It was all the way back in the early part of this year, just a little while after the season ended for the Cowboys, that we heard the first whispers. Kyle Orton was thinking about retiring. For most of us, it seemed kind of insane. Orton is getting paid a pretty penny to play football, and it was his own choice, after all, to be a backup behind Tony Romo. Now, he isn't showing up at voluntary sessions for the Cowboys, and he's making no friends along the way. Tony Romo had this rather brusque commentary on Orton's absence:
Asked Tuesday if he talked to Orton, Romo said no.
Surprised Orton is not at the offseason workouts? "Am I surprised that Orton's not here?" Romo said. "I'm not sure what you mean."
When asked if he wanted to see Orton put forth the same commitment to the team as he and other players, Romo said: "Yeah, um, I don't have any comment on that."
Yikes. And while the coaches and executives keep saying they expect Orton here when things become mandatory, do they really want a guy here who doesn't want to be here? Apparently Jason Garrett is willing to give it a try.
"We had a situation a couple of years ago with Cole Beasley – you guys remember, in training camp, he came into my office and said, ‘I don’t want to play anymore,’" Garrett said. "We talked it through, had a conversation and laid out some parameters and tried to help him through that situation, because the track record of Cole Beasley in a short period of time spoke to us and spoke for itself.
"Sometimes things happen in someone’s life and they get off line a little bit and sometimes you’ve got to help them get back on line. We did that with (Beasley), and a couple days later he comes back and he’s really done a good job for us since then. You take each situation individually and understand what the circumstances are and try to make your best decisions – for the football team, first and foremost, but for the player as well."
Well, Cole Beasley was just a young kid, probably a little unsure about his future. Kyle Orton has been around the block a few times, I doubt there is anything Garrett could say that would suddenly alter his perspective.
In fact, it's likely that Orton is trying to get fired. What else could his plan be? He says he wants to retire, but the Cowboys are not going to let him do that without paying them back roughly $3 million. (You can read the details of why, here). Even for a pro athlete, that's quite a chunk of change. . But if the Cowboys dump him, he's home free. Able to retire, or perhaps sign elsewhere as KD has argued.
So he's pulling a Jay Ratliff. I'll be such a pain they'll have to dump me. But the Cowboys won't do that if they don't think they have a competent backup. So everything here may hinge on Brandon Weeden. His progress through OTAs and training camps could be the deciding factor.
Garrett on Weeden:
"I think it is good that Brandon is getting some work with the ones. We’ll see how he responds to that. He’s started a lot of games over the last couple years at this level. We see him – because of his baseball background – as a developmental guy. He has some experience here. We were excited to get him and have him on our roster. It’s good for him to get some of the work he’s getting."
Other early praise for Weeden:
"To hop in there and do as well as he did, I’ve been impressed," [Jason] Witten said. "You can tell he’s an older guy, very mature, strong arm. Picked up on the offense really quickly. Kind of took charge of the group in there, called the plays. That’s hard to do on your first day, especially when guys are used to one man’s cadence and his voice. Thought he did a really good job."
"He has two good years in the NFL now of experience and playing in a couple of systems. I think it really helped him," [Scott] Linehan said. "He’s in his third year. I think third years are really good years for quarterbacks to blossom and develop. He’s doing great. We’ve been really happy with what we’ve seen so far."
So what happens when Orton finally shows up, assuming he doesn't just retire and decide to pay the Cowboys $3 million? Does he perform purposely bad in practice? Does he act like a jerk and try cause dissension? Will he just flat-out try to get fired from his job?
This is a bizarre situation. The Cowboys saw something similar last year with Ratliff, now they have to play it out again. Will they give in? Will Orton change his mind? Maybe the NFL needs to start writing something into their contracts about players willfully choosing not to honor their contacts, but also choosing not to give back the money they've taken. It's been a weird offseason in Dallas.