Jerry Jones made such a large investment in former Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff that he shrugged it off when the player attempted to fight him after a game last season. Ratliff, who now apparently goes by his given name Jeremiah, rewarded Jones’ patience by basically walking out on the Cowboys at the start of this season.
The troubled Ratliff sent his agent out to tell a sob story about how Ratliff’s injury last season was much more serious than Cowboys fans were led to believe. Instead of a typical sports hernia surgery, Ratliff apparently had extensive damage that could require as much as a year for recovery. Call me a cynic, but it seemed like the healing process really ramped up once Ratliff was released by the Cowboys.
Not only did he land on his feet, but he’s joined the defensive tackle rotation for the Chicago Bears, who will host the Cowboys on Monday. Jones and his new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin had banked on Ratliff being a major part of the Cowboys’ 4-3 scheme this season. But after supposedly tweaking a groin injury during a conditioning test at the start of training camp, Ratliff shut it down. Kiffin expressed concern to me during camp that he wouldn’t have defensive end Anthony Spencer and Ratliff during the preseason. Little did he know he wouldn’t have either one of them for pretty much the entire season.
But once Ratliff escaped town with Jerry’s guaranteed money, he was hit with this sudden passion to return to football. On one of his numerous radio shows Tuesday, Jones came off like a spurned lover.
“Well, I’m sure he will, if he can, be inspired by playing his old team,” Jones said on 105.3. “I wish him the best on an individual basis. It’s just it would be very frustrating to see him get in there and play when most thought that he couldn’t play when he left us, as far as he was concerned and his approach to what he was going to be doing this year.
“And so with all of that in mind, I look at that and I have always thought a lot of him as a pro football player, and with the shape that we’re in on our defensive front, as far as I’m concerned, he needs to be over here helping the Dallas Cowboys.”
Ahh yes, the soulful sounds of denial. Even as his team prepares to play against Ratliff, Jones can’t quite accept this outcome. And to a certain extent, I can sympathize with him. He committed a huge amount of resources to a player who was on the verge of turning 30 at the time. Jerry wanted a return on that investment. Kiffin and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli had made Jones feel better about that decision by telling him Ratliff would be a great fit in their scheme. Jerry understandably believed that Ratliff would do his best to return to the field.
But in this case, Jerry wasn’t dealing with a normal individual. Ratliff had already gone from an affable seventh-round pick out of Auburn to a brooding player whose behavior off the field was wildly unpredictable. That Ratliff would become distrustful of the Cowboys’ medical staff shouldn’t have been that much of a shock. Even his longtime friends on the team didn’t know what to expect from him on a daily basis.
And that’s how Ratliff ended up with another franchise. I think someday we’ll learn that Ratliff was fighting significant issues away from the field. But sadly, Ratliff left the one owner in the NFL who would’ve done just about anything to help him.
If Ratliff makes a game-changing play for the Bears on Monday, it will make his departure even tougher for Jones to accept. And it’s obvious from his comments that he’s still living in denial.