Cowboys defensive tackle Jay Ratliff finally broke his silence regarding the groin and hamstring injuries that have landed him on the Physically Unable to Perform list, sidelining him for at least the first six games of the season.
Ratliff, 32, said he's extremely disappointed in the setbacks in his rehab and vowed that he would return to the field with season, while alluded to tensions with the Cowboys training staff as reasons why he worked away from the facility during the off season.
"Absolutely I’m disappointed," Ratliff said of the team's annual kickoff luncheon at AT&T Stadium on Wednesday. "But everyone knew what the issue was way before hand. Everyone knew what it was since last year. I’m not going into much more detail other than that…It’s for sure it’s not a hamstring tweak. Thank you.
Ratliff missed ten games last season, including the last six because surgery to repair a sports hernia. He didn't use the Cowboys doctors for surgery and paid for his own rehab in the off season.
Ratliff returned the Cowboys for OTAs and minicamp and appeared to be gearing up for training camp when he suffered a hamstring injury during pre-camp conditioning drills.
Asked why he rehabbed away from the Cowboys' Valley Ranch headquarters, Ratliff declined to go into details.
"I’d rather not say," Ratliff said. "Let’s just keep the focus on these guys going out there and playing and winning games. I’m not going to be here and be a distraction to anybody. Just stay as professional as possible about the whole situation. But everyone that is involved knows what is going on."
Ratliff said he "absolutely" believes he will return to the field this season.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones offered a similar answer regarded his expectations of Ratliff not only return in 2013 but playing at a high level.
But Jones acknowledged the loss of the former Pro Bowler for the first six games of the season is a huge setback for the Cowboys.
Ratliff was expected to be a key component in defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's 4-3 scheme. The Cowboys envisioned Ratliff being an inside pass rusher from the under tackle position in Kiffin's defense similar to Hall of Famer Warren Sapp was during their time together in Tampa Bay.
"It is a setback. No, it is a setback," Jones said. "We will have to adjust just as we would if it was a mid-season injury. What we’re doing there and his status is that hopefully will move the process along faster. We’re hopeful this will let us rehab-wise, strength-wise that we can do more than just address this where he is."
Jones said he didn't know of any tension between Ratliff and the athletic training staff.
"I don’t know about that," Jones said. "What I’m saying I don’t know any of the details and I don’t have any comment on that."
Jones also refused to second-guess the decision to allow Ratliff to participate in the pre-camp conditioning test, where he complicated his rehab from the sports hernia with the additional hamstring injury.
"Again, everybody that was involved in the decision thought he could run the conditioning test for sure,'' Jones said. "So everybody involved in that decision thought he could run it. Everyone. 100 percent."
Jones said there no thought from anyone on the Cowboys that Ratliff won't play this season. He said if that was the case they would have done something different to address the position and not just him on PUP.
Despite the setback, Jones said his hopes and expectations for Ratliff haven't changed. Once he get's healthy and returns to the field, the Cowboys believe he will be an impact player in the defense and help extend the season beyond the 10 games that would be left and into the playoffs.
"I hope he’s an All-Pro player," Jones said. "I hope he can be. He can have let’s see, he could have certainly 13, 14 to go if it went like you’d like for it to be. A player like this as we again we’re just getting tested on our depth right out of the shoot, right off the bat, but hopefully we’ve got the depth to hold it until we can get him out there."
Clarence Hill Jr