NFC East: Shaun Chapas

Friday links clearly need no introduction.

Dallas Cowboys

Clarence Hill says that second-year receiver Dez Bryant is maturing, has rid himself of the pesky court cases that were weighing on his mind and should be considered a bright spot for the Cowboys over their final four games. I do think it's important, when assessing Bryant, that we try to keep in mind that it's only his second year in the league. Not everybody develops as quickly as everybody else, and inconsistency (even inconsistency of health and effort) is to be expected from young players. Bryant has been, at times over his first two seasons, a fantastic receiver for the Cowboys. He's got a limitless ceiling. He's a physical mismatch against any defensive back in the league. His future is as bright as he wants it to be. But there's no shame in not being as great as you're eventually going to be by the end of your second year in the NFL. If we didn't live in this era of instant gratification, I don't know that Bryant's so-called struggles and maturity issues would have received as much attention as they have. So I guess what I'm saying is, I agree with Clarence, and believe Bryant is far more a help than a hindrance.

The NFL has fined Shaun Chapas $20,000 for his blindside hit on Cardinals linebacker Reggie Walker during a Bryant punt return Sunday in Arizona. This is significant, since Chapas apparently made a total of $22,000 last week. I mean... I understand that the blindside hits are a "point of emphasis" this year, but sheesh. If you're going to snatch away 91 percent of a man's paycheck, why not just take it all and be done with it?

New York Giants

I really hope the Sunday night's game between the Cowboys and the Giants is better than the trash talk that's been leading up to it. First, DeMarcus Ware said something about how Justin Tuck was jealous he's not a Cowboy and how the Cowboys had to get their manhood back. I didn't understand it all, but it seemed pretty clear Ware was joking. Also, Mike Jenkins called Brandon Jacobs a "bully." So everybody goes to Tuck and Jacobs the next day. Jacobs says he takes pride in being a bully (though no one asked him why he no longer runs like one) and Tuck says he hates the Cowboys and the feeling's mutual and he doesn't "need a star on my helmet to tell me I'm pretty good at what I do." It all seems kind of weak and silly, and I'm eager to see the actual game.

The Giants could be without safety Kenny Phillips, one of their best defensive players, for the game. And if they are, that means they'll have to mix and match even more than they've already been at the back of their defense.

Philadelphia Eagles

The last time the Eagles had Michael Vick, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson on the field together in the same game was their Nov. 7 Monday night loss to the Bears. They're expecting to have all three back Sunday in Miami against the Dolphins, and they believe things will look different because of the reunion.

Oh, and remember Casey Matthews? Of course you do. Well, he's back, having been promoted to middle linebacker for nickel packages. Hey, again, it's not ol' Casey's fault the Eagles asked him to be their starting middle linebacker in August before he was ready. They didn't draft him to be a starter right away. They drafted him in the hopes that they could develop him and use him maybe a little bit into the year as something like a middle linebacker in nickel packages. So it's not ridiculous to think he could succeed in this new role.

Washington Redskins

The Redskins didn't sack Mark Sanchez once last week, and the defensive players responsible for getting to the quarterback had a meeting to make sure they don't get shut out again this week against Tom Brady. Sacking the quarterback is one thing the Redskins do very well, and they expected to have a field day against Sanchez and a Jets' offensive line that has struggled this season. Their hope is that their first sack-free game of the year was a fluke and not the start of a trend.

It's been a real rough year off the field for the family of Stephen Bowen, who was honored by his teammates this week with the Ed Block Courage Award. Well deserved, for sure, and I think we all share in the hope that 2012 presents Bowen with a lot less adversity to overcome.
The NFL lockout has put players and owners in limbo. The ripple effects are also felt by people whose lives or businesses touch their teams. Here are their stories:

IRVING, Texas -- When Shaun Chapas was picked by the Cowboys in the seventh round of the 2011 draft, he had certain visions of what the NFL life would be like.

Shaun Chapas
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesWith no team-led camps, Cowboys seventh-rounder Shaun Chapas has bounced from high school to high school to keep working out.
Roughly a month after the Georgia fullback was selected, he is still waiting for that life to begin, thanks to the NFL lockout.

“I don’t know any better because I haven’t done it before,” Chapas said. “It’s kind of a different year. I’m looking forward to it getting going.”

For the last three weeks, Chapas has been working out four days a week at The Factory in Atlanta with about a dozen other players either already in the NFL or in the same state of limbo as him. Seattle quarterback Charlie Whitehurst has taken Chapas and some wide receivers and tight ends, like Ben Hartsock of the New York Jets, to area high schools for on-field workouts.

They are already on their third high school in as many weeks.

“We’ve become nomads,” Chapas said, “just having to beg high schools to let us work out.”

Chapas exchanged email with Tony Romo about attending the Cowboys’ player-run workouts in May, but said “the logistics of it made it difficult. We’re going to wait a little on that.”

As the 220th overall pick, Chapas is not guaranteed of making the 53-man roster, although Chris Gronkowski is currently the Cowboys’ only other fullback. In a normal offseason, Chapas would have had a rookie minicamp and at least two weeks of organized team activities by now to get him up to speed on the offense.

Because of the lockout, though, Chapas does not have a playbook and has relied mostly on what he learned during his visit with the Cowboys at the NFL scouting combine and the quick conversation he had with head coach Jason Garrett and running backs coach Skip Peete after he was picked.

His best hope of seeing the Cowboys' offense is to catch a re-run of a game on NFL Network.

“If I catch one, I’m definitely going to watch it,” Chapas said.

He has already been to Cowboys Stadium for a game. His roommate at Georgia was Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Cowboys won, 35-19, on Nov. 21 but Stafford did not play because of a shoulder injury.

“I was with some of his buddies from high school and his parents asked me, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if you could play here?’” Chapas said. “I was thinking that would be awesome, but I wasn’t really thinking about being a Cowboy at the time. But it sure crossed my mind.”

Now that chance is tantalizingly close, but also so far away. For now, Chapas shows up for workouts at The Factory and hopes a high school will allow them to throw some passes.

“I’ll talk to friends and they’ll ask the same basic question: When are you going to Dallas?” Chapas said. “I have to tell them I really don’t know because we’re just waiting. I think it will get worked out, right?”