Plenty of players haven’t been practicing with the Cowboys over the last few weeks. Sean Lee, DeMarcus Lawrence, Dez Bryant, and others have been nursing lingering injuries and recovering from offseason procedures. However, two players have been away for other reasons; linebacker Rolando McClain and guard Ronald Leary.
Starting today, the Cowboys’ practices go from voluntary to mandatory. Per Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk, players who miss this three-day mini-camp are subject to a total fine of $76,580 if they miss the entire camp. The first day fine $12,765, Day Two is $25,525, and Day Three is a $38,290 fine.
What will the threat of lost earnings and other factors mean for McClain and Leary? Will they report to practice tomorrow or at all this week? Let’s briefly look at each plyer.
Last year McClain missed all of the voluntary work but showed up for mini-camps. At that time he was recovering from knee surgery but still could’ve been with the team to do his rehab and watch and participate in some of the coaching. The word was that he was dealing with “personal problems.”
This year it’s been more of the same; personal problems and “family issues.” Given McClain’s own demons it’s no surprise that he’d have some chronic family issues to deal with. Hopefully they don’t prevent him from rejoining the team and asserting himself as the starting middle linebacker and a key figure on this year’s defensive squad.
Over the last two years it’s been rare for McClain and Sean Lee to get on the field together thanks to their mutual health issues. It would be wonderful for them to finally get in the practice time together to develop their chemistry and be better than ever next season. McClain’s talent level is far closer to Lee’s than any other linebacker. Their combined presence for the majority of the season could do wonders for the 2016 defense.
If McClain doesn’t show, Andrew Gachkar has been serving as the middle linebacker in his absence and would be expected to retain that role during mini-camp.
In a radio interview in Monday, Leary told 105.3 The Fan that he would report to camp today. It will mark the end of a holdout that began when Dallas stuck Leary with a Restricted Free Agent tender and curtailed his chances of finding a long-term deal or a starting job elsewhere.
I do see Leary as sympathetic figure. He was a starter for the 2014 offense line that helped DeMarco Murray set a team record in yardage. He would likely still have that job if not for the extraordinary circumstance that allowed Dallas to acquire La’el Collins last year.
Granted, Leary isn’t making the veteran minimum. His second-round RFA tender is paying $2.5 million in 2016. However, there is zero guaranteed money in that deal. If a young guy like Chaz Green has a big summer then Dallas could think about saving that money, leaving Leary in an even worse spot.
Guaranteed money is true commodity in the NFL. Players have turned down huge annual salaries because of a lack of guarantees in the deal. For a guy with degenerative knee issues with Leary, that is even more of an issue. He knows every year could be his last with even more fear than the average player.
Even if Leary shows up for these practices, as he says he will, that does not mean he won’t still be trying to find a way out of Dallas. For now perhaps it’s just an olive branch from his side to the Cowboys.
** UPDATE (10:05 CST) **
Per the following Tweets form Bryan Broaddus, both McClain and Leary showed up for camp today.
Been told that Rolando McClain has reported for the mandatory 3 Day Mini Camp which begins today at Valley Ranch.
Also include Ronald Leary to that list as well so all players accounted for here for practice.