Dallas Cowboys: Ozzie Newsome

Jason Witten hopes to speak with Ozzie Newsome

October, 12, 2012
IRVING, Texas – Last season Jason Witten surpassed Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome for third place for catches among tight ends in NFL history. This year he moved passed Newsome in receiving yards.

On Sunday in Baltimore, Witten and Newsome will be in the same stadium and Witten hopes to speak in person for the first time with the Ravens general manager.

“Obviously I know what kind of player he was and everybody has told me about him back when he was in college at Alabama,” Witten said. “That probably, in all of these (honors), is the most humbling thing because I think he was probably the biggest staple of a tight end really from that era that we know of. To be able to pass a guy like that, that was probably one of the most special things for me as an individual player.”

Only Tony Gonzalez and Shannon Sharpe have more catches and yards as tight ends in NFL history than Witten, but the Cowboys’ seven-time Pro Bowler believes Newsome deserves credit for how tight ends play today.

“There’s no question really when you think this about this position now really for the last decade or really six or seven years, it’s taken back off,” Witten said. “Obviously Tony Gonzalez has been doing it, but those guys doing it, (Newsome) and (Kellen) Winslow Sr., those guys, really every opportunity we have now is from what they did.”

Other Side: Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson

October, 11, 2012
IRVING, Texas – For this week’s episode of The Other Side we check in with Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun for his thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens as they prepare to get ready for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Archer: Aside from last week's game at KC, it appears as if the Ravens have an offense that can take pressure off the defense. People always ask this nebulous question about the "next step," but has Joe Flacco taken the next step? If so, why? How?

Wilson: What has changed about Joe Flacco is he's been granted greater command of the offense in terms of ability to audible and they implemented a no-huddle offense and have emphasized the shotgun formation, all things he did more of in college at Delaware. His deep-ball accuracy still isn't excellent, but it's much improved. He still has a tendency to stare down his primary read, which is what's happened on virtually all of his four interceptions. While Flacco has definitely improved overall, he still has a tendency to have inconsistency, on the road particularly, and will get into cold streaks where his fundamentals lapse. In Philadelphia, the pass rush of Trent Cole and Jason Babin affected him to the point where he was throwing off his back foot. Flacco seems to still be in the very good category with all the skills and capability to be great and is knocking on the door of getting to that point. He's just not totally there yet despite better personnel outside than he's had in the past. This isn't on Flacco, but his offensive tackle tandem of Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele are holding back the offense a bit. They gave up a total of four sacks and eight quarterback pressures to Kansas City Chiefs edge rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. That could be a problem obviously against DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.

TA: Are we seeing a different Ravens defense? The Chiefs ran all over them. Is Ray Lewis slowing down finally? How much do they miss Terrell Suggs?

AW: The defense is much different, and not in a good way. Traditionally stingy against the run, they were gashed by Jamaal Charles for 125 yards in the first half primarily through the use of the zone stretch play. Dean Pees' halftime adjustment of walking up the linebackers and shifting the defensive linemen wider was an effective strategy as Charles had only 15 yards on 10 carries after halftime. However, middle linebacker Ray Lewis looked slow in his reactions and got stuck to blocks. He had one hard hit, but that was in the fourth quarter on Cyrus Gray. Lewis has had some solid games this year, but he's also 37 years old. And it shows. Although he's lighter at 235 pounds, he's not as explosive as he used to be and doesn't get enough depth on his pass drops, which makes him vulnerable to tight ends' patterns. As tough and smart and great a tackler as Lewis is, he's been getting overpowered at times at the point of attack and beaten to the outside by faster runners like Charles and Trent Richardson. Terrell Suggs is definitely missed. The Ravens had no sacks against the Chiefs. Pees creates pressure by blitzing primarily. Other than Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, one of the most disruptive interior forces in the game, hardly anyone is defeating blocks and getting to the quarterback. Ngata is commanding double-team attention regularly and still getting penetration. Without Suggs, this has become a bend-but-don't-break defense that still excels at getting turnovers and being stout in the red zone.

TA: The Cowboys took Felix Jones in 2008. The Ravens took Ray Rice. Clearly the Ravens made out on that one, but just how vital is Rice to that offense?

AW: Ray Rice is the centerpiece of the offense even though the Ravens are transitioning to a passing outfit. Rice is a dynamic open-field runner who plays bigger than 5-foot-8, 212 pounds. He's also a dangerous receiver out of the backfield and has good hands. This guy is tough, durable and fast. The Ravens are trying to preserve him as much as possible and not wear him out, but he rarely takes a hard hit because he's elusive.

TA: Jason Garrett nearly got the Baltimore job a few years ago. Any idea how close he came to getting it over John Harbaugh?

AW: The Ravens offered Garrett the job, showed his wife the local real estate listings and it was his for the taking with a fairly high salary offer. However, he declined the offer and it seemed like his tour of interviews was just him going through the motions and he had an arrangement or understanding all along with owner Jerry Jones to become the Cowboys' new head coach. The sense many got from Garrett during his visit is that he wasn't enthralled with the idea of coming to Baltimore. John Harbaugh wasn't the Ravens' first choice, but he impressed owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome during the interview process and was vouched for by Andy Reid and Bill Belichick. They liked his personality and leadership qualities and unconventional special-teams background. He was unproven then and had never been a head coach before, but he has made the playoffs every year and won at least one playoff game and made two AFC championship game appearances. Harbaugh had to win over a tough locker room at first, too. The Ravens are happy with how things worked out, but they definitely respect Garrett and held a high opinion of him to give him that offer before later hiring Harbaugh.

TA: The Ravens haven't lost at home in a long time. Is it the team? Is it the venue?

AW: It's loud at M&T Bank Stadium, and the Ravens just seem to play with more confidence at home. On the road, they aren't the same team. They use the no-huddle less. The defense seems more vulnerable. At home, Joe Flacco has been markedly more accurate and efficient. Like most good NFL teams, they seem to thrive on a home-field advantage. It's a matter of intangibles, but the numbers don't lie since they've won 15 games in a row at home, including the postseason.

Ravens coach talks about drafting Dez Bryant

October, 9, 2012
It's easy to go back and say what might have been, especially when it comes to the NFL draft. But in 2010, the Baltimore Ravens had the 25th overall pick of the draft and were interested in wide receiver Dez Bryant.

The Ravens brought Bryant to their facility for a visit and he met with general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh. Of course, the Ravens didn't draft Bryant, instead trading out of the first round to get three picks. Dallas drafted Bryant at No. 24 overall.

Harbaugh was asked about the visit and if a trade hadn't occurred, would his team have drafted Bryant.

"We liked him," Harbaugh said Monday to reporters in the Baltimore area. "Whether we would have taken him with that pick if we hadn’t traded out -- if that’s what you’re asking -- I really don’t know. Ozzie is right upstairs, though. You could ask him if you want. (laughing) But, he is a good player. He is a really talented guy. You talk about the Cowboys, obviously, they have a tremendously talented quarterback who is capable of just doing amazing things. They’ve got maybe the most balanced receiving corps in football. Miles Austin, obviously, is a great player. They have four really good receivers. They have a great tight end. They have two home-run-hitting running backs. So, they’ve got lots of weapons, and everybody knows that."

If Bryant had gone to the Ravens, maybe the veteran leadership of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed would have helped him better than what the Cowboys' locker room has provided.

Bryant has had dinner with several players, including former center Andre Gurode and quarterback Tony Romo. So it's not like the Cowboys players haven't tried to mentor and develop relationships with Bryant.

It's really unfair to make a conclusion either way and, of course, Bryant could have gotten in trouble just as easily in the Baltimore area as he's done in Dallas/Fort Worth. The lawsuits over jewelry and sporting event tickets was going to happen regardless of where Bryant played. Bryant purchased the jewelry prior to his junior year at Oklahoma State and the lawsuits were filed before his rookie season. Bryant has since settled the lawsuits with the jeweler.

It's unknown if the other incidents would have occurred had he lived in Baltimore.

On the field, Bryant might have produced the same numbers or better. He's scored 15 touchdowns in his career, none in 2012.

Ozzie Newsome salutes Jason Witten

November, 13, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- With a 5-yard catch in the first quarter, Jason Witten surpassed Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome for third place in NFL history for catches by a tight end.

The catch came on a third-and-3 on a quick curl from Tony Romo to pick up a first down on the Cowboys’ second drive.

Witten now has 662 catches. Newsome had the most ever by a tight end at the time of his retirement with 661.

“Jason is a complete tight end with the ability to block at the point of attack and make plays downfield with his catches,” said Newsome, who is Baltimore’s general manager, in a statement from the Ravens. “He has a way to get open that few tight ends possess. He’ll find the spots in zones, he can run away from man coverage and he can catch a ball in heavy traffic. Congratulations to him on reaching another catching milestone.”

Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez is the leader with 1,108 entering today’s game, followed by Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe, who had 815 in his career with Denver and Baltimore.

Only Michael Irvin has more catches with the Cowboys than Witten. He had 750 receptions in his Hall of Fame career from 1988-99.

Jason Witten closing on Ozzie Newsome

November, 8, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- With two catches Sunday against Buffalo, Jason Witten will pass Ozzie Newsome for third place among tight ends for receptions all-time.

Newsome had 662 receptions in his Hall of Fame career. Witten has 661 after his four-catch, 71-yard outing against Seattle on Sunday. Only Tony Gonzalez, a sure Hall of Famer once he decides to retire, and Shannon Sharpe, who was inducted this summer into the Hall of Fame, would be ahead of Witten.

Gonzalez has 1,108 catches and Sharpe has 815.

“I said a while back it’s kind of surreal to think about passing a guy like that,” Witten said. “Until Tony came along he was the greatest tight end. He and John Mackey were the staples of what this position is all about. It will be special to be able to do that, but at the same time, you’re so intent on winning games that you don’t have time to look back at it. But it will be surreal for me. When I came into this league, I never thought about something like that. I just thought about getting better and better and better, so that’s been my mentality. You spend time in the film room to find five or six things I can work on to get better. If you keep that approach, good things will happen.”

Witten turns 30 next March and signed a contract extension through 2017 before the season started. He is on pace for 88 catches and 1,096 yards this season.

Does he have a chance to catch Gonzalez or is he putting the record so far out of reach?