FRISCO, Texas – That Cowboys deep snapper L.P. Ladouceur is going to set a little-known record in Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers at AT&T Stadium is a big deal.
Big deal to L.P. Big deal to Canada, his home country, born in Montreal, where he played his high school ball and some Canadian college ball before landing at Cal-Berkley for four seasons.
For Ladouceur, in his 16th season with the Cowboys, will be playing in his 251st NFL game – all with the Cowboys – and will break a tie with former Cowboys kicker Eddie Murray for the most NFL games played by a Canadian-born player.
"Oh man, I didn't know that," said current Cowboys special teams coach John Fassel.
Like, who knows stuff like that?
But maybe even a bigger deal is the back story. How Ladouceur's unlikely career began with the Cowboys back in 2005.
See, the Cowboys had the unusual West Coast back-to-back that season against San Francisco and the Oakland Raiders. Then head coach Bill Parcells wanted to cut down on all the travel, so he decided to keep his team out there, staying in Freemont, Calif., and practicing between games at San Jose State University.
And Bill was running out of patience with rookie deep snapper Jon Condo after just two games, especially after he compounded his Game 2 struggles against Washington with a dicey performance in the win over the 49ers with a double-bounce snap on an extra point kicker Jose Cortez missed and a couple wild snaps to punter Mat McBriar.
After the game, Parcells said, "It's got to get better from here. If it doesn't get better we are going to do something. There is no question about that."
Patience was not one of Parcells' better qualities.
By the time the team returned to practice at San Jose State on Wednesday, the Cowboys were working out another deep snapper. This guy who had gone to Cal, went undrafted and signed as a free agent by New Orleans but was then released at the end of training camp. He was living in the area, Davis, Calif., within driving distance of San Jose. Would not take him long to arrive in San Jose.
Named Louis-Philippe Ladouceur, graduate from Cal and fluent in French.
By the time the team hit the practice field that day, Ladouceur was signed, meaning the rookie would be snapping in Sunday's game against Oakland. Condo was told in the locker room not to bother dressing for practice. He was cut.
Ladouceur, a man of few words as we've discovered over all these years, said after signing, "I guess they liked me on the spot."
Guess they did, and now the 39-year-old, who has been smart enough to continue playing on modest salaries with modest signing bonuses to not price himself off the team, will be playing in his 251st game with the Cowboys. And assuming he plays in the final two games of this season after that, he will finish the year at 253.
Just two games short of tying Jason Witten's franchise career record for most games played, and there is little to suggest he wouldn't return for another season to break that mark.
"Oh man, that's awesome. We will definitely celebrate that on Wednesday," said Fassel, the long-time special teams coach. "He's been outstanding, to play against L.P. without knowing him and then to just come into the building and work with him.
"He's strong. He doesn't seem like he's 39. We all need his fountain of youth. Maybe there is something in that Canadian water. We'll celebrate that record. I'm really glad you guys told me about that."
Maybe there is something in that Canadian water. Because the Canadian-born player in third place is kicker Steve Christie (229 games), in fourth is punter Jon Ryan (191) and fifth is kicker Roy Gerela (145).
Fifteen years ago, and we can say we were right there watching that workout at San Jose when L.P. took his shot at what unexpectedly turned out to be an NFL record-setting career.
Not a bad story, eh?
Home Cookin': When it comes to turnovers, maybe the Cowboys are on to something. With the three takeaways in Sunday's game against Cincinnati, that gives the Cowboys, with just 14 this season in 13 games, seven in the past four. On top of that, and this might be even better news, when it comes to giveaways, the Cowboys had none against the Bengals – first time that's happened since the season opener. That means in these same past four games, they've only handed opponents four turnovers, and that's an improvement over the 20 in the first nine games of the season. Oh, and on another note, San Francisco has committed at least two turnovers in the past seven straight games.
Oddity: So with starter Jimmy Garoppolo still out, the 49ers will start a backup quarterback, either current starter Nick Mullins or third guy C.J. Beathard. So how strange is this? This will be the third consecutive game the Niners have faced the Cowboys with a backup quarterback behind center. In 2017, the 49ers benched starter Brian Hoyer and started the rookie Beathard in the Cowboys' 40-10 win. And in 2016, with starter Colin Kaepernick still recovering from offseason surgeries, the Niners started Blaine Gabbert, a 24-17 Cowboys win.
Nickel For Your Thoughts: Unlike most teams, the 49ers list a starting fullback on their depth chart, not three wide receivers. His name is Kyle Juszcyk, in his eighth season. He has started all but one of the Niners (5-8) 13 games, and actually has 13 carries and 15 catches. But he blocks in the running game, blocks well. So just wondering if the Cowboys will continue to use their nickel defense, five defensive backs and just two true linebackers, against a team making no bones about their desire to run the ball, especially when running out backup quarterbacks? Seems the Cowboys have been hesitant to play three true linebackers against run-heavy personnel in the past, many times lining up a defensive end as the strongside backer. Wonder if they will unleash Sean Lee?
Shorter Shots: You know, in that 2017 game against San Francisco, some rookie tight end named Cole Hikutini caught one pass for five yards for the Niners. As you know, he's on the Cowboys' practice squad … Good deal Chidobe Awuzie has been removed from reserve/COVID-19 and is projected to play in a secondary in need of help … Who knows, maybe Trevon Diggs will return, too … And at least starting safety Donovan Wilson (groin) returned to practice on Wednesday … All the grief Ezekiel Elliott is taking, and we know this bar is not what it used to be, but with 832 yards rushing, Zeke needs to average just 56 yards a game over the final three to reach 1,000 yards.
Last word this week goes to head coach Mike McCarthy. If he said it once, he must have said it like three to five times on Wednesday when asked about protecting home-field advantage, possibly winning consecutive games for the first time this year or even about Cowboys ownership expressing confidence in him going into next year. Never mind the questions, the answer always included _focus_, that being on just preparing for the 49ers and winning this game, on nothing else. Like, what else is more important?