ARLINGTON, Texas – Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones made it perfectly clear that he understands the criticisms surrounding Rolando McClain.
In the two weeks since McClain was suspended 10 games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, the calls for his release have been loud and clear. This is the second-straight season that the veteran linebacker has violated the policy, and the umpteenth time he's disappointed Cowboys management since he signed in 2014.
Jones made it clear Monday that he's perfectly aware of that fact when considering McClain's future in Dallas.
"I realize that we all look and say 'Boy, here is a really great player that seems to not be there to answer the bell at key times.' And I see that," he said.
Despite that fact, it doesn't sound like the Cowboys plan to part ways with their mercurial linebacker at this point in time. As disappointing as the suspension might be, Jones said there are monetary incentives to keep him on board – if nothing else.
"First of all, there's some paperwork issues that are involved that impact the team, like salary cap – without being trite. So that's an issue there," he said.
McClain signed a one-year contract worth $4 million in March. The deal included $750,000 in guaranteed money that Jones said he's not ready to part ways with. But even if the team does keep McClain around all the way through his suspension, that may not have a bearing on whether or not he suits up this fall.
"We've made a final decision that we don't want to pay the price on the cap," Jones said. "That might not have him on the football field and may not have him on the football field as we get toward the end of the year and into the playoffs. I'm not making that decision at all, as to whether or not he'll be on the field. But I can make the decision that we'll keep a roster spot for him because of cap considerations."
Whiles he's on the suspended list, McClain won't count toward the 53-man roster, and the Cowboys won't have to pay his salary – so he's essentially not costing the team anything during his suspension. Some critics have voiced concerns about sending the wrong message, but executive vice president Stephen Jones said he's confident in his locker room to stay on task.
"I think this is a business," he said. "Every team has issues in terms of dealing with suspensions at one time or another – they probably don't all have it right now, but everybody has dealt with it at one time or another. I think people understand that."
Ever the optimist, Jerry Jones was also sure to point out the possibilities that could await if McClain serves his suspension and is ready to contribute when Thanksgiving rolls around.
"Charles Haley didn't get to play much during the regular season when we won the Super Bowl when Barry Switzer was our coach – but he came in during the playoffs and during the Super Bowl and made a difference," he said. "So you just want to think it through. And if you find any time something that makes the decision for you – then there's no need to go into other reasons. Probably our cap situation makes the decision for us."