Cowboys owner, coach decline to get specific about Ratliff release

IRVING, Texas – Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett both had opportunities Thursday to respond to allegations from Jay Ratliff’s agent that the team mishandled the defensive lineman’s groin injury.

Both chose to avoid specifics – with Jones saying it was a legal matter – and were careful not to say anything contentious, although both gave indications the team was not fully informed about the severity of Ratliff’s injury.

“It’s a sad matter, because we do need him and he wants to be out competing and helping his teammates and helping us win,” Jones said. “But I can’t operate in a world where I go back and take today’s information and apply it to decisions made one year ago.”

Ratliff was released Wednesday when he came off the physically unable to perform list and was still not healthy enough to rejoin the team. Ratliff had been out since the start of training camp with groin and hamstring issues and played in just six games the year before.

Ratliff’s agent, Mark Slough, said that his groin that required surgery last December was so severe that doctors said it would take almost a full year to recover. Slough said the injury had been inaccurately portrayed as a more common sports hernia.

Yet Ratliff was never placed on injured reserve and, until his surgery, the Cowboys held out hope that he could contribute to a playoff run in 2012.

Then Ratliff took the conditioning test at the start of training camp this season and suffered a hamstring injury in addition to his groin problem.

All the while, Ratliff saw his own doctors and rehabbed on his own away from the Cowboys’ training staff.

Asked why Ratliff was never placed on injured reserve and why his absence was never addressed in the draft, Jones had this response:

“Well, I didn’t have the benefit of the information that we’ve got today when we were making those decisions. I’m just saying we didn’t have the benefit. Don’t read anything into that. You’re talking Monday Morning Quarterbacking. Hindsight.”

Jones also said that it’s up to individual players to determine whether they are healthy enough to attempt the conditioning test, which must be passed in order to participate in training camp.

Garrett backed up that assessment, despite indications from Ratliff’s agent that he was not healthy enough to attempt it.

“I don’t want to get into how that happened or why that happened,” Garrett said. “If a player feels like he’s able to run that conditioning test, in order to pass his physical in order to practice with our football team, he has the opportunity to do that.”

Garrett said there are many factors that go into how a team makes decisions regarding injured players.

“And trust me, when we make decisions, we’re doing it based on the information that’s in front of us and we’re trying to do it in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys and that’s the way we’ll always make decisions,” Garrett said. “Are you right on every single one of them every time you make a decision? Absolutely not, and that happens in 32 cities around this league.”

The Cowboys gave Ratliff a contract extension two years ago with $18 million guaranteed. He will count for $6.9 million of “dead money” against the salary cap next year.

Jones was asked if Ratliff’s contract was the worst one he’s ever done.

“Well, if I had a legal pad and could show you all the decisions I’ve made ever.” Jones said.”It’s not the worst one I’ve ever made.”

The response was met with laughter, but Ratliff’s departure from the Cowboys left clues to some serious disagreements between player and team.

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire