Dallas Cowboys: Deion Sanders

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 2

April, 12, 2014
Apr 12
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IRVING, Texas -- Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we talk about the Cowboys' drafting injured players, Anthony Spencer's possible return, a position switch for Morris Claiborne and a Matt Johnson update.

If you want to see the Part 1 of the mailbag, click here.

Away we go:

 

Jerry Jones' top five moments

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
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IRVING, Texas -- Tuesday marked the 25th anniversary of Jerry Jones’ purchase of the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Stadium for $140 million.

The highs have been high, but the lows have been low, especially since the Cowboys last won a Super Bowl in the 1995 season.

Here we will look at Jones’ top five moments as the Cowboys' owner and general manager while realizing that a large segment of the fandom will not give him any credit for what happened in the early years when Jimmy Johnson was around.

1. How do you like those Super Bowls?

[+] EnlargeJerry Jones
AP Photo/Charles KrupaOwner Jerry Jones and coach Jimmy Johnson celebrate their 30-13 win over Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVIII on Jan. 30, 1994, in Atlanta.
The Cowboys won three titles in Jones’ first seven years as owner. They became the first team to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span, becoming the team of the 1990s with the Triplets -- Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith -- becoming household names. The Cowboys beat the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII by a combined score of 82-30. They claimed Super Bowl XXX with Barry Switzer as coach by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17, exacting some revenge for the ‘70s Cowboys who could not beat Terry Bradshaw & Co.

2. Hiring Jimmy Johnson

Jones expressed regret Sunday about the rushed nature of firing legendary coach Tom Landry, but there is no doubt he made the right decision in bringing his former college teammate Johnson with him to the Cowboys. Johnson was the best coach in college football at the time at the University of Miami and brought a brashness that took the NFL by storm. The Cowboys suffered greatly in 1989 by going 1-15, but by Johnson’s second year they were competing for a playoff spot in the final week of the season and winning a playoff game by the third year. By Year No. 4, Johnson had his first of two straight Super Bowl wins. It ended badly between Jones and Johnson, wrecking what could have been a history-making era because of the egos of the owner and the coach.

3. The trade of all trades

This is where the Jimmy and Jerry camps will always be divided. If you were a Jimmy guy, he engineered the trade of Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings. If you were a Jerry guy, he had the final say. Regardless of who you want to credit, the moment is in Jones’ era as owner and is among his biggest moments. The Walker trade brought about the formation of the Super Bowl teams. The Cowboys received five players and eight picks, turning those picks into Smith, Alvin Harper, Dixon Edwards and Darren Woodson. It might be the best trade in NFL history.

4. A new home

At $2.1 billion, there is no stadium like AT&T Stadium. This will be the monument Jones leaves whenever he is no longer the owner and general manager of the team. To get the stadium built, Jones acquiesced to a degree by bringing in Bill Parcells as coach in 2003 after three straight 5-11 finishes. With Parcells and the coach’s two Super Bowl wins, Jones could show people he was serious about winning and changing his ways. The stadium is unmatched in the NFL, if not the world, with its nightclub-type feel, center-hung digital board, retractable roof and sliding doors. The Cowboys might not have the same home-field advantage they had at Texas Stadium, but the stadium has delivered a Super Bowl, an NBA All-Star Game, numerous concerts and the upcoming Final Four.

5. Trading for Charles Haley

Again, this will divide the Jimmy and Jerry camps, but Haley was the piece to the puzzle who got the Cowboys over the top. It weakened the Cowboys’ biggest rival at the time, the San Francisco 49ers, and brought the Dallas defense an attitude it lacked. The signing of Deion Sanders in 1995 also weakened the Niners, but Haley brought two titles -- if not the third, as well. The drafting of Smith, No. 17 overall, was another top moment with him becoming the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. But Haley’s arrival brought to Dallas what the fans want most: Super Bowls.

How the Cowboys handle trash talking

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
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IRVING, Texas -- When Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett talks to his players for the first time, he tells them to be brief and boring with the media.

It’s something the coach has mastered, although he is more forthcoming when the television lights go off.

Hatcher
Hatcher
For a team that has had colorful characters since forever, from Don Meredith to Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson to Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders, the current version of the Cowboys lacks a true trash talker.

Irvin could verbally taunt defensive backs with the best of them. Sanders could do the same with wide receivers. They felt they were the best, and they let everybody know about it.

Dez Bryant might be viewed as the closest, but he does not instigate the talk. He reacts to it. And as we found out after the Detroit Lions game, his actions on the sideline are not always as dastardly as they come off.

When the Cowboys played the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in 2013, they listened to their NFC East rivals chirp all week. Jason Pierre-Paul said “blood would be shed.” Antrel Rolle said the game was the Giants Super Bowl. Terrell Thomas guaranteed a victory.

And the Cowboys won 24-21.

The Cowboys talking came after the game, which is just how Garrett would want it. Jason Hatcher spread fake Vampire blood on his face.

"I just finished eating a Giant," said Hatcher, who had two sacks of Eli Manning. "Y'all didn't see me out there? That's some leftover blood. They said blood is going to be shed, right?"

Later he added, "Action speaks louder than words, so we went out there and did what we were supposed to do tonight. They talked the talk. They had to back it up, and they didn't. We came out with the victory. We came into their house and took it from them."

Cowboys' split on Pro Bowl teams

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
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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.

Proof of Purchase: Mo Claiborne

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
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In some ways 2013 did not answer enough questions for the Cowboys regarding personnel. NFL Nation reporter Todd Archer looks at players the Cowboys don’t know about for a variety of reasons.

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys gave up their first- and second-round picks in 2012 to move up to select Morris Claiborne with the sixth overall pick.

Claiborne
The Cowboys said Claiborne was their highest-rated defensive back since Deion Sanders. That is extremely high praise and raised the level of expectations for Claiborne that he has not reached in his first two seasons.

He missed six games in 2013 because of recurring hamstring injuries. He lost his starting spot to Orlando Scandrick after injuring his shoulder in the season opener and was unable to take it back mostly because of how well Scandrick played.

While the coaches laud his ability to play the ball, he has only two interceptions in his two seasons and 16 pass breakups. Billed as a shut-down press corner, Claiborne has not played the same as he did when he was winning the Thorpe Award at LSU.

Not only has Claiborne not shown it in games, he has not shown it in practices that are open to the media either in training camp or during the season.

Staying healthy has been a problem for Claiborne. His rookie season was slowed by a wrist surgery that kept him out for the entire offseason. He hurt his knee in training camp as well. He missed one game because of a concussion.

Claiborne has all of the tools, but things have not come together for him. Is it health? Is it scheme? Is it a poor evaluation by the Cowboys?

After two years it is too easy to throw the “bust” tag on Claiborne, but there is no doubt he enters 2014 with just about more to prove than any player on the roster.

Proof of purchase

Lance Dunbar

Which Dallas Cowboys stay, go in 2014

January, 6, 2014
Jan 6
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IRVING, Texas -- Calvin Watkins has put together his annual “Take ‘em or Trash ‘em,” list for the Dallas Cowboys and he’s ready to move on from Morris Claiborne.

The first-round draft pick in 2011 had a poor season in part because of hamstring injuries that kept him out of six games and in part because of a lack of technique. The Cowboys traded up to get Claiborne with the sixth overall pick and said he was their highest-graded defensive back since Deion Sanders.

He just hasn’t played like it.

To me, it’s too early to give up on him, but he will have to earn his starting spot with the way Orlando Scandrick played in 2013.

Calvin was also ready to move on from Miles Austin, Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher. Spencer and Hatcher will be free agents, and Spencer is coming back from knee surgery. Hatcher had his best season statistically but he should command more money than the Cowboys want to pay a soon-to-be 32-year-old.

While Calvin has those big names on the “trash” list, he is showing patience with DeMarcus Ware, Bruce Carter and Brandon Carr.

What do you think? You can vote here.

Cowboys leaned on backup QBs before

December, 26, 2013
12/26/13
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IRVING, Texas – With the season on the line, the Dallas Cowboys most likely will have to rely on backup QB Kyle Orton to deliver a victory Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles because starter Tony Romo is battling an injured back.

It won't be the first time the Cowboys have needed a backup up to deliver in the Jerry Jones era.

[+] EnlargeKyle Orton
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsThe Cowboys may look to backup Kyle Orton to keep their postseason hopes alive.
In 1990, the Cowboys faced a win-and-in scenario without Troy Aikman because of a knee injury and turned to Babe Laufenberg against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Cowboys lost 26-7. Laufenberg completed 10 of 24 passes for 129 yards with two interceptions, including one that was returned by Deion Sanders 61 yards for a touchdown. Laufenberg was also sacked three times in his first start of the season.

"It still bothers you," said Laufenberg, who is the sports director at KTVT in Dallas and in his 21st year as the color analyst for the Cowboys radio network. "This time of season, it's like the death of your mother when the anniversary comes up. Seriously. It still bothers you. Now that was my last game, too, as it turned out."

If Romo is unable to play, Orton will make his first start for Dallas and the 70th of his career. Orton is 35-34 as a starter but has not started a game since the 2011 season finale with the Kansas City Chiefs. He is in his second season with the Cowboys.

While Laufenberg's memories are not positive, the Cowboys have had backups deliver for them in big moments before.

In 1991, the season after Laufenberg's start, Steve Beuerlein replaced an injured Aikman and won his four regular-season starts as the Cowboys finished 11-5 and made the playoffs for the first time since 1985. He also helped the Cowboys win their first road playoff game since 1980 when they beat the Chicago Bears in the wild-card round.

In the regular-season game in which Aikman hurt his knee, Beuerlein connected on a touchdown pass to Michael Irvin in the fourth quarter, and Dallas beat the then-undefeated Washington Redskins 24-21. He finished the regular season with five touchdown passes and two interceptions.

What changed for the Cowboys in Aikman's absence was the increased workload of RB Emmitt Smith. He carried the ball at least 25 times in each of Beuerlein's starts and had at least 109 rushing yards in three of the games. The defense also played its best, allowing more than 14 points just once in Beuerlein's four starts.

In 1993, the Cleveland Browns cut QB Bernie Kosar for "diminishing skills." The Cowboys, led by coach Jimmy Johnson, signed Kosar two days later – and four days later he delivered a 20-15 Dallas win against the Phoenix Cardinals. With Aikman out (hamstring) and the offense sluggish under backup Jason Garrett, Johnson turned to Kosar. Kosar completed 13 of 21 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown.

A week later, he made his only Cowboys start, a 27-14 loss to the Falcons. He completed 22 of 39 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns.

The Cowboys would lose only one more game that season – the famous ice game on Thanksgiving against the Miami Dolphins – before winning Super Bowl XXVIII.

Garrett had his moment in the sun in the Thanksgiving game in 1994. With Aikman and Rodney Peete out, Garrett outdueled Brett Favre, throwing for 311 yards and two touchdowns as the Cowboys put up 36 second-half points to beat the Green Bay Packers 42-31.

While that game is often remembered, Garrett also had a 6-3 record as a starter with the Cowboys.

"Shoot, you live for that," Laufenberg said. "I just hate [hearing], ‘Ah, backup quarterback is the best job in the world.' Ask them. Ask Jason. All you want to do is play."

Recapping the Cowboys' week

November, 2, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys host the Minnesota Vikings Sunday at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, but you wouldn’t know it by all of the Dez Bryant sideline brouhaha talk after the loss to the Detroit Lions.

For this week’s recap, we look back at what those involved had to say about the overblown incident.

Dez Bryant respects the team’s leaders. Tony Romo doesn’t believe Bryant is a distraction. Jason Witten loves Bryant’s passion.

How is Tony Romo feeling at the midway point?

The Cowboys have to find ways to get Dez Bryant and Jason Witten more involved, double teams or no double teams.

• How bad is the Cowboys defense? Pretty bad, but Jason Garrett prefers to look at other stats.

• Thankfully the Vikings don’t have Calvin Johnson, so the Cowboys don’t have to worry about allowing a receiver to have a 329-yard receiving day, but oh if they had Deion Sanders last week.

• Skip Bayless jumps off the Jerry Jones’ bandwagon.

• Here’s Ben Goessling and myself giving you this week’s Double Coverage.

Three things: Cowboys-Cardinals

August, 17, 2013
8/17/13
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Three things to watch for Saturday in the Arizona Cardinals' second exhibition game of the 2013 season, set for 4:30 p.m. ET at home against the Dallas Cowboys

1. Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders. Neither is going to play in this game, of course, but with Cardinals general manager Steve Keim invoking them to describe third-year cornerback Patrick Peterson, we'll be watching to see whether Peterson gets snaps at wide receiver. Peterson has impressed the Cardinals in that role in training camp. The team sounds serious about using him in that capacity in the regular season. If Peterson is going to be part of the receiver rotation, why wouldn't he play wideout in the preseason?

2. Rookie free safety. Third-round choice Tyrann Mathieu gets the start at free safety while Rashad Johnson recovers from injury. Mathieu collected a sack and aggressively defended a pass in his preseason debut against Green Bay. The Cardinals have called him one of the more dynamic players in camp to this point. Now, Mathieu gets a chance to work with the starters. Will he play the roughly 20 snaps coach Bruce Arians said he plans to allot for the first group? Or might he stay in the game longer as a rookie in need of reps?

3. The home crowd. Fans around the NFL often sell or give away their preseason tickets, making it tougher to capture the desired home-field feel. Having a broadly popular team such as the Cowboys coming to town could further dilute the home contingent. Still, new coach Arians has stressed the importance of re-establishing dominance at home. This is the first home game of any kind on his watch. It's got to feel a little special for him. Will the Cardinals give the home crowd reason to come back for more?

When will Jerry Jones be inducted?

August, 4, 2013
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CANTON, Ohio – Larry Allen became the fifth Cowboy of the Jerry Jones era to earn induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, joining Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Deion Sanders.

Jones has been considered for the Hall of Fame in recent years and should one day be enshrined in Canton for his tenure as the Cowboys' owner and general manager.

He has presented Irvin, Smith and Allen for induction. Perhaps one day his sons, Stephen or Jerry Jr., or daughter, Charlotte, will present him for induction.

Stephen Jones, the Cowboys' executive vice president, believes his father has earned entrance into the Hall.

“He should be, in my opinion, for what he’s done for the game,” Stephen Jones said. “Obviously I’m biased being his son, but what he’s done for the NFL and the passion he has for the game, you just hope he gets the chance. And I’m sure he will, but you never take something like that for granted. Obviously there’s no bigger fan than myself for my father to one day get that opportunity.”
OXNARD, Calif. -- We’ve all heard stories about Larry Allen's strength, power and the raw athleticism that made him one of the best offensive linemen ever.

We can all recite the stories about him bench-pressing 700 pounds and chasing New Orleans linebacker Darion Connor 50 yards to prevent a touchdown as a rookie.

And we’ve all seen video of him destroying linebackers and defensive backs when he pulled, creating running lanes for Emmitt Smith.

“Across the board, he was the best football player I ever played with -- and I played with them all,” former Cowboys safety Darren Woodson said. “Troy [Aikman], Emmitt, Michael [Irvin], Deion [Sanders] ... Larry Allen was the best.

“He was also the smartest.”

Say what?

That’s right. Talk to any player or coach who played with Allen during his 12 seasons in Dallas and they’ll tell you he was among the game’s most intelligent players.

Former offensive line coach Hudson Houck used to joke that Allen was the best offensive linemen on the field and in the classroom.

“He wanted to know everyone’s assignment,” six-time Pro Bowl guard Nate Newton said. “If the quarterback was rolling out, he wanted to know exactly where he was supposed to end up so he could adjust his block properly.

“He always asked a lot of questions, but he asked a lot of smart questions. He always wanted to know what we were supposed to do if the defensive player didn’t do what we thought he would do.”

Allen was a second-round pick from tiny Division II Sonoma State in the 1994 draft. Six games into the season, he was starting. The six-time All-Pro played every position except center on the offensive line.

“Do you know how smart you have to be to go from playing at Sonoma State to starting for a two-time Super Bowl champion?” Woodson said. “Think about how big that jump is. Think about the kind of offense we had in Dallas and what he ran at Sonoma State.

“I don’t know how Larry did in math or what kind of grades he made, but he understood everything about football and concepts and that’s what helped make him a great player. He anticipated things because he knew where everyone was on the field and he could adjust.”

Nerves go away for Terrance Williams

May, 10, 2013
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IRVING, Texas – Terrance Williams admitted to some nerves before Friday’s first rookie mini-camp practice.

PODCAST
With the Cowboys opening rookie minicamp, Galloway and Mosley discuss the incoming rookie class and who will make the biggest impact.

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“When they finally blew that horn I realized it was time to play football again,” Williams said.

Williams, the Cowboys third-round pick, is a Dallas native and attended W.T. White before heading off for Baylor. Deion Sanders was his favorite player and the Cowboys have been his favorite team.

He wore No. 2 for the Carrollton Panthers as a little kid, honoring Sanders’ jersey number at Florida State, and played at halftime of a Cowboys game at Texas Stadium.

“I scored the very first play,” Williams said. “I played running back at that time.”

Now he’s a wide receiver and he was able to meet Dez Bryant for the first time Friday after exchanging Twitter messages. He’s been a Cowboy for a few weeks now, but Friday it became real.

“I wouldn’t think I would be here, so to get that call from Jerry Jones it meant a lot,” Williams said. “I just got to return the favor and produce in any way I can.”
Dial back the expectations for the best cornerback since Deion Sanders, at least for one season.

Of course, that toast was probably burnt the moment Jerry Jones boasted to anybody who would listen that the Dallas Cowboys had given Morris Claiborne a higher draft grade than any corner since Prime Time.

Kind of makes you wonder whether Cowboys scouts saw any Michigan games the year Charles Woodson won the Heisman Trophy, huh? Maybe it was just Jerry's justification for packaging his first two picks to move up to sixth overall to draft Claiborne. Or perhaps it was just Jerry doing what he does best -- creating hype.

Not that the Cowboys aren't truly in love with Claiborne. There's no question they envision him developing into an elite player at a premier position.

Right now, though, they need to make sure Claiborne is buckled up for what will almost certainly be a roller coaster rookie season.

That's not a knock on Claiborne, whose credentials include the Thorpe Award and an SEC Defensive Player of the Year honor. It's just NFL reality for rookie cornerbacks.

It doesn't matter how high they're drafted. Rookie corners tend to struggle, especially if they start right away.

Read more here.

Dez Bryant to return punts in 2012

July, 29, 2012
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OXNARD, Calif. -- Dez Bryant will be the Cowboys punt returner in 2012.

The Cowboys were leery of using the wide receiver in that spot last year, choosing to limit his work in part for fear of injury, but they have had a philosophical change of heart in 2012.

And it’s not just Bryant who will be involved in the return game. Jones said Felix Jones will be the team’s kick returner.

“We think that’s really going to do wonders for our kicking game,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “We’re going to let them work on it from the get go. Obviously, we didn’t do it with Felix last year because he was the starting running back and we didn’t do it with Dez. This year, we think it’ll make a big difference. Both guys were top guys come out of college. By letting them work on it every day, Joe (DeCamillis) thinks it’ll make a big difference.”

Bryant had punt returns for touchdowns of 62 and 93 yards as a rookie and averaged 14.3 yards in 15 returns. Last season, he suffered a bruised quadriceps in the season opener and was limited as a returner for the rest of the year.

Jones has averaged 24.5 yards per kick return in his first three seasons. He had a 98-yard touchdown as a rookie.

“We were wanting to try some of the young guys last year,” Stephen Jones said. “I think Dez doing punt returns, we’ve done it with Deion (Sanders). We think that’s a safer deal. And then with Felix obviously going to No. 2 running back, then I think him get some chances to make some plays as well.”

The Cowboys averaged just 7.1 yards per punt return and 23.3 yards per kick return in 2012, which has kept the offense from being in the best field position situations.

“The big thing is Joe thinks practicing it every day, getting Dez and Felix used to the blocking schemes, working on it every day, they’ll be better,” Stephen Jones said.

Cowboys must help Bryant, not dump him

July, 17, 2012
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I don't know if Dez Bryant will ever completely get his act together, and neither do you. The people who are calling for the Dallas Cowboys to release Bryant in the wake of his Monday arrest on a domestic violence charge, those who are shouting about how he'll never get it and isn't worth the trouble, must take a step back for a moment and remember what it is that we actually do know.

We know that Bryant is only 23 years old, and that labeling someone irretrievable when they're still that young is not just foolish but irresponsible. We know he hasn't had much reliable guidance in his life. And if you believe Deion Sanders, he hasn't always responded well when guidance has been offered. We know that he's made bad choices, that he has too often acted in ways that show he doesn't understand his responsibilities as a young adult, let alone a star athlete in the public eye.

[+] EnlargeDez Bryant
AP Photo/James D SmithIs it too soon for the Cowboys to give up on young reciever Dez Bryant?
We know he has huge talent, which is why someone who makes the bad choices Bryant has made gets the brilliant chance he's been given. We know he's important to the Cowboys as a wide receiver, this year and beyond, and that in order to have the success they believe he can have, he must stop being the off-field headache he's been since they drafted him. But we don't know for sure, four months short of his 24th birthday, that he is incapable of putting his troubles behind him. And because we -- and the Cowboys -- don't know that, the Cowboys absolutely must find a way to help him.

Help him. Not cut him. Not pile on the way a bloodthirsty NFL-fan public might want them to. The Cowboys have too much invested in Bryant and have too much at stake to give up on a player this young and this good. Their priority needs to be finding ways to help Bryant get his off-field life to a more manageable place. Because if that doesn't happen, the consequences for the young man could be much worse than just being a first-round bust.

It may be that, in the new Cowboys culture with Jason Garrett calling more shots, the team would never draft Bryant if given the choice to do so now. But that's irrelevant. He's on the team, and they need to find a way to make it work. When he's at the team facility and on the practice field, he doesn't carry himself like a punk or a prima donna. By all accounts, he works hard, is respectful of coaches and fits in well with his teammates. When Bryant goes to work, things are fine. He's a young player, learning the league and getting better all the time.

The problems happen when Bryant is away from the team, when he's home, unsupervised, in the troubled world from which he came. This is what makes the team hold its breath -- worrying about what will happen to Bryant when they can't see him. It had been an encouragingly quiet offseason for Bryant until Monday, and the team had reason to believe, with two weeks left until training camp, that he had a chance to get through it without incident. He did not, and now they must once again wonder if this is a player on whom they can count in the long run. Even if the team decides that discipline isn't the way to go, there remains the possibility that Roger Goodell and his personal conduct policy will decide otherwise. Right now, the Cowboys don't know whether they can be sure Bryant will be eligible to play all 16 games for them this year.

PODCAST
The 911 call Dez Bryant's mother, Angela Bryant, made to DeSoto, Texas, police after the Cowboys receiver allegedly assaulted her.

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Bryant is too important to the Cowboys to be such a question mark, and the team's goal has to be finding some way to ensure that he's not. It won't be easy. Bryant's 23-plus years are loaded with potentially intractable obstacles that have led many people to wonder whether he can ever get it together. But no matter what anybody's saying today, we don't actually know that he can't.

Bryant had never been arrested prior to Monday. For all of his off-field issues with money, his run-ins with police and mall security, nothing he'd ever done prior to Monday had resulted in an actual arrest. That makes what happened Monday worse, by literal definition, than anything he's done to that point. And that could mean he's a young man headed in the wrong direction instead of the right one. There are quite a few people out there who continually await Bryant's next misstep, because we live in an I-told-you-so world. People are obsessed with being proven right, and those who made up their minds about Bryant long ago believe that Monday proved them right.

But he's 23 years old, and the world shouldn't be giving up on troubled 23-year-olds, no matter who they are. It happens that this particular 23-year-old is a talented, wealthy, young star athlete, and for that reason he may get more chances to turn his life around than another 23-year-old would. That may not be fair, but if those extra chances bring the right result, it's going to be worth it. No matter how many they are or how frustrating is the process of continuing to offer them. The goal here shouldn't be to find, label and cast aside the 23-year-olds who are making bad decisions. The goal should be finding ways to help them make better ones.

I don't know if Dez Bryant can be saved from his lifelong cycle of poor choices, but neither do the Cowboys. And until they know for sure, the only choice they have -- for football reasons, moral reasons and common-decency reasons -- is to keep trying.

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