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Offseason | 2024

Spagnola: Micah, Micah, where art thou Micah


FRISCO, Texas – Maybe Mike McCarthy read Mick Shots on Wednesday. Or someone passed this on to him for Thursday's press conference, prepping him for questions certainly to be asked.

Like the third question: "Is (Micah Parsons) here today? Will he be practicing today? Or is he not here?"

The head coach turns to Cowboys vice president of communications Tad Carper to parry the question, asking, "What was that quote you gave me?

"What do voluntary mean?"

Gone for 23 years but former Cowboys linebacker Darren Hambrick continues to live in infamy. Exactly his response I reminded of on Wednesday when he qualified missing the equivalent of OTAs back at the turn of the century, emphasizing that these offseason workouts indeed are "voluntary."

But they are suggested. Heavily.

Funny guy this McCarthy, since he knew already Parsons would continue his OTA absence this final day.

And we all get it. That final OTA session, like all the rest, is totally voluntary. Attendance not mandatory, and really nothing in the offseason is mandatory until next week's three minicamp sessions, meaning players are subject to being fined $16,459 for the first day, $32,920 for the second day and $49,753 for the third day, totaling $98,753 for missing the entire shebang.

Me, might have principles or other private workout training objectives that seemingly Parsons has, but when it comes to nearly forfeiting 100 grand, I'd at least be here in attendance with a sore hamstring or ankle or the June flu. Something for sure (looking at you, too, CeeDee Lamb) to keep my back pocket stocked. Don't care who you might be or how much you might be making. Not a lot of principles or stubbornness worth that much dough.

Something most learned during those Vietnam protest days. There usually is a price to pay for unlawfully protesting a cause. Back then, jail time. Guess not much different than today, too, huh?

Anyway, McCarthy is right, but the more he addressed Micah's situation, the more there seemed to be an underbelly of seething over his star defensive player's absence – one good enough to finish runner-up for NFL Defensive Player of the Year award last season – because eventually the head coach would say this:

"I think any time that you have a chance to be together, it's an opportunity to improve. Whether it's in the mental realm, the physical realm and the emotional connection and so forth. It's a long year. Training camp is really the heightened focus for all of that.

"But it's definitely an opportunity that's been missed (for Parsons)."

No kidding, especially now playing for new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, especially now playing in a somewhat altered scheme. And likely being asked to perform more multiple duties on this defense, possibly not as much as simply lining up at defensive end where teams began to either run right at him or double-teamed the guy who finished with 14 sacks and a league high 91 QB pressures.

In other words, they tried to neutralize Parsons, something Zimm must combat, saying they will need to scheme protections away from Micah, while subtly suggesting at times lining him up at linebacker.

Oh, and from my experience being around Zimm from 1994 through 2006, those last three years under the jurisdiction of Bill Parcells, don't test his patience, at least not too much. Got a feeling the same goes for new defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina. The eyes show it.

But this absence also reminds me of a Michael Irvin saying that concerned his contract holdout during the 1992 training camp that came to an end during the first week of the regular season. No matter what else was taking place, offseason, training camp, preseason, regular season, Super Bowl practices, Mike would say, "If Troy is throwing, I'm going," Irvin smart enough to understand the butter of his bread.

Now look, not naïve enough to think Micah's absence during these sanitized workouts will seriously jeopardize his ability to excel this season. These absences won't. And players, at least outwardly, won't get too bent out of shape over a teammate's absence, though as McCarthy said, "98 percent" of the 86 players on the 90-man roster are participating. "Too," being the qualifier.

But let's remember, football is a "team" sport like no other. And if your idea is to be one of the team leaders, might be wise to hang out with the guys at least once a week during the three days a week for three weeks. Or at least be here for the meetings.

Again, maybe this becomes much ado about nothing. But it's just not good optics, especially for a team having constructed three consecutive 12-win seasons, including winning two of three division championships along the way, but only one of three potential playoff wins and needing desperately to get that monkey off its back.

Micah also needs to understand he's not an independent contractor. He is a part of a team. And speaking of contracts, he also needs to understand this might not be the best campaign for a contract extension you'd think the Cowboys would like to reach with him to lessen next year's cap charge.

But in saying that, the Cowboys already picked up next year's fifth-year option worth a guaranteed $21.324 million. And if they so choose, the Cowboys can extend control over Micah by franchising him in 2026, meaning he then continues to roll the dice on one-year deals with little long-term financial security over these next three seasons.

There also is this, and you can accuse me of being far to financially conservative: Isn't it better to put like a potential $50 million signing bonus in the bank right now, today, than stringing this thing out by going year to year on contracts for the next three years to potentially make more but risk injury for potentially none? No one in this game is guaranteed tomorrow.

Case in point, seems as though these receivers of late signing extensions – with the exceptions of Lamb, Justin Jefferson and Tee Higgins – have decided that instead of holding out to become the highest paid guy at their position, they are taking three-year deals to get their signing bonuses and upgraded guarantees now.

Just like Jaylen Waddle is the most recent to do so, signing a three-year $84.75 million extension with the Miami Dolphins, including an $18.873 million signing bonus, $76 million guaranteed and averaging right at $28.25 million a year with two years still left on his original contract, meaning he can seek another contract at age 30.

Now having said all this, I'd expect Micah to be here at The Star for the minicamp. And he'll be as affable as ever, and likely talk his way out of any tight spot with the media. And according to McCarthy, Micah is in good shape and will be ready to go for training camp. That is everyone's responsibility, even those guys such as Trevon Diggs, DeMarvion Overshown, John Stephen Jr. and anyone else rehabbing from surgeries, including Mazi Smith, no matter what is going on during the offseason.

"Volunteering" or not.

As McCarthy said, though, and to me, quite pointedly, "Everybody has a responsibility whether they're here or not here, to get what they need because when we get to Oxnard that is our one opportunity for real football."

Giving me more time to drum up some old appropriate quotations he's welcome to use.

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