- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas -- Rob Ryan made an honest man out of Jerry Jones, at least when it comes to Mike Jenkins' value to the Dallas Cowboys.
Jones refused to even consider trade requests coming from Jenkins' camp this offseason, repeatedly insisting that the 2008 first-rounder would play a major role despite the Cowboys making major investments in cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. That seemed especially unlikely after Jenkins missed the entire preseason while recovering from shoulder surgery.
Lo and behold, that wasn't just Jerry bull.
It's not like Ryan wants to move a $50 million cornerback to safety on passing downs, but that's a luxury the Cowboys have because they kept Jenkins on the roster. It became a necessity last week, when a rash of injuries left a lot of question marks at safety with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming to town.
Jenkins responded with the kind of performance that will make him a lot of money if he keeps it coming.
The cornerback, who spent the offseason mad about his money, shut down a receiver with a fresh $55 million deal.
Jenkins played as well as he has since his 2009 Pro Bowl season, using press coverage to blanket big Vincent Jackson, whose lone catch was late in the game when Jenkins wasn't on him. As Carr said Sunday, Jenkins seized the opportunity.
"It's not a contract thing right now," said Jenkins, who is making $1.05 million this season in the last year of his rookie deal. "I feel like if I go out there and I play every game and every receiver that's top [notch] like that, it's all going to fall in place. It ain't no worries. It ain't no talk.
"Numbers don't lie. I feel like if I go out there every week and I put that out, somebody's going to see it and somebody's going to step up to me. I'm not going to have to say anything. Just let my play speak for itself."
Jenkins earned the criticism he received this offseason, reporting to Valley Ranch only when required by NFL rules because he was upset that the Cowboys replaced him in the starting lineup instead of giving him a rich contract extension. His silent boycott really served no purpose, and his refusal to rehab at the team facility under the supervision of the Cowboys' medical staff was probably counterproductive.
But Jenkins deserves credit for handling an uncomfortable situation like a pro since he arrived at training camp.
OK, the semantics game he played with the media about a trade request never coming from his mouth was silly. Everyone knows Jenkins' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, did the dirty work. But it's understandable, respectable even, that Jenkins downplayed the situation in an attempt to avoid being a distraction.
"He needed to fight through some of the business aspects of this decision," coach Jason Garrett said, referring to the Cowboys acquiring two starting cornerbacks. "Get him back here, embrace him and get him going. That was our philosophy all along. We're really glad that he's approached it the way he has and is playing back to his regular form."
Jenkins could have been a pain in the butt, pouting and complaining about his limited role and the lack of commitment and respect the Cowboys have shown him. It'd have been a natural reaction, but it would have only hurt the Cowboys and his cause.
He took the smart approach of being a good soldier. That's the only way Jenkins can get what he wants: helping the Cowboys win this season and cashing in soon afterward.
Jones has repeatedly said that the Cowboys are willing to pay to keep Jenkins, but that does sound like Jerry bull. They're already locked into eight-figure deals for Carr, Claiborne and slot corner Orlando Scandrick. How much can a team to commit to one position?
Plus, why would Jenkins want to stay in Dallas when he could start elsewhere? He's not even certain about his role at this point, not that he's complaining.
"Right now, I really don't know where I fit," Jenkins said, pointing out that the picture will become clearer once the Dallas secondary gets healthy. "I'm just doing everything I can to try to help and I'm not going to the coaches or anybody else asking. I don't want to bring that extra attention or any drama to the team or anything like that. I'm just taking it as it goes. I'm good right now. I'm happy. There's no diss. There's no anything.
"I'm happy with the role I'm playing right now."
Jenkins will be even happier with his next contract if his performance against the Bucs is a sign of things to come.