Cruel Reminder

OTAs. Who needs him anymore, they screamed, he's afraid to compete?

Really? This team that has been grubbing for wide receivers ever since Irvin's spinal stenosis sent him into retirement suddenly, could turn snooty, acting as if they didn't need a guy who has averaged 35 catches a year over his 5 ½-year career in the NFL with the Cowboys? As if they had too many, if you were counting the on-coming Kevin Ogletree, too?

But the Cowboys wisely practiced restraint when Crayton balked at working out. Both were making business decisions. Crayton, who has never been afraid to compete, didn't want to be used as a $2 million insurance policy against such an injury, and then get cut come Sept. 4 when rosters are trimmed to 53 if he no longer was needed. He just wanted a level competing field.

And the Cowboys realized that for $2 million, they at least would have a sure thing at wide receiver, since Austin is coming off that one breakout season; since who knows if Roy can get it together with quarterback Tony Romo; since Ogletree, no matter how good he looked in spot duty last year, still had only caught seven NFL passes; and frankly there's been many a first-round receiver needing a year or two of seasoning before producing.

Crayton, is proven if you consider after the seventh-round pick out of Northwestern Oklahoma State played in just eight games his rookie year, has put up consecutive seasons of 22 catches, 36, 50, 39 and 37. He has 23 career touchdowns, including five last year as the third receiver and seven in that 13-3 season of 2007 when he started 13 of the 15 games he played.

Why in the world would you want to let that guy walk or send him walking somewhere else?

Plus, what in the world is wrong with having four really good receivers, and possibly five and even six if Ogletree and Sam Hurd continue to improve? One injury to the top three, and what?

I mean, what's wrong with having the best wide receiver corps in Cowboys history?

And that's corps, not receiver or starters. Sure, none of these guys are Bob Hayes or Irvin or Drew Pearson or Lance Alworth or Golden Richards or heck, I'll admit it, Terrell Owens - yet. But as a collective group, we can talk about this being potentially the best group of receivers the Cowboys have ever had in their previous 50 years - that is if all my aforementioned conditions were met.

About the only counter argument you can make would be the early '80s threesome of Pearson, Tony Hill and Butch Johnson. Those guys were stout, and one of the reasons Danny White set the team's single-season passing yardage record of 3,980 yards in 1983 before Tony Romo eclipsed the mark twice in his three full seasons of starting.

But if you can add a Crayton, Ogletree and Hurd to the three big ifs, my debate is no contest.

Yet in mid-argument, just 10 practices into training camp, we already must pause such dreamy thoughts. Not everything goes as planned - especially in this game of football.

The sobering reality of Friday afternoon.

And why that other story began with all those ifs.

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