Cowboys cut center Andre Gurode
Andre Gurode is a Cowboy no more.
Unable to reach an agreement on a re-worked contract over the last two days, the Dallas Cowboys decided to part ways with the five-time Pro Bowl center, completing an overhaul of the offensive line that started after the lockout ended when they cut right guard Leonard Davis and right tackle Marc Colombo.
Gurode, a second-round pick in 2002, had been the longest-tenured member of the team. He was scheduled to make $5.5 million in 2011 and was signed through 2012. He started 122 games in his nine seasons and turned into a Pro Bowler after moving from guard to center in 2006.
Said offensive line coach Hudson Houck: "I love the man. There's no question, you love the guy. That's what happens when you get real close to them."
Coach Jason Garrett said every time he makes a decision he is "trying to make the best decision for our team."
"What we've said right from Day 1 is it doesn't really matter where you came from or what you've done in the past," Garrett said. "We're going to try our best as coaches and evaluators to see what you're doing right now and see what you can do for us going forward. We try to do that individually, we try to do that collectively. We're not in the business of trying to send a message to the rest of the team."
Still, the decision/message was clear to everyone, from veterans who may feel comfortable to rookie free agents still trying to prove themselves.
"That's the way it should be," veteran linebacker Keith Brooking said. "I think when you can create that environment and that message is sent throughout your team -- and it's not just a message, there are examples that run through the team -- I think that's a really good thing for everyone. That's what pushes you, that's what makes you better."
In the Cowboys locker room was a bronze stature of a lion in front of Gurode's locker. It was draped with Gurode's jersey and helmet on it after practice.
The Cowboys also cut wide receiver Curtis Clay on Monday.
Gurode, 32, had a slow start to training camp because of a knee surgery in June, which allowed Phil Costa to get the first-team snaps for the first two-plus weeks of training camp. Even after Gurode returned, Costa continued to get some work with the No. 1 offense.
With Gurode gone, the Cowboys likely will go with Costa as their starting center, which is a gamble considering Costa was an undrafted free agent a year ago and is battling a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. The Cowboys hope Costa will be available for the Sept. 11 season opener at the New York Jets.
The team liked the idea of finding out what they might have in a 24-year-old instead of relying on a 32-year-old coming off knee surgery.
"We felt like it was best move for us right now," Garrett said. "There's nothing purposeful in saying, 'We've got to get rid of all the old guys and sign all the young guys.' That's not what we're thinking. We're just trying to make our team as good as it can be right now."
Only left tackle Doug Free will return to the same position he played last year with Kyle Kosier moving to right guard to help in the development of rookie first-round pick Tyron Smith, who will start at right tackle. Seventh rounder Bill Nagy appears to be in the lead for the left guard spot. Undrafted rookie Kevin Kowalski started vs. Minnesota on Saturday with Gurode kept out of the lineup by the team and Costa hurt.
The overhaul seems drastic, but Garrett believes it's a good thing.
"There will be challenges all over the place for them individually and collectively, and we have a long way to go and we're going to try to take advantage of these practices leading up to (the opener), but we feel good about the direction we're going," Garrett said.
Free said the linemen aren't a cohesive unit yet, but they're trying.
"Let's see what happens," he said. "We're just going to have to go with what we've got and make the best of it."
Calvin Watkins and Todd Archer cover the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.