The Dallas Cowboys know all too well that Jay Ratliff’s night could have ended up much, much worse. You’d like to think the death of a teammate in a tragic car accident in which the driver was charged with intoxication manslaughter might have served as the ultimate deterrent.
But there was Ratliff, one of the team’s alleged leaders, crashing his pickup truck into an 18-wheeler in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, according to police. Notice how these accidents rarely take place around noon?
Police would later say that Ratliff was “verbally abusive” once he arrived at the Grapevine Jail. That part of the story shouldn’t surprise Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones, who found himself on the business end of one of Ratliff’s rants in the locker room late last season.
I’ve known Ratliff since he entered the league as a seventh-round pick out of Auburn in 2005. He was a thoughtful guy who eventually became one of the better nose tackles in the NFL, as evidenced by his four trips to the Pro Bowl. At one point, Ratliff was really generous with his time, often driving to our radio studio to conduct interviews. But in recent years, Ratliff has become a lot more combative with reporters, and he’s basically stopped talking to them. He’s generally viewed now as somewhat of a jerk.
But not every jerk in the NFL goes out and acts as irresponsibly as Ratliff. According to the police report, he was given three different field-sobriety tests and officers found 12 different “clues” that led to his arrest. It’s baffling that a player who in the past couple years received a signing bonus of $18 million wouldn’t think to call a cab or use the NFL’s 24-hour car service. Ratliff had so many options, but he chose the one that endangered the most lives.
The Cowboys have an opportunity to take a stand against this reprehensible behavior, but my gut tells me they will give Ratliff a second chance. It’s a lot easier to show compassion, it seems, when the player in question has been an All-Pro and could play a major role in a new defensive scheme.
Poor Monte Kiffin just got to town, so he shouldn’t have any significant input on this decision. The new defensive coordinator was busy conducting TV interviews Wednesday while wearing a sweatshirt from the Cowboys’ 1963 collection. This will be a Jerry Jones decision, in part because the team owner has made it known that he’s once again running the show at Valley Ranch. Even if head coach Jason Garrett wanted to take a stand, I fear that Jerry would put a muzzle on him.
The Cowboys have chosen not to make any public comment in the aftermath of Ratliff’s arrest, and that doesn’t make any sense, either. How about something along the lines of, “We’re deeply disappointed that in the aftermath of such an awful tragedy that one of our players would make such an incredibly poor decision. We will do everything in our power to remind our players how much is at stake after they’ve had a few drinks.”
As much as I’ve liked and respected Ratliff over the years, it’s time for him to go. From the football side of things, his body has taken such a pounding that you can’t count on him to play a full season (missed 10 games in 2012). It would have been nice to see how he functioned in a scheme that didn’t require him to face so many double-teams. But it’s time to let another team handle Ratliff’s image rehabilitation.
He’s a disgruntled guy who further sullied a franchise that is still reeling from what happened with Josh Brent and the late Jerry Brown Jr. Jones began the offseason by saying he wanted to make folks uncomfortable at Valley Ranch.
Well, here’s another chance, Jerry. If seeing a teammate die doesn’t drive home the point, I’m not sure anything will.
But deciding to part ways with Ratliff is the right thing to do. Maybe cutting a star player will help another player on this team call for a ride the next time he decides to imbibe.
Otherwise, you’re not doing enough to fight what has been a national epidemic for years. And if the good folks from Mothers Against Drunk Driving plan on marching at Valley Ranch, count me in.