday.

The interesting part will be to see if Hatcher has to tackle Witten or Bryant. So there’s that.

IRVING, Texas – Among the reasons why Brian Urlacher decided to retire was the fact that he could say he played for the Chicago Bears and for the Chicago Bears only.

In this salary-cap age, that is a difficult thing to do. Emmitt Smith's playing career ended in Arizona. Jerry Rice's ended in Seattle.

Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin were able to be “one jersey” players, in part because of injuries. Aikman wrestled with the idea of returning not long after he stepped away but decided against it.

Jason Witten and Tony Romo are entering their 11th seasons with the Cowboys. Romo, who just turned 33, is signed through 2019. Witten is signed through 2017. So is DeMarcus Ware, who is entering his ninth season.

Of the long-term players on the Cowboys’ roster, these guys figure to be the “one jersey” types.

Witten is already the franchise’s all-time receptions leader. Only Bob Lilly, Larry Allen, Mel Renfro and Randy White have played in more Pro Bowls as Cowboys than Witten, who has eight. He is coming off a 110-catch season, the most in NFL history by a tight end. He turned 31 earlier this month.

Romo is the Cowboys’ all-time leader in touchdown passes and could surpass Aikman in passing yards in 2015. He has more 100-plus passer rating games in his career than Aikman. Romo’s 55 multi-touchdown pass games are the most in team history. His four four-touchdown games are second-most in history to Danny White.

Ware is the franchise’s official all-time sack leader with 111 for his career and needs four this season to break Harvey Martin’s unofficial sack record. He has had seven straight seasons with at least 10 sacks, and only Reggie White (nine) and John Randle (eight) have more since sacks became an official stat in 1982.

If the Cowboys win a Super Bowl in the next few years, then the chances of these guys playing for another team in the future would be slim.

If the Cowboys don’t win a Super Bowl and they become salary-cap casualties later, do they chase a championship and not play for the Cowboys and the Cowboys only?

How dare Dez Bryant express a desire to be one of the all-time greats?!

How could he be so arrogant to want to build on the individual success of his breakout season?! He’s clearly just another selfish, prima donna receiver who cares more about his stats than the success of his team.

Tim MacMahon joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss his recent conversation with Dez Bryant, the Cowboys' attempt at landing free agents without money and the Mavs' playoff push.

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Except nothing could be further from the truth.

Bryant’s stated belief that he can be the first receiver to reach 2,000 yards in NFL history was two things: 1) an honest answer to a question posed to him after he said he doesn’t think he’s come close to reaching his potential; 2) a challenge to himself to continue working to be great.

It was by no means an indication that Bryant puts a higher priority on his numbers than the Cowboys’ record, as anyone who read Tuesday’s story on ESPNDallas.com knows.

"No matter what I've done last year or what anybody did in Dallas last year, it don't mean nothing," Bryant said Tuesday. "Stats mean nothing. You want to win. At the end of the day, you want to be strapping up for the playoffs.

"That's the way I go about my business. I love to work. I love grinding. I feel like I'm better under pressure. Whenever you want to win like I do, anything is possible."

Bryant has his flaws – and he’s working to fix those with a lot of help from others – but his desire to win can’t be questioned.

This is a receiver who risked the permanent loss of flexibility in the index finger on his dominant hand, deciding in December to postpone surgery until after the season because he desperately wanted to help the Cowboys make the playoffs.

The Cowboys came up short, losing to the Washington Redskins in the de facto NFC East title game in the regular-season finale, and Bryant was an emotional wreck for about a week. He felt like he let his team down by suffering a significant back injury that forced him to leave FedEx Field in a wheelchair and still isn’t fully healed.

His Cowboys coaches and teammates marvel at Bryant’s talent and rave about his competitiveness. That franchise would be much better off if they had more players who matched Bryant’s passion, although channeling it in correctly has been a challenge at times. So would every other NFL team.

It’d be one thing to call out Bryant for having me-first motives if he had ever pulled a T.O. and publicly complained about not getting the ball enough. On the contrary, he’s consistently talked about it being his responsibility to earn the trust of Tony Romo and Jason Garrett, not their job to get him the ball.

It’s also silly to suggest that Bryant putting up record-breaking numbers would somehow be to the Dallas’ detriment due to a lack of balance in the Cowboys’ offense. Jerry Rice managed to earn three Super Bowl rings while rewriting the receiving chapter of the NFL record book.

Is it premature to mention Bryant’s name in the same breath as the greatest receiver ever to put on a pair of gloves? Sure. But if a receiver as talented as Bryant didn’t challenge himself to reach those heights, that’d be reason to rip him.

Anyone calling Bryant out for considering himself capable of 2,000 yards is just looking to get a jolt from one of the NFL’s most electrifying lightning rods.

Bill Callahan released a statement strongly refuting former Oakland receiver Tim Brown's suggestion that Callahan "sabotaged" the Raiders' chances of winning Super Bowl XXXVII.

Brown made the claim during a Saturday appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio based on Callahan's decision to drastically change the Raiders' game plan 36 hours before their 48-21 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, speculating that Callahan wanted to spite the Raiders franchise. ESPN analyst Jerry Rice backed Brown's claims, which Callahan called "ludicrous and defamatory."

“There are many people who are disappointed by the outcome of Super Bowl XXVII, but none more than me," Callahan, the former Raiders head coach and current Cowboys offensive coordinator, said in a statement. "While I fully understand a competitive professional football player’s disappointment when a game’s outcome doesn’t go his team’s way, I am shocked, saddened and outraged by Tim Brown’s allegations and Jerry Rice’s support of those allegations made through various media outlets over the last twenty four hours.

"To leave no doubt, I categorically and unequivocally deny the sum and substance of their allegations. Like every game I ever coached on the professional or collegiate level, I endeavor to the best of my professional ability to position my team to win. To suggest otherwise, especially at this time when it involved the Super Bowl, is ludicrous and defamatory.

"I have always honored the spirit of competition that drives us to sport as children and, for the lucky few, sustains us in adulthood. Any suggestion that I would undermine the integrity of the sport that I love and dedicate my life to, or dishonor the commitment I made to our players, coaches and fans, is flat out wrong. I think it would be in the best interests of all including the game America loves that these allegations be retracted immediately.

"I want to extend my personal and my family’s deep appreciation to the coaches, players and fans who have come forward and thoughtfully spoken out against these ill-conceived allegations.”

Jason Witten closing in on more records

December, 10, 2012
CINCINNATI – With 11 catches in the final three games, Jason Witten will set the record for most receptions in a season by a tight end in NFL history.

Jason Witten talks about how the Cowboys' leadership handled the tragedy within the organization.

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Tony Gonzalez had 102 catches for Kansas City in 2004.

He needs 20 catches in the final three games to set the Cowboys’ single-season record. Hall of Famer Michael Irvin had 111 catches in 1995.

Witten had four catches for 62 yards in Sunday’s win at Cincinnati to give him 92 receptions for 880 yards on the season.

It is the fourth 90-catch season of Witten’s career, which is tied for sixth in NFL history. Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt had six 90-catch seasons in their careers to share the mark.

Gonzalez also has four 90-catch seasons, which is the most for a tight end in NFL history.

Opposing Voice: Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez

November, 3, 2012
IRVING, Texas – As Jason Witten chases Michael Irvin’s Cowboys’ record for catches in a career, Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez doesn’t sound too interested in chasing Jerry Rice for the NFL’s record for catches in a career.

Rice recorded 1,549 yards in his Hall of Fame career. Gonzalez has 1,195 and climbing.

“Well, this is probably my last year,” he said. “The way I am looking at it I am preparing for this to be my last year. I am not going to go all the way. I keep telling everybody the number I’m giving on it is 95 percent sure. There is no doubt I could keep playing for a couple more years at a pretty high level but it’s just almost that time for me. I see the window closing.”

Gonzalez, 36, leads the Falcons with 46 catches to go with four touchdowns and 459 yards. He has 13,797 yards, which is ninth-most in league history, and needs one more touchdown to become the eighth player in league history with 100 touchdown catches.

While he has a ton of individual accolades, he has yet to experience a playoff win, which is what has kept him coming back in recent years but might not be enough to bring him back in 2013.

“If I don’t win a playoff game it doesn’t take away from my career as far as I’m concerned because the thing about football is this is not tennis, this is not golf,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a total team sport.”

Let's all chill about Laurent Robinson

March, 14, 2012
You guys know I'm active on Twitter (@ESPN_NFCEast and, to a lesser extent, @DanGrazianoESPN). I'm there to answer whatever questions I can, and at times like these the activity is more intense than it is at other times of the year. So I'm on there in between blog posts to help out. You can ask questions, vent, call me names, whatever. I'm there for you.

Some of the questions I get on there become so frequent that they take on lives of their own and become worthy of their own posts. Such is the case, I feel, with the question of Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Laurent Robinson, who is making free-agent visits to places like Jacksonville and appears unlikely to return to Dallas.

To hear Cowboys fans on this topic, you'd think we were talking about the second coming of Jerry Rice. I mean, Robinson played very well for the Cowboys last year, and only three players in the league caught more touchdown passes, but I refuse to buy into the idea that replacing his production would become a major offseason priority for the Cowboys if and when he signs elsewhere.

Possible options for replacing Robinson include:

1. Throwing the ball to Jason Witten, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant more.

2. Finding a third wide receiver in the bargain bin, which is where they found Robinson last summer when no one else wanted him.

This isn't rocket science. Robinson became Tony Romo's favorite red zone target and ended up with 11 touchdown catches, but that doesn't mean Romo would be crippled in the red zone without him. Witten used to be his favorite red zone target, and there's no reason to think he can't be again. If they can keep Austin healthy and if Bryant (just 23 years old) continues his development, they won't need a No. 3 wide receiver to produce the way Robinson did. Robinson's production was a pleasant surprise, but it's not as though Romo and the Cowboys would have been lost without him.

The Cowboys need help on defense and on the offensive line. They're pretty well-stocked at receiver. Falling in love with Robinson and overpaying him off his first good season would be a free-agent gamble, and given their strengths and their needs, it's one the Cowboys would do well to let some other team make.

Ray Sherman is a head coaching candidate

December, 28, 2010

IRVING, Texas -- When Jerry Jones mentioned the name of Ray Sherman as a coaching candidate, it drew some surprises outside of Valley Ranch with fans and some media members.

ESPN's Ed Werder jumps on to discuss Jerry Jones' coaching search. What are the chances Jeff Fisher is the next head coach of the Cowboys? Werder reports that Jerry might be willing to give up some power to hire the right coach.

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But inside Valley Ranch and across the league, Sherman, the Cowboys wide receivers coach, is more than a requirement for the Rooney Rule.

Sherman is one of the more respected coaches in the league and has handled Terrell Owens, John Taylor, Jerry Rice, Donald Driver, Randy Moss and Cris Carter among other top-flight receivers. You can also give him some credit for the development of Miles Austin and how he's handled Dez Bryant during his rookie season.

And Sherman is not just a receivers coach.

He was an offensive coordinator for three teams, the New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings. Though each was for one season, he does have the experience of calling plays.

And if Jason Garrett, the interim coach, had left for another job following the 2007 season, Sherman was in line to become the offensive coordinator of the Cowboys.

This is not to say Sherman is going to get the job. We believe Jones will select someone with some head coaching experience, something Sherman doesn't have. But it should be noted Sherman has 23 years of NFL coaching experience.

A few years ago, the St. Louis Rams were interested in interviewing Sherman for their head coaching vacancy that eventually went to Steve Spagnuolo.

Another factor that goes into the Sherman interview is he's in the last year of his deal and the Cowboys could lose him to another team.

Out of respect for Sherman, we don't believe the Cowboys will make him their Rooney Rule candidate. Jones said he plans to interview another minority candidate, and that person could be the designated by the Cowboys as a Rooney Rule candidate.

Back in 2007 before he hired Wade Phillips, Jones interviewed Todd Bowles, Mike Singletary and Jim Caldwell, all minority candidates for the job. Since then, Singletary and Caldwell got head coaching jobs with NFL teams. While Bowles is still looking for his first head coaching job, he's currently the assistant head coach/secondary coach with the Miami Dolphins.

The odds look good that Garrett will get the job full-time, but Jones is determined to interview qualified candidates, enough not only to satisfy the league in regards to the Rooney Rule, but also for himself as well.

Michael Irvin done chasing Jerry Rice

August, 7, 2010
CANTON, Ohio – Michael Irvin showed up for the Hall of Fame ceremonies with a cast on his left foot, the result of a symbolic injury he recently suffered.

Irvin tore his Achilles tendon trying to catch Jerry Rice in a celebrity flag football game.

"I’ve been chasing him all my life," Irvin said of the man who rewrote the NFL’s receiving record book. "There’s no way I will or anybody else will ever catch Jerry Rice, so I’m done with it."

Irvin laughed as he recalled the story of his injury, figuring it was sort of a fitting tribute to the first-ballot Hall of Fame receiver.

Who will introduce Emmitt Smith?

February, 6, 2010
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- We know former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. will introduce wide receiver Jerry Rice in August when he's inducted into the Hall of Fame.

What about Emmitt Smith?

"I have a short list, but I'm not going to give the names out," Smith said. "I think it's a very special moment for the person that I pick. I wanted to treat it with the upmost respect and give it the attention that it deserves and so when that moment comes, that person will know."

The short list for Smith could be this:

1. Jerry Jones
2. Daryl 'Moose' Johnston
3. Pat Smith, Emmitt's wife.
4. Pastor T.D. Jakes
5. Michael Irvin

And here is the Class of 2010

February, 6, 2010
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Now it's official.

Here's the Hall of Fame Class of 2010: Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, Russ Grimm, Rickey Jackson, John Randle, Floyd Little and Dick Lebeau.

During the announcement, thanks to TV, we saw Smith and Rice sitting next to each other and giving each other a fist pound and a hug.

We will hear from some of the guys in a moment.

We are down to five

February, 6, 2010
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. _ Ok, Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice will go into the Hall of Fame.

Those two made the final cut, but here is the final five: Smith, Rice, and Russ Grimm, Rickey Jackson and John Randle.

I remember Wade Phillips talking about how he thought Jackson was a Hall of Famer a few months ago.

Emmitt Smith in the building

February, 6, 2010
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Former Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals running back, boy that sounds strange, Emmitt Smith is in the building.

He's arrived just a few moments after Jerry Rice got here to hear the hall of fame annoucement for the Class 2010. Roger Craig, another finalist, has also arrived.

Craig, a former San Francisco 49ers great, would love to get in with his teammate in Rice.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- We know running back Emmitt Smith is headed to the Hall of Fame, Jerry Rice too.

What about Charles Haley?

The former Cowboys pass rusher is a finalist for the first time and on Saturday Nancy Gay of AOL Fanhouse will make a case for him.

Haley has five Super Bowl rings, the most by any man in league history, he compiled 100.5 sacks in 169 games and was a five-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All Pro.

It would seem former Chicago Bears end Richard Dent, 137.5 sacks in 203 career games along with a four Pro Bowls and twice named a All Pro, might knock Haley out.

However, Haley was a nasty man when he played. He treated teammates and members of the media badly. Since his retirement, Haley has become more friendly, he even talked to a few reporters near the end of the regular season.

"I think he should get in, one of the first guys to get five Super Bowl rings, it's hard to do," said former teammate, Leon Lett. "He was a great teammate, he had some issues, everybody does and he's corrected those."
Former teammate Daryl 'Moose' Johnston said Haley reached out to him to get a phone number for tight end Jay Novacek, who's wife died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

"He was a great teammate, there were a lot of stories about Charles coming out of San Francisco and when he came to our team a lot of us were kinda nervous about what to expect from Charles," Johnston said. "We're still friends to this day. He's a good guy."

This about the fourth time Haley has been eligible for the hall but the first time he's reached the finalist stage. The issue as we said before is Dent and how he treated people.

"I think he's waited long enough," Lett said. "It's been a while now, somebody from that defense deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. For three years we were the No. 1 defense and Charles was part of that anchor."