FRISCO, Texas – This Micah Parsons, he sure can put a smile on your face.
Just talking, too, coining all those analogies he did during his NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year season last year.
Now swinging a bat. A baseball bat, one he says he hadn't swung since the start of his multi-sport high school athletic career centering on football and track.
Maybe his Cowboys teammates here Tuesday night at the Reliant Home Run Derby weren't paying attention when Parsons stepped into the batting cage to take some pre-derby cuts. He crushed one over the fence. And not the provisional white fence set up maybe 225 feet into the outfield grass at Riders Field in Frisco to create faux home runs during this Salvation Army fundraiser open to the public.
Oh no, this one over the real left field wall, onto the berm, almost leaving the ballpark wall, probably at least 390 feet from home plate. Not a 95 mph fastball mind you. A BP lob, all generated outta here by human power.
So, when the real competition began, after he got someone to come back from a nearby sporting goods store with a brand-spanking new $500 bat, "They said no one has hit it out of the park, and I said, 'Bro, I just hit a softball 400 feet,'" Parsons said of an earlier exhibition performance in Philadelphia. "This is going to be way easier than that.
"They didn't believe me."
Dak Prescott confirmed.
"Obviously, we're competitors, so we made a little bet about it," QB1 said.
"I believed him," CeeDee Lamb said, probably convinced by the rookie's 13-sack season. "I was on his side. It was me and (Trevon Diggs) versus the vets."
First time up, while Parsons hit eight money-earning home runs for The Salvation Army, at least four of them were Double-A pro ball home runs, one of them travelling a good 400 feet. And with that, he interrupted his first round of swings to trot all the way around the bases.
Good laugh by all, especially his teammates.
Reminded me back to the 1986 NBA All-Star festivities at Reunion Arena in Dallas when in the inaugural three-point shooting contest, Larry Bird walked into the locker room filled with his competitors to say, "Now we know who is going to win this, so I'm looking around for who is coming in second."
Bird won, crushing Craig Hodges in the final round.
So did Parsons on the multiple bets.
"So I think I'm about $8,000 richer right now," Parsons said, more than covering his golden bat.
Said Dak, "He won the bet, I give it to him."
Everyone of his 13 _shots_ going over at least one of the two walls, the most in the competition, although Leighton Vander Esch won the competition by earning the most money ($16,300) for The Salvation Army to Parson's third-place finish of $13,700. Anthony Brown came in second at $14,900 during the three rounds of swings.
"Bought a $500 bat just so I could hit home runs," Parsons said. "Got my money's worth. That's how competitive I am. I'll do anything to win."
Makes you, too, smile, don't it? And appreciate he's on your side.
- Don't Sweat It: OK, no big deal Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz has not participated in the first two of three OTA sessions this week, the third scheduled for Thursday. Nor claiming he will not attend next week's three-day minicamp in hopes of jump-starting some serious long-term contract negotiations with the Cowboys. Typical agent move. Problem is leverage. They have very little since Schultz already has signed his guaranteed one-year, $10.93 million franchise tag. Meaning, he's already under contract, and the Cowboys would have the right to fine him $15,980 for missing the first day of minicamp, $31,980 the second and $47,936 the third day, with the price going up for missed training camp days – if the Cowboys choose. His only other recourse would be to play just six games this season to earn a year of service and then become a free agent again next year. But I'm thinking a guy who earned right at $3 million over his first four seasons in the NFL would be hard-pressed to pass on a total of $11 million in one season if no long-term deal is completed by the July 15 deadline, 10 days before the Cowboys are scheduled to report to training camp. Also, not sure if this is mere coincidence, but the Cowboys signed the final one of their 9 draft choices on Wednesday, that being none other than fourth-round draft choice Jake Ferguson, uh, the tight end.
- Money Talks: And contrary to Neal Diamond's hit "Forever in Blue Jeans," money does talk, and it does sing and dance, and it does walk. Go ask Aaron Donald, who had been entering the final years of his contract with the Rams, no longer loaded with guaranteed money after eight years with Los Angeles. Said he was contemplating retirement, saying, "It wasn't about the money." Yeah, right. It's always about the money, and sure 'nuff, he decided it was a good idea to continue playing football after the Rams reconstructed his deal, loading in an extra $40 million raise and guaranteeing him $95 million over the next three seasons. Changed his tune fast, saying, "I'm locked in to go get another ring." Just like any red-blooded American would be.
- Old School: Not surprising former Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus, now the head coach of the Chicago Bears, was charged with too much contact in a recent OTA practice, the NFL penalizing the Bears one OTA practice. "Flus" is old school, and tell you what, having grown up in Chicago and known Da Bears fans, he just ingratiated himself to an entire city known for rolling up its sleeves and working hard.
- Fat Chance: No NFL player had even matched Everson Walls' 11-interception season for Dallas in 1981 until Cowboys second-year cornerback Trevon Diggs swiped 11 of those suckers this past year. So, after his first-round of Home Run Derby swings, he was asked what he needed to improve on for 2022, maybe taking fewer "chances." Well, that hit a raw nerve, Diggs, saying, "What chances? I don't know what taking chances means. I play football." Smiled, sorta.
- A Few Bunts: While the Cowboys are expected to return a few walking wounded back into Thursday's OTA workout, like rookie receiver Jalen Tolbert and second-year defensive lineman Osa Odighizuwa, there will be a few guys missing while nursing strains in hopes of being ready for next week's minicamp before breaking for the summer … Expect first-round draft choice Tyler Smith to continue working behind Connor McGovern at left guard, but jumping in at left tackle when veteran Tyron Smith takes a break here and there with the first team … If you are looking for a free-agent kicker to compete with undrafted rookie Jonathan Garibay, still out there is Tristan Vizcaino, who had an offseason cup of coffee with the Cowboys in 2019, though waived prior to the draft. Vizcaino has been with seven teams in three years, mostly on practice squads, lastly with the Chargers in 2021, kicking in six games and making six of seven field-goal attempts but gong 10-for-15 on extra points, the extra part a misnomer.
Had Leighton Vander Esch been competing on the TV game show Family Feud, he would have been applauded for giving a "good answer" when asked why it seemed his productivity picked up over the latter part of the 2021 season. While finishing with 86 total tackles playing inside linebacker, 30 of those tackles came in the final six games, with 21 in the final three.
Vander Esch, in an economy of words, had this to say:
"I want to go above and beyond what I did my rookie year and my consistent play toward the end of last year."
What do you attribute your improved production to in those final games?
"You're going to get that out of me if you play me the whole game," LVE said without hesitation.