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by Brad Sham [Dallas Cowboys Play-by-Play Announcer]


By the time we visit again in this space, the Cowboys will have drafted and signed most of whatever veterans and rookie free agents they’ll be adding for 2010. So with apologies to Opening Day, the Final Four and MLS First Kick, we’ve got some football to talk.

It makes sense, I’m sure, but one of the new rules adopted by club owners was to adopt the college football rule that if a player loses his helmet, the whistle blows and play is dead.

It’s all about player safety. Admit it, when you watched that play, didn’t some little part of you whisper, “Geez, I hope he doesn’t get tackled without his headgear.” We’ll never see that play again.

Also in the name of player safety, there’s now supposed to be a penalty for a defensive player launching to hit a ball carrier (not

t’s April, and you know what that means. It’s football season.

A fella on an out-of-town radio show asked me recently if I was surprised by how quiet the Cowboys have been in the free agency market, having done little more than sniff around fence posts and tender their own free agents.

I am not. It makes sense in this unusual year but more about that in a moment. Let’s not get so far ahead of ourselves that we forget what just happened at the NFL owners’ meetings in Orlando.

If you have a good action shot of Jason Witten breaking that helmetless run against the Eagles with blood streaming from his nose a couple of years ago, save it. Frame it and put it in a special spot.

You’ll never see it again.

22 APRIL 2010

just a receiver) in the head or neck area with the head, shoulder or forearm. That player has now been classified a defenseless player. It sounds great but it may be hard to enforce. Watch out for problems with that one.

Of course, nothing generated more initial conversation from Orlando than the change in the playoff overtime rule. The obvious first question is why wasn’t it instituted for the regular season also? Not getting too excited about that now, because signs point to that very thing happening when the owners have their spring meeting in May.

So do we like the rule? I’m not completely sure it needed changing since statistics show that in the long view, the team that wins the overtime coin flip only wins the game on that possession about 55% of the time. Defense and special teams are still part of football. But I understand the public desire to see each team get their hands on the ball.

My question is why do we only give the other team a chance at the ball if they kick a field goal? If I take the opening overtime kick and score a touchdown, why shouldn’t you have the chance to match? If you score a touchdown, then we can play sudden death. I’d have liked that better. One thing seems certain, coaching decisions on what plays to call and field position late in games might be influenced by this rule.

And so on to personnel. By the time you read this, the Cowboys might have signed a few veteran free agents - or not.

The pending labor talks have skewed the free agent market, because there are fewer unrestricted free agents available. More restricted free agents means more teams will have to pay draft choices for signing players and teams are loathe to do this. As the draft approaches, teams (including the Cowboys) will compare their needs to what’s available and do what they can in free agency, so they can know what to take in the draft.

Every Cowboys fan has an opinion about what that should be. Most folks aren’t satisfied with my answer, but it doesn’t change.

In the first round, you take the best football player available, regardless of position. Not the best athlete, the best football player. Draft to your board, especially at 27, where Dallas drafts this year. If you don’t do that, you reach and that’s when you lose.

Having said that, it would be great if the best player on the board when the Cowboys drafted was a playmaking safety. I love Earl Thomas of Texas, but I don’t think he’ll be there. Taylor Mays of USC may be available and reports on him make him sound like either just what the Cowboys need, or a latter-day version of Oklahoma’s Roy Williams. Watch out there. The right offensive lineman, any position, would also be good.

I do have a second round preference. If he’s still there, I would love the Cowboys to take Ole Miss running back Dexter McCluster. He’s 5’ 8” and 165 pounds, but he can run inside, outside, catch, return and play the Wildcat (Razorback). He would play “Weapon” and he would be dynamite.

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