IRVING, Texas – Having given a brief statement on his client's behalf, Mark Slough addressed the slew of questions surrounding Jay Ratliff's release from the Cowboys' roster.
In a conference call with local and national reporters, Slough, the agent of the former Cowboys defensive tackle, spoke at length about a number of topics. Among those concerns were the injury problems that have kept Ratliff off the playing field for the entirety of the 2013 preseason and regular season, as well as the issue of his relationship with the Cowboys organization and the confusing nature of his eventual departure.
Firstly, Slough spoke in detail about the groin injury, suffered in last year's win against Cleveland, which ended Ratliff's 2012 campaign. The problem was diagnosed at the time as a sports hernia, though Slough said that was not the case.
"This was not a sports hernia injury. It was never a sports hernia injury," Slough said. "Somehow, someway it became characterized that way. Once it became labeled a sports hernia, there became an expectation for his return – a timetable for his return based on the way other people have returned from that. That's created a lot of mystery and supposition publicly. But it wasn't a sports hernia. This was a very serious injury – muscle was ripped off the (pelvic) bone in two places. Tendons attached to the pelvis from inside the leg, from the abdomen at the top of the pelvis, were both ripped apart. It was a very vicious injury and takes a long time to heal. The expectation from the beginning was that it would take about a year."
Slough said Ratliff is "in excellent shape," but the tendons and ligaments in his lower body "take time to heal." He added that Ratliff still desires to play football and has a passion for the game, and he plans to return for the 2014 season. That said, he continued that it was an unrealistic expectation for Ratliff to be healthy to play this season. [embedded_ad]
"Those people that ever questioned his loyalty, maybe questioned his desire to play, integrity – all those things – those questions were misplaced," Slough said. "But again, I think a lot of that came from the fact that no one really understood the severity of the injury that Jay had suffered. As a result, there were unrealistic expectations for his return being bantered about publicly."
Asked why he and Ratliff had not clarified the severity of the injury in 2012, when it occurred, Slough said they had not felt the need.
"Jay isn't one to speak a lot in the media, as you all know, and as a result I do what he asks me to do," he said. "So we just chose to let it be."
Slough was asked the same question of the Cowboys – why they did not place Ratliff on injured reserve during 2012, and why they worked him out at 2013 training camp – if the injury was that severe.
"That's a great question – you should ask them," he said.
The Cowboys do not have a comment at this time.
Ratliff suffered a hamstring injury during his pre-training camp conditioning test in July – a problem that wound up sidelining him for the Cowboys' entire preseason. Slough said the pre-existing lower body injury played a role in that setback, and he added that Ratliff had not been completely healthy at the time.
At the same time, Slough said Ratliff had not been "forced" into the conditioning test, though he was reluctant to get into specifics on the matter.
"I don't know how to characterize it. I don't how to characterize that as a 'force' – I don't think that's correct," Slough said. "He did the test. He probably shouldn't have done the test. I'm just going to leave it at that.
Slough said the tumultuous nature of the recovery process had an effect on Ratliff's relationship with the team medical staff.
"Strained, I think would be fair," said Slough of that relationship, though he declined to specify.
Despite that, Slough said Ratliff was not advised to avoid the Cowboys' Valley Ranch facility this season. Ratliff hasn't been seen often since the Cowboys moved him to the Physically Unable to Perform List in August, but Slough said it wasn't because of any bad relationships
"I think it's just hard for Jay if he's not playing. Everybody is different about how they handle that, when they're not there – when they can't contribute," he said.
Slough also clarified that there was no breakdown in communication between Ratliff and the Cowboys' medical staff, despite Ratliff's decision to do the bulk of his rehab away from the team's facility.
"The Cowboys doctors and staff were supervising all of his treatment," he said. "They knew where he was and what he was doing, and they were intimately involved. There wasn't any miscommunication there."
Ratliff's plan for the remainder of the year is to recuperate with an eye on the 2014 season. Slough said he heard from several NFL teams on Wednesday, and that it was time to move on.
"There's no ill will. Jay's not upset, he's not mad, he's not angry," he said. "I've been with him quite a bit over the last two days – he and his wife both – talking about the possibility of what might happen today. I think he understands the business side of this and understands this is a chance for him to make a fresh start."