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Ricardo Lockette: When The Impact of Football Hits Home

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Headlines -  53

On November 1st, 2015, Seattle Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette suffered a career-ending injury in Dallas. A big hit from Cowboys safety Jeff Heath led to severe neck damage.

Yesterday, Lockette wrote a fabulous piece in The Players' Tribune about the injury and his subsequent retirement. Every football fan should take a moment to read it, because it gives the game we love some oft-needed perspective.

We should never lose sight of the tremendous risk that these players take on for our entertainment.

lockettsurgeryblog1102Yes, they are well-paid for that risk. But as Lockette put it so well in his article, it's all "temporary." Especially in the NFL where contracts aren't fully guaranteed, the timing of an injury can be just as financially devastating as the physical damage.

Players can be left in tremendous debt, having taken on luxuries and expenses that they thought would be covered by many more years of football income. They may have spent their first windfall rewarding family and friends for years of support, leaving little for their own future security. It's a common mistake, hence why the term "broke athlete" has been covered in several documentaries and other media.

The lifetime of physical problems that comes from football can't be forgotten, either. Even those who avoid major injury face early onsets of everything from severe arthritis to ruinous dementia. Imagine turning 40 but having the body of a 60-year-old. That's the price for many of these athletes.

Obviously, I don't know anything about the future of Lockette's finances or personal health. All I know is that he's paying a far heavier toll for being a football player than any guy ever should.

Cowboy or not, we should never stop appreciating these players. All the money doesn't exist without us, the consumer, and our ongoing desire to watch and follow the NFL. Ultimately we have the power in the relationship; all professional sports would die without the buying and viewing support of the spectators.

It's easy to get jaded about players' motivations. Just always remember that they wouldn't have a choice without you.

golden-tate-sean-lee-blindsideViolence and Football

The word "violence" comes up in football a lot. Some detractors use it as a form of moral judgment; an activity that spits in the face of human decency.

I've never felt that way about the game. Yes, it's violent, but I see it in the way that a windstorm or other natural force is violent. For all its destructive potential, the windstorm isn't looking to hurt anyone. It simply is, and you can either risk getting close or do your best to avoid it.

Granted, there are plenty of violent men in the NFL. Without even getting into some well known off-field issues, the sport itself gives violent individuals an outlet for those feelings. There's no question that notorious villains like Bill Romanowski or Ndamukong Suh have their issues.

Cowboys safety Jeff Heath isn't one of those guys. Heath wasn't looking to hurt anybody that day against the Seahawks. He was just playing football.

Sadly, Ricardo Lockette got caught in the windstorm.

The modern climate of concussions and CTE concerns has already changed the way many look at football. Drops in Pee Wee and public school participation have been reported. Even some current and retired NFL players have said they won't allow their own children to play.

I have no doubt, at least in my lifetime, that football will still exist. There will always be more than enough players willing to take risk. More importantly, there will always be a ready and willing audience.

My hope is that, no matter how insatiably we hunger for games to watch and fantasy stats to track, we as fans never lose sight of the risks the players take. I don't see it as a moral dilemma, but it is a situation that demands our respect and consideration.

image_1468I will never forget that October game in 1999 in Philadelphia, when Cowboys legend Michael Irvin went down with a neck injury and never returned. The Eagles fans, who are often the height of classlessness, cheered his injury even when it was clearly serious. To this day it remains the most disgusted I've ever been watching football.

That is when the moral judgment can come into play. That's when the violence becomes something more sinister; our reaction to and delight in it. Again, we as the audience dictate the terms of the relationship.

I'm not trying to soapbox you here. But reading Ricardo Lockette's piece made me think about my own relationship with football. It was a good check for how I think and feel about the players I watch, and especially those on the 31 other teams outside of Dallas.

As the 2016 season draws near, it's a welcome reminder. We hear this often when it comes to players but we as fans need to be under the same obligation.

Respect the game.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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WR Tavon Austin Named Veteran “Most Likely To Be Cut”

Kevin Brady

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Who Will be Cowboys' Main Punt Returner in 2019, Tavon Austin?

The Dallas Cowboys spent the 2019 offseason looking to add new dimensions to their offense.

They went out and signed Randall Cobb, the veteran receiver who made his name in the slot for the Green Bay Packers. They then drafted Memphis running back Tony Pollard in the fourth round to add a versatile weapon to their offensive backfield.

They also promoted quarterbacks coach Kellen Moore to offensive coordinator, hoping he can bring a fresh perspective to an offense many labeled stale over the course of 2018.

All of these changes could leave members of that "stale" 2018 offense in the dust, and Todd Archer believes wide receiver Tavon Austin could be one of those casualties.

Veterans who could be cut by each of the NFL's 32 teams

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Terrelle Pryor and Oakland Raiders offensive lineman Richie Incognito are new to their teams, but will they still be there on opening day? Can Pittsburgh Steelers corner Artie Burns stay out of the doghouse and fight his way back up the depth chart?

Archer named Tavon Austin the veteran most likely to be cut by the Cowboys, and roster math does somewhat point to this prediction coming true. If the Cowboys were to only take 5 receivers, as ESPN is suggesting in their latest roster projection, then it's hard to see a perfect spot for Austin.

Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup are complete locks. Randall Cobb is about as close to a lock as you can imagine. That leaves two spots for a lot of talented players, including Austin, Noah Brown, Allen Hurns, Lance Lenoir, and Cedrick Wilson.

It's certainly possible, and more than likely, that the Cowboys go with more than just 5 receivers however. This way they can keep a young hopeful like Wilson around while still maintaining the explosiveness that Tavon Austin can bring them in 2019.

Of course, the Cowboys are not afraid to cut veterans. Just last year we saw Dan Bailey get the axe after training camp, and Dez Bryant get released prior to any offseason activity even began. Tavon Austin is still of cheap value to Dallas, however, and when healthy he was an impressive weapon both on offense and special teams in 2018.

I actually do expect Tavon Austin to survive final cuts in Dallas, mostly because I anticipate they keep more than just 5 receivers on the roster.



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Cowboys Twitter Tuesday: Addressing the 2019 53-Man Roster

John Williams

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Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make Cowboys Roster?

For the Dallas Cowboys, the NFL, and the NFL fanbase, the waiting game for the start of training camp has begun. As Tom Petty says, "the waiting is the hardest part." The Dallas Cowboys go open training camp in about five weeks. The first preseason game is 53 days away and week one is less than three months away at this point. It's so close we can taste it.

Each week, I'll gather questions from you the Cowboys Nation community. Each week, we'll hone in on a specific topic based on your questions. So whether it's roster related, salary cap focused, or you have a fantasy football question, don't hesitate to send it to me on Twitter.

This week, we're going to take a look at the Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster.

jesus flores on Twitter

@john9williams Who contributed to last year's team that won't make this year's team?

The 53-man roster will be one of the more debated topics over the next couple of months as the Dallas Cowboys get ready for training camp and the preseason. Every year there are surprises and we should expect the same this year. The Dallas Cowboys have incredible depth through the roster and so there will be at least one name that doesn't make the final 53-man roster who had an impact in 2018.

To answer Jesus' question, I think the easy answer is one of the wide receivers be it Noah Brown, Allen Hurns, or Tavon Austin. This might be a hot take, but I'm going to go a different direction and say guard Xavier Su'a-Filo.

In 2018, Su'a-Filo started eight games for the Dallas Cowboys and though he started out strong for them midseason, his play tailed off before he was injured allowing Connor Williams to regain his starting spot at left guard. The Dallas Cowboys coaching staff loves position flexibility, especially along the offensive line. Su'a-Filo, though he's a solid backup guard option, doesn't have the ability to play multiple positions along the line like his teammates.

Connor Williams can play guard and tackle. Connor McGovern will get snaps at guard and center, and to hear him talk, he can play tackle as well, though that's probably a bit of a stretch. Joe Looney, the Dallas Cowboys starting center for 2018, has the ability to flex out to guard if you need him to.

Because the Dallas Cowboys will have difficult decisions to make at wide receiver and defensive line, they can afford to go light along the offensive line because of the flexibility of players like Williams, Looney, and McGovern.

Tommy on Twitter

@john9williams #CowboysQuestions do we extend Dak before game #1? How many WRs on 53?

I'm gonna leave the Dak Prescott question for another day and address the wide receiver question as several people asked about that position group in particular.

The wide receiver group is a really deep group. With Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb, and Allen Hurns, it features three guys who've had at least one 1,000 yard season in their career. Michael Gallup is an ascending player. Tavon Austin is a really nice punt returner and offensive puzzle piece that can take the top off the defense with his downfield speed. I think four of those five are locks to make the roster.

According to Jeff Cavanaugh from 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, the team really likes Allen Hurns and his ability to play inside and outside in the formation. He's solid veteran depth at a low cost.

Then if you include Noah Brown's ability as a receiver and as a blocker, I think you have a very versatile and dangerous group in the passing game. Though the coaches really like Brown's ability to block in the run game, if they don't use him in the passing game, it tips their hand to the defense that the team is going to run. If they're going to keep him on the roster, they have to use him. It's a waste otherwise.

Brown and Hurns to me are on the roster bubble at wide receiver. Talented players like Cedric Wilson, Devin Smith, Jon'vea Johnson, Jalen Guyton, and Reggie Davis have all stood out at one point in time or another during OTAs and minicamp and will make the decision difficult for the coaching staff.

In my most recent roster projection, I had the Dallas Cowboys keeping six wide receivers; Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown. Being a team on the verge of contending for a Super Bowl, I think they go with veterans who can help them win now.

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That'll do it for this week's edition. Make sure to get your questions in via Twitter, or you can leave them in the comment section for next week's post. Also, don't forget to check out Inside The Star's newest podcast, Cowboys Weekly featuring Managing Editor Bryson Treece and Senior Writer Jess Haynie.



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Does Darius Jackson Have A “Puncher’s Chance” Of Landing On Final Roster?

Kevin Brady

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Darius Jackson, Bengals

Remember Darius Jackson?

The sixth round running back was an instant fan favorite of Cowboys Nation, as the fanbase hoped Dallas had found the explosive RB2 behind Ezekiel Elliott they needed in the very same draft. Jackson, however, had an up-and-down preseason in 2016 and ended up being waived from the team to make room for Darren McFadden later in the year.

Jackson has bounced around the league a bit since then, joining both the Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers at different points. He's back with the Cowboys, however, looking to fight his way onto the team's final roster.

But does the fourth year running back have more than a puncher's chance to do so?

The Cowboys spent much of the 2019 NFL Draft rebuilding their running back depth. First, they drafted Memphis back Tony Pollard hoping to find a versatile and dynamic threat to compliment the workhorse that is Ezekiel Elliott. Then, in the seventh round, Dallas took another Ohio State running back in Mike Weber who fits more of the "traditional" running back form.

So with two new touted rookies behind the veteran Elliott, and fullback Jamize Olawale more than likely having a roster spot as well, there doesn't seem to be room for Darius Jackson on the Dallas Cowboys.

That didn't stop him from competing at OTAs, however. DallasCowboys.com named Darius Jackson one of their top ten "head turners" from the OTA practices, and considering that Mike Weber is banged up at the moment, Jackson will certainly have his opportunities to fight for that spot.

Still, the odds suggest that Darius Jackson will not be with the Cowboys come the Fall of 2019. Though he entered the league with some fanfare for a day three pick, his production has been more fitting of his draft grade than of his fan hype.

Jackson hasn't been the explosive player/receiving back that they're hoping Tony Pollard will be, nor has he been the every-down type backup runner that they seem to hope Mike Weber will be.

In the end, the Cowboys-Darius Jackson story is likely to close during this year's training camp.



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