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Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Did Dallas' Ratliff grievance come too late?

By Todd Archer

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have put a lot of thought and time into the grievance they have filed against Jeremiah "Jay" Ratliff, but their chances of receiving salary-cap credit are not the best.

The Cowboys would have had a much better case against Ratliff if they had suspended him when he got into owner/general manager Jerry Jones’ face in the locker room after a win during the 2012 season.

Ratliff
It was the ultimate showing of conduct detrimental to the team.

Instead, Jones thought the relationship with Ratliff could be salvaged, even if it had soured with many people behind the scenes who had to deal with him on a day-to-day basis. There were hard feelings with the team’s athletic training staff for months. He was surly and hardly the kind of guy some portrayed him to be.

The Cowboys made it worse last offseason when they restructured his contract to gain salary-cap space. The move guaranteed Ratliff more money -- after he played in only six games in 2012 because of sports-hernia surgery -- and put the Cowboys in the hole against the salary cap in the future. He was supposed to be a fixture in the move from the 3-4 to the 4-3 as the vaunted 3-technique Rod Marinelli craved.

Except he never played a game in 2013. He did not pass the conditioning test at the start of training camp, and the Cowboys placed him on the physically unable to perform list. Ratliff was not pleased with the designation. Off to the side, he went through some pretty rigorous workouts with assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett, but the closest Ratliff would get to the field was in a walk-through.

At the final cuts, the Cowboys kept him on PUP, which knocked him out of the first six games. They hoped the extra time would help his rehab and get him back on the field. He did most of his rehab away from Valley Ranch, which was not the team’s standard operating procedure. When he showed up shortly before he was eligible to come off the PUP list, he wasn’t close to being ready to play.

The Cowboys decided then to part ways with Ratliff. He counts $6.9 million against the Cowboys’ salary cap on 2014. For now.

At the time of his release, Ratliff’s agent, Mark Slough, said his client would not play in 2013 but would focus on 2014 because the injury Ratliff suffered was much more severe than the typical sports hernia. A day later, Slough said Ratliff would be open to playing in 2013.

Eyebrows were raised, and the thoughts of a grievance were put in motion but were announced by Jones only on Monday.

Will the Cowboys get their money -- both in cap credit and cash? Maybe, but Jones acknowledged it will be a difficult road.

He missed a better chance to get it back in 2012.