IRVING, Texas – Tuesday, June 17 was supposed to be the day we found out just how serious Kyle Orton is about either not playing football anymore, or maybe it's an unhappiness with his situation with the Cowboys.
Either way, he missed his first mandatory practice of the offseason when the Cowboys began a three-day minicamp Tuesday at Valley Ranch.
Orton's no-show wasn't really a surprise to anyone. Owner Jerry Jones said he hasn't spoken directly with Orton but said the team will continue to carry on with the process, although he didn't get in great detail. Coach Jason Garrett has spoken to Orton over the summer and even said he would welcome back Orton if he returned to the team.
Orton's status hasn't changed either. If he retires, he'll owe the Cowboys $3 million. But if the Cowboys choose to release him, that penalty would be a non-issue for Orton.
"We're not going to do anything with the roster regarding Kyle Orton right now," Garrett said. "We're just going to proceed as normal. We expect him to be here for a mandatory minicamp, he's not. We'll handle it the way we need to handle it in regards to the penalties and we'll just coach the guys who are here. We're doing some good things as a football team and we're focused on the guys who are here and working hard."
And the one player taking the most advantage of the situation is Brandon Weeden, who is also benefitting from Tony Romo's cautious return from back surgery.
"I couldn't have asked for it to work any better, as far as my situation and how I stand," said Weeden, a first-round draft pick of the Browns in 2012 who was released after the season and signed by the Cowboys to make $570,000 this season if he makes the team. "If I could paint a perfect picture, I'd take every snap with the 1s. if Tony is out there it's a different story. But with him not being there, I wanted to take every snap that I could and fortunately I've been able to do that."
Weeden is no illusions about his situation. He said he "heard rumblings" about Orton possibly not wanting to play or at least having the chance to compete for the No. 2 spot. More than anything, Weeden said he just needed to get to a place where he could start over.
"I knew I was getting a fresh start," Weeden said of his decision to sign in Dallas. "I just wanted to come in and compete for a job and try to make this room and locker room better somehow and some way.
"This is Tony's team. I knew best-case scenario I would be the backup. I knew I wasn't going to be the guy. Being a backup in this league is so important. It's tough. You get limited reps and you have to be ready at all times. Being behind a guy like him – what better guy to be behind and learn from and still be able to get a great offensive line and offensive weapons around you."
Garrett has said several times this offseason the Cowboys were high on Weeden coming out of Oklahoma State. They've seen and liked his potential all along, and getting these reps seem to be the best thing for his development. [embedded_ad]
"He just needs snaps and the opportunity he's been getting, someone needs to be taking those live snaps, has really benefited him and benefits our team," Garrett said. "And you see him getting better, really each and every day. The big thing for guys like that are there are a lot of levels for confidence really in life and in football. And certainly playing that position. You have to keep getting to that next threshold of confidence, understanding what the offense is and how to call plays in the huddle, the command you have within that offense against that defense that you're playing against and really just getting to the point that you are so confident that you are just cutting it loose and playing."
Weeden said he doesn't know if or when Orton will return. He also doesn't know when Romo will be back taking the reps.
"I just go out there and prepare myself to take every rep," Weeden said. "That's all I can control. The other stuff doesn't really matter to me. I just have to keep taking advantage of the reps I get."