Jerry Jones

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones watched his team fall to Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins twice last season, but never before had Jones been a part of a three-game losing streak to the Cowboys’ NFC East rival.

Jones’ Cowboys avoided that on his 71st birthday Sunday night, defeating the Redskins 31-16 at AT&T Stadium.

After quarterback Tony Romo threw for a whopping 506 yards in a heartbreaking 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos last week, Romo had just 170 yards through the air against the Redskins. Moreover, running back DeMarco Murray left the game with a sprained left knee, and to make matters worse, defensive end DeMarcus Ware exited early with a right quad injury.

Wait a minute.

The Cowboys won with Romo throwing for just 170 yards and with no Ware or Murray? How did that happen?

Cue Dwayne Harris, who may get a slice of his owner’s birthday cake.

Harris had 222 total return yards, including an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 90-yard kickoff return that set up a Terrance Williams touchdown reception.

Give credit to the Cowboys’ defense as well, something that couldn’t have been done the first five weeks of the season. Although the defense gave up 433 yards to the Redskins, they only gave up one touchdown. Cornerback Brandon Carr was everywhere in the secondary, and defensive end Kyle Wilber came up with a huge play by forcing and recovering a fumble on an RGIII sack, which ultimately led to a game-clinching score for the Cowboys.

With Murray out, rookie running back Joseph Randle saw the majority of the snaps, gaining 17 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. If Murray is out for an extended period of time, it will be interesting to see what the Cowboys can get out of Randle.

Despite losing two key players, the Cowboys picked up a much-needed win Sunday night to improve to 3-3 and stay tied with the Eagles for first place in the NFC East. Dallas did what it was supposed to do by defeating a struggling Redskins team at home, so fans should be content.

After all, normally when the Cowboys are supposed to do something, they find a way to screw it up.

Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, otherwise known as the red-headed robot, is notorious for preaching the need for his football team to play well in all three phases of the game. Dallas accomplished this against Washington.

Dallas will need that consistent play to continue this Sunday when they take on Philadelphia in a battle for first place.

Michael Vick has just signed a 6 year, 100 -million dollar deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, making him the third highest player in the NFL. This is just two years after he was released from jail.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

IRVING— Seeing Gerald Sensabaugh get turned around while allowing a long touchdown pass on the opening drive of the last preseason game reminded the Dallas Cowboys of why they shopped around for an upgrade at safety this offseason.

Seeing him leap over the center and leap again to block a field goal, then seeing him grab a deflected pass for an interception later in the same game reminded the Cowboys of why they ended up bringing him back.

Sensabaugh’s return was sort of a consolation prize, both for him and for Dallas.

The Cowboys sorely needed to improve the back end of their defense, but team owner Jerry Jones didn’t want to spend as much as the top safeties available were getting. He tried helping the secondary by pursuing cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, then eventually worked his way to safety Abram Elam. Still needing a second safety, Jones turned to Sensabaugh.

Sensabaugh was available because he couldn’t get any of those whopper deals that were going around. He accepted a one-year contract in hopes of getting a longer, more-lucrative deal from Dallas or trying again as a free agent next summer.

He’s off to a good start.

Facing San Diego in the second preseason game, Sensabaugh got tough and wedged his helmet into the belly of running back Mike Tolbert to force a fumble, then made an athletic move to intercept a pass. It was erased because the back of his heel landed out of bounds, but Cowboys coaches considered it good enough to call it a game for the first team after that play.

On Saturday night, in Minnesota, Sensabaugh was involved in three big plays — one bad, two good.

“I guess I was plus-one for the day,” he said, smiling. “I had to do something to make up for the big touchdown.”
Sensabaugh hopes to be more of a ball-hawker this season.

Coach Rob Ryan’s defense is all about forcing pressure up front, which could make for more wayward passes. Sensabaugh had a career-high five interceptions last year, with four coming over the last six games.

Sensabaugh played strong safety last year, which meant he covered tight ends. Ryan’s scheme basically has two free safeties, so it will be up to Sensabaugh and Elam to figure out the coverages. It helps that Elam played for Ryan in Cleveland the last two years, so he’s more familiar with the role.

“I’m learning his play style and he’s learning mine,” Sensabaugh said. “You get to help out on whoever you want, kind of. You just read the quarterback. If he’s looking one way, I have the freedom to just go that way, as opposed to strong safety, where if you’re man up on a guy you have to stay on your man until the play is over. It frees you up to make more plays, I guess. I’m getting used to it. It’s fun.”

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett stresses winning the turnover battle as much as any statistic, and Dallas’ defense didn’t have a single takeaway the first two games. (San Diego recovered Tolbert’s fumble.) So Sensabaugh’s pickoff against the Vikings was a bit of a breakthrough for Ryan’s group, and the blocked field goal turned out even better because Alan Ball returned it for a touchdown.

Which was more fun?

Sensabaugh leaned toward the blocked kick because of the momentum swing — from the opponent possibly scoring points to his team getting a touchdown.

“I started my career on special teams, and I always feel it’s real important to make a big play,” he said. “So I always try to stress going really hard on special teams whenever I get an opportunity.”

Sensabaugh’s career began in Jacksonville, where his special teams coordinator was Joe DeCamillis. (or Joe D, as he’s known) is now Dallas’ special teams coordinator.

DeCamillis has used Sensabaugh as a bunny-hopping kick blocker before and decided to break out that play again after seeing on tape that the Vikings’ front line tended to drop low to fight off blockers.

With Jay Ratliff and Igor Olshansky making sure those Minnesota linemen stayed down, Sensabaugh made his move. He jumped over the pile of bodies, then quickly jumped up and out to get his hands on the kick.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones exits a law firm where contract talks ended, Friday, July 15, 2011, in New York.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

IRVING, Texas — Jerry Jones said Tuesday the Dallas Cowboys can clear enough space under the salary cap to sign anyone they want, and he's already delving into the work.

Jones arrived at team headquarters about 40 minutes before the official start of post-lockout activity. It appeared that he started with his top priority, the offensive line.

Left tackle Doug Free, who became a free agent under the terms of the lockout, and right tackle Marc Colombo, among the players likely to be cut to clear cap room, both showed up early and were gone within an hour.

Colombo's status is likely tied to Free. If Free leaves, the Cowboys would need another starting tackle; if Free stays, top pick Tyron Smith has practically been given Colombo's starting job. Right guard Leonard Davis said Tuesday that he met with offensive line coach Hudson Houck, perhaps to discuss the possibility of playing at tackle.

"My goal is to play here," said Colombo, who was among the veterans who helped run offseason practices. "If it works out in the next day or so, it works out. If it doesn't, it's been a great six years here with the Dallas Cowboys and I appreciate it."

To get under the cap, the Cowboys are expected to renegotiate several contracts and shed players with bloated deals. Running back Marion Barber and cornerback Terence Newman are other candidates likely to get dumped.

Jones vowed that finances won't slow him.

"We can get well under the cap, and we plan to and still sign players we want," Jones said. "We will be able to do what we want with the cap. ... Before the day is over, we will have contact with any player we have an interest in."

The Cowboys open training camp in San Antonio on Wednesday, so it was possible that players weren't going to flock to the facility on Tuesday. However, Jones said he invited several players for meetings, including those who could be cut once that's allowed on Friday. There's no point in them going to training camp just to be released, and Jones said he wanted to personally deliver the news.

Starting Tuesday morning, all NFL teams were allowed to re-sign their own free agents and to sign draft picks and undrafted players. They also were allowed to start negotiating with all veteran free agents, although those deals can't be signed before Saturday, and they could start making trades.

It's an entire offseason's worth of activity condensed into a few weeks. Jones said the front office, coaches and scouts were all ready to hit the ground running.

"This is a piece of cake compared to what we dealt with on the labor deal," Jones said. "This is a labor of love. I get to work on my team."

As for the labor deal, Jones said he was relieved to finally have it done.

"There was give and take, which is the way the fans would expect it," he said. "I'm sorry there was so much angst for the fans."

Separately, the NFL said that the Cowboys-Chargers preseason game at Cowboys Stadium has been moved from Saturday, Aug. 20, to Sunday night, Aug. 21.

ARLINGTON — In their zeal to set a Super Bowl attendance record, the NFL and Jerry Jones overlooked one important detail: Making sure all the temporary seats inside mammoth Cowboys Stadium had been inspected and were ready for the fans.

A week plagued by poor weather took an embarrassing turn Sunday when the league had to find replacement seats for 850 fans. The NFL also scrambled to find a place for another 400 people to sit inside Jones’ $1.2 billion palace and couldn’t find any with a view of the field.

“This is absolutely ridiculous,” said Glen Long, a Pittsburgh Steelers season-ticket holder who flew in for the game from Baltimore. “That would be fraud anywhere in the world if you sold tickets to an event that you knew you didn’t have. That’s just wrong.”

Actually, the seats had been installed in six temporary sections, but they went up so late that the fire marshal didn’t have time to inspect them, according to a police officer standing near an affected area who wouldn’t give his name and an explanation of the situation provided to several fans.

The officer said the winter storms that struck Dallas earlier had set back work on the temporary seats.

That didn’t matter to fans who felt they had been deceived by the league and Jones, the Dallas Cowboys owner who had hoped some 105,000 people would watch the game inside and outside the stadium. To bolster the crowd, there were $200 tickets that provided nothing more than a chance to watch the game on video screens set up in outdoor plazas.

That didn’t work out either: Attendance was announced at 103,219, just short of the record 103,985 who turned out at the Rose Bowl for the 1980 Super Bowl.

As for those 400 fans, not even a hefty refund offer from the NFL was enough to satisfy them for losing their seats. The league said it would pay back triple the face value — $2,400 for the $800 tickets.

“We don’t want that,” said Odett Karam, a Green Bay Packers fan who flew in from California. “We just want to get into the game. We just want to see the game.”

The NFL said 850 fans were put in “similar or better seats.” As for the rest, the NFL first offered to let the fans watch the game in the outdoor plazas. Then, shortly after kickoff, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said they had been allowed into the field-level club behind the Pittsburgh Steelers bench, where they could watch the game on monitors.

If they wanted to see the game in person, they had to use standing-room platforms in each corner of Cowboys Stadium.

Fans complained that wasn’t nearly enough, especially given what they had doled out for travel and hotel costs.

“They took us to a bar,” said Paul Colavecchi, a displaced fan from Clearfield, Pa., who came to Texas with his sister.

“That’s terrific,” he added sarcastically. “That’s why we fronted five grand for this trip — so we could watch the game in a bar. I didn’t have to take a plane trip to Texas to watch the game on TV, and I certainly didn’t buy a ticket so I could watch the game in a bar.”

Compounding the unhappiness, fans in the affected areas were at first put into a fenced-off area while officials tried to sort things out. They became increasingly unruly, alternating chants of “Jerry Sucks!” and “NFL Sucks!”

One man shouted, “They’re treating us like prisoners.” Another said, “We came a long way for this.”

Gerry Grillo, from New Jersey, said he paid $3,000 for a ticket on the secondary market, so he would lose money even if he got a refund.
“We’ve been in a holding area for two hours,” he said after finally being let in the stadium. “Two hours!”

Seating woes are only the latest frustration for the first Super Bowl in the Dallas area.

A rare winter storm swept across the area Tuesday, ripping holes in tents on the property and hampering travel and celebrations across the region. On Friday, six people at the stadium were injured by melting snow falling from the roof one day after 5 inches of unwelcome snow fell on the area.

Organizers were hoping flawless game-day logistics would wipe out some of the complaints, but the seating problem could be an issue in the area’s plans to bid for the 50th Super Bowl in 2016.

The affected areas were four entryways and two portions of the upper deck on the west end.

In the upper deck, there were off-limits seats in the same rows as seats that were deemed safe. Yellow police tape was used as a dividing line, with uniformed personnel also keeping folks away.

“The safety of fans attending the Super Bowl was paramount in making the decision and the NFL, Dallas Cowboys and City of Arlington officials are in agreement with the resolution,” the NFL said in a statement. “We regret the situation and inconvenience that it may have caused. We will conduct a full review of this matter.”

About 15,000 temporary seats were added to the stadium in a bid to set the record for the largest crowd in Super Bowl history. The temporary seats filled open platforms that are usually standing-room only “party pass” areas for Cowboys games. The entryways were on the third level, while the upper deck is on the fifth level.

Rich McCandless of Butler, Pa., was at the game with his son, Rich Jr. The younger McCandless is in the Navy and got leave from submarine duty to come to Texas from Guam.

They were unable to sit in the seats they purchased and watched the game in a standing room-only section.

“They had no solution. Looked like a run around,” the father said. “I’d be more furious if I had any more energy. I’ve been standing since noon and I’m just tired.”