FRISCO, Texas – So we've been reminded over the weekend that still, after all these years, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
Because, evidently, as of late afternoon on Monday, close sure as heck doesn't count in contract negotiations.
See Zeke, still holding out, still as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said last week, "You get into a different world if you don't honor your agreements."
No matter if negotiations were characterized as close, or that negotiations were intensifying, well, here we are, the Cowboys having practiced on Labor Day for the first time in preparation for Sunday's season opener against the New York Football Giants, and still no Zeke.
Look, usually deadlines get whatever accomplished – extensions signed or causes minimized included.
And the only tangible deadlines on the horizon with this whole Zeke extension ordeal would be these two: For the Cowboys to responsibly qualifying playing Zeke at 3:25 p.m. Sunday at AT&T Stadium, I'd think they would at least want him to have one padded practice. The Cowboys practice in pads only one time a week, and that takes place 11:15 a.m. Wednesday. Needs to be here if he's going to play.
The other deadline is 3 p.m. Saturday. If Zeke is on the roster prior to that, he will receive his first week's pay, even if he hasn't practiced or doesn't play in the game. That's worth $226,647. To most of us, and I'm thinking including him, that's a serious drop-dead deadline.
But in any case, life goes on around here, the Cowboys players knowing they can't be holding their breath, or as Zack Martin said, "We can't think if we had Zeke, if we had Zeke . . . the reality of it is he's not here."
Just like these shots. There's still a bunch to be had, Labor Day notwithstanding.
- Time To Go: For seeming the past several weeks, the Cowboys have cautiously treated players with injuries. Their only goal was to have these guys as healthy as possible for the start of the season. Well, the season is fixing to start, and the walking wounded returning to practice on Monday doing at least something included Amari Cooper, Sean Lee, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, La'el Collins, Taco Charlton, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz and as they had been for the past 1½ weeks periodically, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford and Byron Jones. "All the guys who have been out should be ready," head coach Jason Garrett said.
- Special Help: Just because Tony Pollard and Alfred Morris will play important roles on Sunday against the Giants, especially if Zeke isn't in uniform, that doesn't absolve them from possibly helping out on special teams. In fact, both were participating in special team drills Monday not involving returns. The Cowboys need all the help in coverage they can get, especially if you consider their top three linebackers – Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Sean Lee, do not play special teams, along with sixth linebacker Luke Gifford still recovering from that high ankle sprain.
- Chunn Up: The Cowboys had multiple reasons why they wanted to keep first-year running back Jordan Chunn on the 53-man roster, and did so on Monday after initially releasing him and figuring they would sign him to the practice squad. First and foremost, they like his ability and versatility as a running back, and thought from the very beginning he was one of their top three backs, even with Zeke here. Secondly, they didn't want to take the chance of someone poaching him off the practice squad. And one more, the guy showed he could play special teams on the coverage units, finishing the preseason with three special teams tackles.
- Fifth For Fifth: The Cowboys moved on from 2018 fifth-round draft choice Mike White, deciding to not even sign last year's third quarterback on the 53-man roster to the 10-man practice squad. Instead, they decided to sign Philadelphia's 2019 fifth-round draft choice Clayton Thornson, released on the final cut. Interesting note on Thornson: After being red-shirted in 2014 at Northwestern, he started 53 consecutive games over the next four years, most in Big Ten history and matching Colt McCoy for the most consecutive quarterback starts among Power Five conferences. He's also the only Big Ten quarterback to pass for 10,000 career yards and rush for 20 touchdowns.
- Final Shots: Proving how strong this Cowboys roster just might be, there was not one surprising cut moving from 90 to 53 over the weekend, and just two guys released off last year's roster, White and LB Chris Covington (practice squad). Cuts were simplified with Robert Quinn going on reserve/suspended, keeping Noah Brown on reserve/PUP and Daniel Ross placed on reserve/injured, meaning he's done for the season . . . First-timers on the 53-man roster would include Devin Smith, Trysten Hill, Tony Pollard, Joe Jackson, Donovan Wilson, Chunn, Luke Gifford and Brandon Knight . . . Also additions not with the Cowboys last year are Alfred Morris, Kerry Hyder and Christian Covington . . . As for the guys returning from injury, Charlton said Monday was the first day since spraining his ankle in the third preseason game that he actually did some cutting, saying, "Everything felt good."
A bunch of good if not for simply just being close, if you know what I mean.