OXNARD, Calif.– Jerry Jones will turn 75 on Oct. 13 of this year.
There are many out there thinking he's becoming overly sentimental in his advancing age. That he continues to tear up when he speaks of his kids; the old days; how mighty fortunate he's been to have thrown everything he had into the Cowboys at the beginning and end up where he is today.
Look, the guy is going to cry during his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next weekend. They all do. No one is immune from realizing the enormity of the honor. Heck, you might even shed a tear right along with him.
But do not – repeat – do not think Jerry Jones is getting soft.
Let me take you to early Tuesday evening out here, just the third day of Training Camp 2017. He, his head coach, his son Stephen and just about anyone else involved in roster decision-making had been getting their butts kicked in the media for releasing who might have been the Dallas Cowboys' sixth receiver on the depth chart, Lucky Whitehead, and then steadfastly standing by the decision even after the Prince William County authorities cried "oops" in their arrest and warrant summons filed against Whitehead.
Obviously, the Cowboys came up with a plan to avoid confrontation with the media and further tarnishing Lucky's reputation that he's done a very good job of doing so himself. So Stephen said it eight times after the morning practice walking off the field. Then head coach Jason Garrett said it 10 times at his daily press conference, basically, "We made a decision yesterday that was in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys, we stand by it, and we're moving forward."
Yep, over and over and over again.
The same folks who have been calling for someone's head to roll during this recent rash of player missteps then were coming to the defense of poor Lucky, the newest sacrificial lamb out there in this world. Teeth were gnashing. Talk radio was screaming. Headlines were blaring. And let me simplify all this, basically claiming Jerry and the 'Boys were a bunch of dummies. (I think I even heard that word used in one question on Tuesday, maybe it was stupid, but you get the picture).
So, Jerry had enough. He called an impromptu meeting with the media as he was walking off the field after Tuesday's second practice. Saw what was coming in his eyes. After being around a guy for now just more than 28 years, ever since he officially bought the team on Feb. 25, 1989, trust me, I know the look. I've felt the look come down on me. Back in the day we've had our moments, too.
And for 3 minutes, 44 seconds "ol' softie" struck back. Someone wrote he got emotional. Yeah, he did. But those words weren't sentimental emotions. Those were daggers. He was politely hot, knowing after all these years, after all those shots he's taken, he earned the right to fire back.
All you need to know is what he said before saying thank you and walking away from the pack:
"I'm not going to talk about Lucky,'' Jerry began, "I'm going to talk about players."
Boy, did he.
"I've never talked to a player that I didn't have empathy (for). If you all have done one thing in my time to criticize me, it is how I will back up a player to a fault. You've done it. You've done it for years. I will back them up to a fault."
Now the fire, and again, don't interpret shake-voice if someone tells you he got emotional. Yeah, he did, like PO-ed emotional.
"So when we do make a decision around here that's in the best interest of the team to move on, there's one thing you can forget about and that is whether you're being fair or whether you've given it consideration of what it means to the individual. That doesn't happen around here.
"Thank you guys."
And off he went, into the cool sunset.
Now look, here is the problem with all the butt-kicking that has been going on, the name-calling, the rising national crisis over the Cowboys "wrongly" releasing the No. 6 wide receiver on the team: While many members of the media think they do, few, if any, know the real story behind why those authorities first thought they were arresting Lucky Whitehead for shoplifting and then issuing their mea culpa "oops" saying, naw, wasn't Lucky, we misidentified him. Was someone else they say they now are looking for, even though they had called up a picture to identify the suspect. Somehow needed more than a month to realize that or this national blowup.
Now I'm not the smartest person in the world. I think my SAT scores said I'd not make it past my first semester, sophomore year in college. But I do think I have common sense. And if we all just step back a moment, and not take the Cowboys' Tuesday stiff-arms personally, wouldn't a reasonable person consider two things:
Either that was indeed Lucky the police ticketed for a misdemeanor ($40 worth of shoplifting) or the guy was being set up for some deeper reason maybe.
I mean, come on, a common thief doesn't go into a store, get caught shoplifting, is then confronted by the police – like did they get there immediately after whoever walked out of the store – conveniently not have any I.D. on him and the police then conduct a verbal identification:
What's your name, dude?
Rodney Darnell Whitehead Jr.
Really, this unknown person just happened to pick Lucky's name out of a hat? Heck, no one around here even knew he was a Junior, let alone Rodney Darnell. OK?
Not only that, the police say the person then gave them the address out there, date of birth and . . . and . . . the social security number that identified himself as Lucky Whitehead. Seriously, his SS#? Heck, do you guys even know your spouse's SS#?
Somethin' smells rotten in Prince William. Just sayin'.
Then, when you lump all that upon all the other stuff that has hovered over Lucky's head this past year, heck past couple of weeks, can you really fault the Cowboys for saying to themselves, "You know . . . ."
And for those listening closely, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett actually said, "We know more about our players than you do," meaning not every transgression taking place with a player becomes public. Wade Phillips was right back when. He'd say, "Listening is a skill." Guessing, and maybe just me, that factored into this decision, too.
Also, this: Hearing that Lucky changed his story to the club multiple times. Why's that?
Plus, if the Cowboys were not so convicted in their decision, my guess is they had time to repeal their release to the league. The paperwork did not reach the NFL office until after the business day had closed on Monday. He officially wasn't placed on the waiver wire until 3 p.m. (CT) on Tuesday.
So, while Lucky is playing the sympathy card, and while the Jets reportedly claimed him off waivers on Wednesday, the Cowboys simply got to the point where enough is enough. That's what they are saying without saying it, and sticking to it.
How come? How come face this public lashing?
Just use some common sense. It's free.