Rookie safety J.J. Wilcox got the highest praise from coach Jason Garrett on Tuesday when he was compared to former Cowboys player Bill Bates for his intensity in practice.
Wilcox also got admonished for tackling too much.
"Bill Bates is the nicest person on the planet until he gets between those stripes and then he just tackles everybody," Garrett said. "And he did that forever, and he’d tackle them to the ground and then he’d say ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’ He’d pick them up and do it the next play. Some guys just have that, and you love that and you have to constantly teach them how to practice, but you love that nature that they have. Wilcox has a little bit of that. Wilcox tackles way too much in practice, and you kind of coach both sides of it: ‘Hey, keep doing that, but don’t do that.’ You know what I’m saying?”
No, not really, but Wilcox has gotten the mixed message loud and clear.
"Yeah, he told me that after he cussed me out," Wilcox said of the Garrett comparison to Bates. "It’s love. It’s understandable. You just come in here trying to make plays as a rookie, just flying around and having a good time. Sometimes you have to slow off and [hit] the brakes a little bit. I’m learning that and learning how to take care of my teammates. On the defensive side, I got a pat on my back. But on the offensive side, I got a smack on my (butt). Excuse my language, but that’s definitely what it was. It’s tough love, and I love it."
Wilcox wants to make his mark on special teams like Bates and make a play for starting job. He is certainly off to a good as he has the attention of the coaches.
And while he has heard the message of dialing it down in practice, it's a lot easier said than done for someone with a non-stop motor.
"I don’t know where stop is," Wilcox said. "I’ve just got go and fast forward. That’s just how I was taught, how I was raised and what I was taught in college. It’s different here. I’m learning."
If he keeps listening to his coaches what he will also learn is that being a hitter in football is never a bad thing and like Bates he will find out it's better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.