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The Jay Ratliff Conundrum

The veteran defensive tackle has certainly become an enigma to the Dallas Cowboys. Speculation abounds about the disconnect between the team and its missing defensive tackle.

Has life after #90 already started for the Dallas Cowboys
Has life after #90 already started for the Dallas Cowboys
Jim Rogash

With week six now in the rear-view mirror, the time has arrived for the Dallas Cowboys to make a decision about their future, at least in the short term, with defensive tackle Jay Ratliff. He is now eligible to return from the physically unable to perform list, and in theory, after getting himself into shape, he could provide the needed lift to a defensive line that has been devastated by a rash of injuries. That would be all well and good, if there was a chance of it actually taking place, and that is where the disconnect comes in to play. To all concerned, it appears that Ratliff's return to action is several weeks off, if (and that is a big IF) he takes the field at all this season. The sad truth is that Jay Ratliff hasn't really been around all that much since getting hurt in November of 2012. He originally suffered a groin injury toward the end of last season, and underwent sports hernia surgery soon after. Since then, he also suffered a "supposed" minor hamstring issue during his conditioning test at the start of training camp. Snowballing, as things seem to do around Oxnard and Valley Ranch, Ratliff eventually started the season on the PUP list and now questions about his future are circulating around the team and beyond. Those of us who follow the team closely were already wondering what the future held for Rat and the team.

The speculation was elevated to another level when NBC Sports sideline reporter Michele Tafoya reported that she "interpreted" Jerry Jones body language to mean that Jay Ratliff was done in Dallas. Although team officials, including the Jones family, tried to diffuse the situation after the game, the report took on a life of its own and the Jerry-speak is adding to the confusion.

“There’s no question that’s a possibility here,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM]. “When you say, ‘done in Dallas,’ I don’t know about done in Dallas, when you look at the rest of Jay’s career. But certainly from the standpoint of this year. We’ve got a situation that’s not positive as to him getting out on the field.

“We’re going to see as we go through this week what we’re going to do technically – that’s his roster status.”

While Jones may not be ready to concede that Ratliff is through in Dallas, to those who cover the team, it is becoming more clear as time passes; the likelihood of #90 ever again taking the field for the Cowboys diminishes more with each week that passes.

What will happen is anyone's guess. There is some discord between the player and the team, but nobody is willing to say what that is. Ratliff admitted as much during the Cowboys kickoff luncheon.

Asked why he wasn’t working out at Valley Ranch, Ratliff said, "Good question … I do [have an answer], but I’d rather not say. I’m trying to stay professional about the whole situation, but everyone involved knows what is going on."

He went on to imply that he was not happy with how the Cowboys medical staff was handling his rehab process and that he was handling his recovery away from Valley Ranch. Coming on the heels of his well-publicized altercation with team owner Jerry Jones, Ratliff's statement is a clear indication that there is severe strain on his relationship with at least some of his bosses.

Whatever the situation between player and team, the most critical thing for Jason Garrett and company to do is to make sure that the conflict does not spread into the locker room. A team that is trying to find its identity and dealing with a rash of on field problems clearly does not need the distraction of an off the field conflict being added to the mess. As Tom Ryle stated, when the front page writers were speculating on the situation, "That may be part of the reason the team is not pushing to get him back. They might feel he would be a distraction/disruption in the locker room." There are signs that the situation has already found its way in, at least with some of the older guys on the squad. When asked about the situation, Jason Hatcher had this to say:

"Unfortunately, what I’m hearing is not good news. I’m gonna stay out of that subject, but I wish him the best in the near future." - Jason Hatcher

The most frustrating thing about the whole situation is that, as fans, we can only sit back as things unfold and hope for the best possible situation for our Dallas Cowboys.

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