You know how I know it's the offseason? Because there are stories starting to circulate that Greg Ellis is unhappy about his situation with the Dallas Cowboys. It's becoming such a recurring theme that it is almost cliché around Valley Ranch the Ellis is perturbed. Bradie James knows it too.
But as linebacker Bradie James jokingly added, "It's the off-season, so you know Greg is upset about something."
What has set the big ball rolling this time is the unexplained absence of Greg Ellis from the Cowboys' OTA today which was attended by the media. No one on the Cowboys wanted to give a reason for him not being there and Ellis was nowhere to be found to get his side of the story, responding only with a text that read, "I'm in town." Jerry Jones even got some words in with this classic attempt at trying to appear clueless about the situation.
"I don't know anything about the football stuff or what they are trying to do with Greg," Jones said. "It's voluntary."
Yeah right, Jerry. We believe you.
When something unexpected happens around the Cowboys and no one is willing to give an explanation, then the sports writers around here start to come up with their own theories on the subject. The thought that Ellis is once again unhappy at Valley Ranch is not that big of a reach, and according to Clarence Hill at the Star-Telegram, his unease might be tied to the notion the Cowboys are looking to slightly change his role.
The Cowboys have informed Ellis that they would like to make him a pass-rush specialist and use Spencer on first and second down.
From the Cowboys' point of view, it's an effort to get the maximum out of every player in what they hope is a run to the Super Bowl in 2008.
It's becoming very clear that Greg Ellis is extremely concerned about his official status on the team as well as his long term stability as a football player. Last offseason when Ellis was pushing himself to come back from a devastating Achilles heel rupture, he somehow convinced himself that if he wasn't able to fully recover then the Cowboys would just brush him aside like old trash. This fear led to grumbling to the media and a whole lot of extra attention paid to Ellis and his situation by the media. Eventually Jerry Jones showed his commitment to Ellis by restructuring his contract, which turned his salary for the next two years into guaranteed money.
Now Ellis is worried that he might not be the starter any longer opposite DeMarcus Ware with Anthony Spencer hot on his heels for playing time. He voiced this concern just days after the Cowboys lost to the Giants. Yet Wade Phillips has stated time and time again that he considers Greg Ellis the starter, and has backed it up by starting Ellis last season as soon as he was healthy enough!
Meanwhile, Anthony Spencer is making the most of his situation and getting as many reps in as he can in Ellis' absence.
Spencer had about as good a practice as possible without pads on. He batted down two Tony Romo passes at the line of scrimmage, skying to swat both, and made a great break on a ball near the sideline to almost pick it off. (Should have been a pick, but let's not nitpick. Spencer jokingly blamed the humidity for making his hands slick.)
Last year Spencer was thrust into the starting role while Ellis was rehabbing while at the same time making the transition from college DE to pro OLB. He immediately showed that he had playmaking abilities and made the most of his time on the field after Ellis returned to the starting lineup. This year he feels like he will be even better with the experience of a full season under his belt.
"I know where I'm supposed to be," Spencer said. "I know if I make a mistake, I have time to get back to where I'm supposed to be. I know what I can't do and can do. The more you do something, the easier it becomes for you. I've been doing it for a year now, so I definitely feel a lot more comfortable."
You just know that Wade Phillips and Brian Stewart are licking their chops with the weapons they have at their disposal on defense this year. The Cowboys have three legitimate dominant pass rushers at OLB, one of whom is one of the top ten greatest players in the league today. They have a defensive line who has the ability to wreak havoc in the backfield, and they have a vastly improved secondary that will support and feed off the pass rush. That is why I think we shouldn't worry too much about Greg Ellis and how the Cowboys will use him this year. Wade Phillips, and by extension Jerry Jones, wants to use and keep as many weapons on the field as possible at the same time. The Cowboys had a lot of success last year when Ware, Ellis and Spencer were on the field at the same time last year and will be eager to improve on that situation this year.
Anthony Spencer can only benefit by playing with Greg Ellis, especially since Ellis is coming off his best season as a pro and being named the comeback player of the year. Ellis has too much experience and leadership qualities to just quit on the team if he is no longer the "starter." He also has to remember that the Cowboys have proven their commitment to him time and time again.
Of course, this could all change if it comes out tomorrow that Ellis had a legitimate reason to be absent. But it seems as if the Cowboys are seriously looking into changing up his role a little bit and if history holds true, we can expect a lot more huffing and puffing to the media from Greg Ellis.
Last week when Terry Glenn was absent from OTAs, it raised a few eyebrows but no one made that big a deal about it. His continued absence however, and the fact that it is expected he won't be on the field at all until training camp, has started to cause quite a stir. Jerry Jones says that while he is encouraged by Glenn's improvement, there's no need to take any chances.
"I'm very encouraged, he's improved from where he was in the last ballgame," Jones said. "He's made a lot of progress. And I do think if he keeps making the progress -- he's very strong, very quick and we want to get his timing down with Tony -- but as far as the work out here, he doesn't necessarily need the work."
The Cowboys and Terry Glenn have been insisting that he is healthy and ready to play, but if he is why is he not on the field for practice? While these OTAs are voluntary, this is the part of the season when the team starts to hone in on the playbook and the schemes the team will be using this season. You would think Glenn, who missed 99% of last season, would need some practices to really get back in the swing of things and start rebuilding the chemistry with Tony Romo and his teammates. So the fact that he is not out there points to the notion the Cowboys aren't 100% certain his knee will hold up for too long, and who's to blame them?
If Glenn plays for any substantial amount of time this year, and is effective, it will only be an added bonus to an already prolific offense. But if there is even any hint that he won't be able to make it, then the Cowboys should cut ties with him. A repeat of last season(keeping Glenn on the active roster while he was unable to play), would come at the expense of some of the talented younger receivers on the team, namely Isaiah Stanback.
It's becoming obvious that the most likely time frame for Glenn getting onto the practice field is sometime in July. He could be fully healthy and ready to go and all of this hub bub would be for nothing. If not though, the Cowboys have a few young players itching for a chance to make some plays on the field.