- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas -- Mike Jenkins didn't talk to the media after reporting to mandatory minicamp, apparently opting to pout in a passive-aggressive manner.
That's fine for now. Jenkins has another six weeks to get over the Dallas Cowboys' hurting his feelings this offseason.
It's easy to see why Jenkins is miffed. He hoped to get paid this offseason and instead got demoted when the Cowboys acquired a couple of starting cornerbacks, signing Brandon Carr to a five-year, $50.1 million deal and moving up in the draft to select Morris Claiborne with the sixth overall pick.
It just doesn't matter that Jenkins isn't happy. The Cowboys aren't going to cave in to his wishes to be traded, so he might as well make the best of the situation instead of feeling sorry for himself.
If it makes Jenkins feel better, he can listen to sad violin music while rehabbing his surgically repaired shoulder until training camp starts. Then it's time for him to stop pouting and start competing like a professional.
"He's part of our football team," coach Jason Garrett said after repeatedly pointing out that Jenkins was the lone player on the 90-man roster who opted to skip all voluntary workouts. "We see that he's going to have a role on our football team. He's done some really good things for our football team in the past few years. We anticipate him getting back healthy and being a part of what we're doing this year."
We keep hearing Jerry Jones say how much the Cowboys need Jenkins. And that's not just typical Jerry smoke-blowing. The Cowboys' previous two seasons are proof that poor depth at cornerback can be disastrous, and Jenkins has a chance to play the majority of the defensive snaps if he beats out Orlando Scandrick for the slot job.
But Jenkins needs a productive season if he wants to get paid.
Jenkins isn't going to cash in with the Cowboys. (The owner's suggestions that it's still a possibility are examples of classic Jerry smoke-blowing.) To borrow from Dallas Mavericks sixth man Jason Terry, Jenkins will spend this season auditioning for every other NFL team.
And Jenkins needs to perform to prove that he's worth getting a deal that falls somewhere in the range between Scandrick (five years, $27 million) and Carr.
Only a fool would invest major money in Jenkins based on his inconsistent first four seasons, and unfortunately for the 2008 first-round pick, Jones has already opted to pay other cornerbacks.
Jenkins' résumé right now: one Pro Bowl season in 2009, one pretty good season despite playing in pain in 2011, a rough rookie season in 2008 and an absolutely awful 2010. He should rank among the most motivated players on the Cowboys' roster.
"All the incentives are here for him to come in and have a big year," Jones said.
Jenkins did some reputation repair by gutting it out last season. He can't be labeled as the wimp who twice waved at opponents en route to the end zone after gutting it out with a wrecked shoulder all season.
However, it's still fair to question Jenkins' mental toughness, which some Valley Ranch folks believed was the primary reason he couldn't recover from a rough start a couple of seasons ago, when he followed up his Pro Bowl campaign by ranking among the NFL's worst starting cornerbacks.
Thanks to infamous Cowboys slacker Darren Hambrick, we all know the definition of voluntary, and Jenkins was well within his collectively bargained rights to spend the past few months in Florida while the rest of his teammates worked out at Valley Ranch. Just like the kid on the playground is within his rights to take his ball and go home whenever he wants.
It's not like Jenkins' silent protest gave him a lick of leverage.
The Cowboys still see him as relatively cheap labor who can help them win this season. His $1.05 million salary is a bargain for a cornerback who could play 60-plus percent of the snaps and is one play from being a starter again. And it makes zero sense to deal him for a late-round pick now when they're likely to get a midround compensatory pick after he leaves via free agency.
So what if Jenkins is mad? What matters is whether he'll be motivated or mentally fragile when he arrives in Oxnard, Calif., for training camp.
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