- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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ARLINGTON, Texas – During his speech at the Cowboys’ kickoff luncheon a couple of years ago, Jerry Jones intentionally let it slip that the team was close to locking up underpaid Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff to a rich contract extension.
Seems like ages ago, right? Well, that five-year, $40 million contract extension is technically just about to begin, even though the deal was restructured this offseason as the Cowboys scrambled to get under the salary cap.
Jerry’s still trying to pump sunshine about that deal, and you just have to hope for his sake he doesn’t actually believe a word of it. Meanwhile, a dark cloud pretty much hovered over Ratliff as he broke his silence while exiting this year’s kickoff luncheon.
Ratliff, who will miss at least the first six games after being placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, said just enough to eliminate any shred of doubt that there’s a major disconnect between him and the franchise regarding what must the longest-lingering sports hernia is NFL history.
Shocking news, huh? Ratliff did challenge then-70-year-old Jerry to a fight in the postgame locker room in December for daring to encourage the defensive tackle to get back on the field as soon as possible. Ratliff went under the knife weeks later, then refused to rehab at Valley Ranch this offseason.
“Absolutely I’m disappointed, but everyone knew what the issue was way beforehand,” Ratliff said. “Everyone knew what it was since last year. I’m not really going to go into much detail other than that, but for sure it’s not a hamstring tweak, so that’s all I have to say about it. Thank y’all.”
So why didn’t Ratliff rehab at Valley Ranch with an athletic training staff that once helped Terence Newman return in five weeks after a similar surgery?
“Good question,” he said.
Do you have an answer?
“I do, but I’d rather not say,” Ratliff said. “Let’s just keep the focus on these guys going out there and playing and winning games. I’m not going to be here and be a distraction to anybody. Just stay as professional as possible about the whole situation, but everyone who’s involved knows what’s going on.”
Imagine how little trust Ratliff would have for the Cowboys if Jerry didn’t decide to ignore the likelihood of an undersized defensive tackle declining as he aged, rewarding him with elite money despite two years remaining on his team-friendly deal at the time. (Not to mention supported him after his offseason arrest for driving while intoxicated.)
The discussion at this point about Ratliff’s deal is how the Cowboys can minimize the amount of dead money on the cap when they eventually cut him. But that’s not happening until next offseason at the earliest.
In the meantime, Jerry is clinging to hope that Ratliff, whose sack total declined five straight seasons before bottoming out at zero in his injury-abbreviated 2012 campaign, can play at an All-Pro level in Monte Kiffin’s scheme. Jerry pointed to Charles Haley as proof of the impact an injury-plagued veteran can make down the stretch for a contender.
Jerry darn sure isn’t ready to admit that Ratliff’s ridiculous contract extension was a colossal mistake. Not publicly, at least.
“Oh, I don’t know that the verdict is done on that yet,” Jerry said, keeping a straight face. “That speaks for itself relative to, do we think he’s going to make a big contribution in the future? But let’s see how this thing ultimately plays out.
“Since we’re looking back, let’s look back with a few more monster years under our belt.”
Ratliff’s last two years, since Jerry unnecessarily rewarded him, have been nothing short of frightening for the franchise.