Spagnola: Kicking Around A Plethora of Nuggets For The Holiday Weekend

IRVING, Texas – On this Memorial Day weekend, in deference to Blackie Sherrod, maybe the very best columnist and sports editor in DFW newspaper history, we're kicking tires while wondering whatever happened to Curvin Richards . . . .

      Speaking of kicking tires, that is exactly what the Cowboys were doing this week when working out a combination of nine running backs and wide receivers at The Ranch on Thursday. Doing their homework in case. My goodness folks, just because the Cowboys worked out running back Ben Tate, that didn't mean they were giving up on Darren McFadden or Joe Randle or Lance Dunbar or Ryan Williams. They were just examining the field in case one of those guys should get hurt between now and the Sept. 13 season opener. Real possibility, right? Settle down. In fact, Tate's surgically repaired knee from his 2011 rookie season would not suggest long-term confidence. And it's not as if the Cowboys are trying to turn back the clock on Felix Jones. It's a look-see. Some at The Ranch have a world of confidence in McFadden and Randle, and let me remind you the reason the Cowboys paid Williams a $240,000 signing bonus on his two-year deal had to do with like at least five teams near the end of last season were trying to sign him off the practice squad. My goodness, OTA practices don't begin until Tuesday, so would be a little premature to think the Cowboys already are throwing in the towel on the running back position. Plus, has anyone considered that Tate *still *is a free agent . . . .

         Same at wide receiver, although chances are by early next week the Cowboys will sign a somewhat veteran wide receiver or two, guys who at least know where the line of scrimmage is. Most notable to work out were former Atlanta flamed out first-rounder A.J. Jenkins and Kris Durham, with Scott Linehan in Detroit. Think about this: Assuming Dez Bryant does not take part in the first week of OTAs, when the Cowboys line up the first-team offense, that will be Terrance Williams at one spot and likely Devin Street at the other, with Cole Beasley coming in on the nickel. All they'd need is for one guy to get hurt and moving into the top three would be a rookie free agent. Plus, when you get to preseason, and the first-teamers have played their quota, good gosh someone out there needs to be able to help out Brandon Weeden or Dustin Vaughan . . . .

         Evidently the Cowboys helped put a smile back on Orlando Scandrick's face without putting a huge burden on their salary cap over the next five seasons. Basically the Cowboys added one year to his contract and a total of $9.5 million over the next five years. Nearly half that total is a non-guaranteed $4 million base salary in the now final year of 2019 when he will be 32 years old. They also gave him a $3 million signing bonus, which means prorated over the next five years only adds $600,000 to the cap each year. And, the average of his next five base salaries total $3.3 million . . . not bad for a starting corner, right. So just consider those numbers when reading some of the bloated ones being tossed around. Also, remember the previously poor $1.5 million base salary for 2015 would have been $5 million if the Cowboys had not advanced him the difference in signing bonus during the restructure the end of the 2013 season . . . *at his request *. . . .

         Looking back at the draft and rookie free-agent signings, the Cowboys ended up with five players they brought in for their 30 visits: DB Byron Jones, DE Randy Gregory, OT Chaz Green, LB Mark Nzeocha and WR George Farmer . . . . Looking for a worrisome part to the 2015 schedule, more so than having to play at Washington, Green Bay and Buffalo in December, try this coming off the Thanksgiving Day game versus Carolina: Monday night, Dec. 7 at Washington; Sunday, Dec. 13 at Green Bay; Saturday, Dec. 19 against the Jets. That's like three games within 13 days, and don't forget, when playing a Monday night game at Washington, that means an approximate 4-5 o'clock arrival back at DFW Tuesday morning, then back on the plane four days later . . . .

         Several Cowboys alumni participated in a fund-raising flag football game between of NFL vets from Texas vs. Wounded Warriors Thursday night at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas, with former military vets Roger Staubach and Chad Hennings, along with Daryl Johnston, suiting up with the Wounded Warriors. At age 73, Staubach was slinging it around, and just know that after getting intercepted a time or two, he started putting a little more mustard on the ball. And to think he'll soon be a great grandfather for the second time. Quite inspiring to watch many of these Wounded Warriors participating with prosthesis, some multiple . . . .

         For those with patience, please read rebuttals of the Wells Report on Deflategate written by the Patriots legal counsel. My guess, it will raise "reasonable doubt" even with those who truly believe the Patriots are guilty of purposely underinflating those footballs . . . . My favorite one is contesting what took place in the bathroom leading to the field when the bag of footballs was being transported from the NFL officials waiting room to the field by Patriots employee Mr. McNally. The Wells Report suggests the balls were deflated when McNally made a stop in a bathroom located in the tunnel not far from the field and locked the door. But thanks to security cameras, it was determined he was in the bathroom for 1 minute, 40 seconds. Reads the attorneys rebuttal: The report does not address whether one minute and 40 is consistent with the time that it takes a gentleman to enter a bathroom, relieve himself, wash his hands and leave. In fact, it is . . . The one minute and 40 seconds in the bathroom was far more likely to have been for exactly the reason Mr. McNally gave. Simply priceless . . . .     

         Much has been made of safety J.J. Wilcox winning the home run derby this week while the Cowboys were raising $50,000 for the Salvation Army. You could tell by just his batting stance the guy played some baseball, and did in high school. But the real eye-opener was to watch La'el Collins with a glove on in the field shagging batted balls. Man, he's quick and agile for a man his size . . . . I know a lot is being expected of Gregory this season, and goodness knows the Cowboys need it at defensive end. But remember, he's a rookie, and last year, among rookie defensive ends/3-4 outside linebackers, Indy's Jonathan Newsome led with 6½ sacks (outside LB). Most by a true 4-3 defensive end? Well, Carolina's Kony Ealy (uh, University of Missouri) with four. Remember all the rage in that draft was UCLA's Anthony Barr, selected by Minnesota with the ninth pick in the draft. He, too, had four sacks. The rookie record for sacks was set way back in 1999 by Jevon Kearse with 14½. Dwight Freeney had 13 in 2002, still the most since the turn of the century, and that includes 2005 when D-Ware had a Cowboys rookie record of eight. So perspective, please . . . .

         Yep, OTAs begin Tuesday. We get to officially watch one a week, that on Wednesday, but ahead of time remember Doug Free (ankle surgery) and Morris Claiborne (dual patellar tendon surgeries) won't be participating, and I'm told the staff will put a governor on Sean Lee, returning from the torn ACL he suffered this time last year. Be interesting to see who lines up at right tackles, but expect Darion Weems, Chaz Green and likely La'el Collins, who at some point will gets snaps at guard, too . . .  As for linebackers, first out should be Rolando McClain in the middle, Lee weak and Anthony Hitchens strong . . . . And on the defensive line, from left to right, DeMarcus Lawrence, Nick Hayden/Terrell McClain, Tyrone Crawford and Jermey Mincey/Greg Hardy/Gregory. Be interesting to see how many prime snaps are given to Hardy, knowing he still has that 10-game suspension pending. Appeals hearing is scheduled for May 28, but received no favors from the NFL since the so-called independent arbitrator appointed is Harold Henderson, former executive vice president of the NFL's Labor Board and former chairman of the NFL management council's executive board, hardly a neutral observer claimed the NFLPA during Adrian Peterson's appeal . . . .

         And . . . and . . . for the first time in three seasons, quarterback Tony Romo (@tonyromo, and I thought I was a late Twitter arrival) will be participating, with utterly no need to overdo it.

         There you are, enough nuggets to kick around this Memorial Day weekend.

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