- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas – Jason Garrett is sick and tired of seeing the Cowboys commit stupid penalties. To try to put a stop to it, he’s talking real tough.
Garrett has used video, anecdotes and statistics to try to make his point to his team. Yet the Cowboys still lead the league in penalties per game, having been flagged 13 times in three of five games this season.
“Then certainly you have the option of saying, 'OK, if you continue to get penalized like this, you're going to be out of the lineup or you're going to be off the football team,'" Garrett said.
Sounds good, but is that even a realistic option for the biggest penalty problem players?
It’s one thing if Garrett is referring to third receiver Kevin Ogletree, who had to fight for a roster spot this summer and was part of the problem on three illegal shifts in Sunday’s loss. But the offensive tackles’ penchant for penalties is much more troubling.
Smith earned immediate forgiveness for his touchdown-saving horse-collar in the season opener. That illegal tackle of Giants linebacker Michael Boley was a key play in the Cowboys’ win and worth every penny of the $15,750 fine the league slapped on Smith.
But Smith has five false starts, tying Free for the league lead. Those pre-snap penalties really get Garrett’s face red. Smith has also been flagged twice for holding. Free has been whistled three times for holding, which is tied for third in the NFL.
What’s Garrett going to do about it?
Anybody really believe he’ll release last year’s No. 9 overall pick or a man in the second season of a four-year, $32 million contract to hammer home the point about penalties being out of control for the Cowboys? Didn't think so.
You think Smith or Free – as poorly as they’ve played at times this season, particularly the right tackle – are really in jeopardy of losing a starting job to Jermey Parnell? Oh, by the way, Parnell was flagged for a false start in a rare appearance as a third tight end Sunday.
“Oh, I don’t know if we have a line in the sand,” Garrett said. “But trust me – we’re going to get it right.”