Some more from the BTB Mailbag. Today we answer two questions.
From Daniel: What I don’t understand is that “IF” Earl is going to be the man he was in Seattle, then why are the Cowboys not pulling strings to get it done. Is a second round pick going to ensure the playoffs?
Earlier in the week, we received a new trade proposal in how the Cowboys could land Earl Thomas from the Seahawks. To be quite blunt, that proposal was weak. Everyone is getting stir-crazy waiting for any movement on the matter and Thomas is only stoking the fire with his social media posts. Yet, nothing has changed. Not for Earl, not for Seattle, and certainly not for the Dallas Cowboys.
First, you got to ask just how desperate each entity is? Right now, the only desperate party is Earl Thomas, who wants to either feel the love from the Seahawks or get traded. The reality is that things never move at the pace of the player in the NFL.
It’s not so easy to say “we’ll just flip a second-round pick.” The Cowboys didn’t do that during the draft, so they may think that’s too high of a price. Things might have changed on the Seattle side of things. Perhaps Earl Thomas is more valuable to the Seahawks as their starting safety with all the changes they have seen this offseason. Thomas is under contract for the 2018 season, if he doesn’t report to camp, he can be fined. Nothing is going to change in this matter until the holdout becomes official during camp. Is Earl Thomas willing to miss not only camp practices but game checks to force Seattle’s hand?
On the Cowboys’ side of this, they’re not under any pressure at all to up the ante for Earl Thomas. They like him, sure. Kris Richard may love him, but if they were desperate for him, he would already be a Cowboy. As we alluded to last week, the safety market is at a complete stop right now. Nothing is likely to happen for anyone until something happens with Earl Thomas. It’s clear that the Cowboys feel a lot better about their current safeties than those outside looking in. There is no assurance that getting Thomas will put the Cowboys in the playoffs to make a deep run. Thomas is passing the mythical line of 30 years of age, and has seen some injuries recently. He also wants a huge contract that will pay him as a top safety deep into his mid 30’s.
That’s risky business if you’re sending a second-round pick. You can never be sure Thomas is going to be the same player he has been in the past. Age/injury catches up with every one in the NFL. The Cowboys could be waiting out the Seahawks, hoping that if Thomas holds out and time passes, they may be able to get him for less than a second-round pick.
Pete from Nevada: It’s always a drag when a quality player goes down with an injury before the regular season starts. What specifically have the Cowboys done in recent years to limit injuries to the players (i.e. hamstrings, knee injuries, etc.)?
Well, the Cowboys medical staff is one of the top teams in the nation receiving tons of praise and accolades over the years. The team’s surgeon is part of the reason that Jaylon Smith will have an NFL career. They have also had a huge hand in the Cowboys teaming with Baylor Scott & White for a facility in Sports Medicine being built at The Star in Frisco.
All that aside, nobody can really prepare for unforeseen circumstances as attrition is just part of the game. What the Cowboys staff does starts with knowing their personnel, how they practice, what nutrition they need, and how to be better at preemptive maintenance. For example, they’ll never come out and say this outright but guys like Sean Lee or Tyron Smith are heavily monitored at all times.
It doesn’t mean that they don’t practice but in the case of Tyron Smith, his back tightness will always be something they deal with. They deal with him and others by putting them on a pitch count to avoid unnecessary contact. They put their players on routines that include rest for ailments or just rest for rest in general.
Also, after a rash of hamstring injuries in 2013, the Cowboys took a number of steps that have since significantly reduced soft tissue injuries. Todd Archer of ESPN explains:
The Cowboys altered their stretching program during the week, going through what they call a dynamic warm-up. That’s helped. They have added ballet bars to the locker room walls for players to stretch, as well as other equipment. It’s one thing to have players suffer structural injuries. That’s football. That’s going to happen. But the soft-tissue injuries are troublesome because they do seem to be a little bit more controllable.
We subsequently heard about knee braces, compression tights, heat spray, and even GPS tracking equipment being used by the Cowboys in an attempt to reduce soft-tissue injuries. Brandon George of the DMN adds more to the list:
Outside the team’s locker room at Valley Ranch, the Cowboys have added two ProFlex stretching machines, two other stretching machines designed for the core and lower body (above those are “stretch guides” on the wall), one World Cup skier’s plyometric apparatus and one Dynamic Edge skier’s machine.
The Cowboys also added a vibration machine in their weight room that helps players warm up their muscles, enhance flexibility and increase blood circulation to their body tissues.
NFL practice rules have also been put in place to limit physical contact. The NFL has done away with two-a-day practices which was a training camp staple of the past. During the offseason, only one padded practice is allowed per day but is accompanied by a walk-though. During the season, teams are allowed to have 14 full-padded practices but 11 of them must be completed by week 11 in the NFL. There’s an argument to be made that this hinders the ability to create physical football teams but it’s what players wanted.
The Cowboys have no more or less injuries than any other NFL team. What they do have is a quality medical staff that works tirelessly to maintain the health of their roster. When the inevitable occurs, that same staff is prepared get the players the best treatment available. That’s really all you can hope for in a physical sport such as football.