IRVING, Texas - By their very nature kickers are weirdos. They also have the memory of an elephant, or a golfer. They remember every kick, and more specifically every miss.
Dan Bailey has been the Cowboys kicker since 2011, and "I'm not sure how many I have missed," Bailey told me in an exclusive interview with The Big Mac Blog. Not every reporter can just an interview a kicker.
Bailey has made 97 of 106 field goals in his career. That’s a 91.5 percent accuracy. Fairly decent, and not many misses to remember. If my math is correct, he has missed nine field goals in his career. He is 8 for 8 this season on field goals, and I wanted to see if he remembers the last time he missed.
“Uhh … San Diego,” he said.
Bingo – give the man a cigar.
On Sept. 9, 2013 in San Diego, Bailey missed a 56-yard attempt in the second quarter. Should have cut him on the spot.
“I remember it was a pretty long one,” he said. “I hit it pretty well; it just went a little left.”
"It is one of those things that you do remember the misses," he said. "I try to remember all of them, especially the long kicks, or end of game situations."
I tried to stump him.
"Oh ... yeah. Hard one to forget," he said.
On Oct. 14, 2012, Bailey missed a 51-yard field goal with a few seconds remaining that would have won the game. It was one of two misses he had that year.
ME: The Giants?
"Yep - my rookie year. (Jason Pierre Paul) got it," he said.
With six seconds remaining, the Cowboys ran Bailey on the field for a potential game-tying kick from 47 yards.
DALLAS, Texas - Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle joked Tyson Chandler is the most popular one-year player in the history of any franchise.
Chandler has played for five different teams in 13 NBA seasons, yet that one year he played with the Mavericks - 2010-'11 - is the one that made him a Mav for life.
"I spent one year here and everybody equates my career to being here," he said at Mavs' media day this week. "Even guys around the league (will ask), 'How many years did you play in Dallas?' And I'll say one. And they say, 'What?' Everybody thinks I was here four, five or six years. It was one really long, incredible year. I am definitely tied here and it's a great thing that I am."
Chandler, whom the Mavs acquired in the offseason in a trade with the New York Knicks, is back for the final year of his contract.
The first time he came here little was expected of Chandler. He was coming off another injury plagued season, then with the Charlotte Bobcats.
"I don't think anybody knew what to expect the first time around," he said. "Clearly this time around, having success and winning a championship, expectations are a little bit different."
His length, energy, activity and ability to change shots should improve the Mavs' defense immediately. This team has not been strong defensively on the perimeter, or at the rim, since he left. Chandler changes that, when he plays.
If there is any drawback to Chandler, or concern, is that he remains a guy who simply can't stay healthy. He has never played a full 82-game season, in the past two years he has been limited to 66 and 55 games, respectively.
In his one year with the Mavs, he played 74 games but did not miss a playoff game. I asked him if the "injury prone" label was fair.
"Uhh ... you know, I don't know. I've had injuries in my career. I guess you could throw that out there," he said. "Whether it's fair or not, it's not for me to honestly care about. I go day by day trying to perform to the best of my capabilities. And from there you never know what happens."
Carlisle has said managing Chandler's minutes - somewhere under 30 a night - is a priority. The Mavs do not expect him to play 82 games - they hope in the 70s - but a full playoff run will makeup for any regular season game he misses.
DALLAS, Texas - The pause was a few seconds, but the way it stretched Dirk Nowitzki sounded like he had never thought about it even though he has pondered age repeatedly.
At the Dallas Mavericks media day on Monday, I asked the best player in the history of the Dallas Mavericks if he felt old. He needed about five seconds to answer a basic question.
"Uhhh ... in my head, probably not; I'm probably in my early 20s," he said. "Body wise, yeah - I am probably up there. Year 17. I still feel good. I had the knee thing a couple of years ago. Last year showed me I could play at a high level and compete and it was fun again."
Despite the additions of Tyson Chandler and Chandler Parsons, or even Monta Ellis last season, Mark Cuban's toy remains Dirk, Dirk, Dirk.
He is 36, and is coming off a season where he played 80 games and averaged 21.7 points and 6.2 rebounds. He also averaged 32.9 minutes per game. That figure has to come down.
Last season, Dirk showed he can still do it. The concern for the Mavericks regarding Dirk is not whether he can still do it, but how to ask less of him and still expect to win games. I asked Mavs coach Rick Carlisle how they can ask less of their franchise player.
"That's a good question," he said.
That's right - it was a good question. Please continue...
"I'd like to keep to continue to work his minutes gradually down if I could," Carlisle said. "We are going to have to find a high energy level with our guys and play with a lot of pace. If we can do that, I think we can find a way to get 32 minutes maybe down to 29 - who knows? A lot of it is spacing and how you rest him. He played bigger minutes late in the year. The important thing was when we got to that he was fresh enough he could do it. We are looking big picture with him."
This is not the first time Carlisle has tried to massage and manage a Hall of Fame player near the end of his career, and monitored minutes closely to save aging legs.
In 2003-'04 and '04-'05, Carlisle coached Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller when he was 38 and 39.
"There are similarities. We were vigilant how we played Reggie his last couple of years," Carlisle said. "But he was a different position and a different style of player. There are some similarities, but many, many differences."
In his last two seasons, Reggie averaged 28.2 and 21.9 minutes, respectively, and 10 and 14.8 points in each of his final two years.
Having signed a three-year contract over the summer, Dirk is not expecting to retire any time soon. He said he expects to fulfill this deal, and for the time being he should remain the Dirk we have all come to completely take for granted.
The question for the Mavs is how to ask less of their Hall of Famer, while still expecting to win games.
ARLINGTON, Texas - Anthony Spencer was credited with three tackles, and one hit on the quarterback but the mere fact he played is the accomplishment.
The veteran linebacker/defensive end from Purdue likely should not be playing football any more after he had microfracture surgery on his knee last season. Before the Cowboys' 38-17 win against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night, the last time Spencer played was Sept. 15, 2013 in Kansas City.
"It feels good to be back out there," Spencer said on Sunday night. "It was a lot of hard work to get out there and it feels good. Now I have to put the work on the football field."
If, somehow, Spencer is able to return to being close to the player he was in 2011 and 2012 when he was a reliable defender against the run and good in pass situations, this would be a major coup for the Cowboys. They were hopeful he may be able to return from his knee surgery, but now that he is actually playing their expectations change. Maybe they shouldn't, but they will.
Spencer, 30, will never be a three-down player again but he can be a part of a rotation that makes plays, and then gets a rest.
"I don't think I played over 25 snaps," Spencer said. "I didn't get too gassed out there. I got action."
That Spencer played at all is a major achievement. Now we will see if he can do anything from here.
OTHER WEEK 4 OBSERVATIONS
Quarterback Tony Romo attempted 29 passes against the Saints. That is the third consecutive game he has attempted fewer than 30 passes:
9/14/14: 29 passes at Titans. Cowboys win 26-10 9/21/14: 23 passes at Rams. Cowboys win 34-31 9/28/14: 29 passes vs. Saints. Cowboys win 38-17
The last time Romo had three consecutive games attempting 30 or fewer passes was 2006, when he was made the starter on Oct. 29.
11/12/06: 20 passes at Arizona. Cowboys win, 27-10 11/19/06: 23 passes v. Colts. Cowboys win, 21-14 11/23/06: 29 passes v. Bucs. Cowboys win, 38-10
In his first game since his demotion, Morris Claiborne had to leave the game with what Cowboys owner Jerry Jones called a tear. That means more Sterling Moore. Good. Moore keeps making plays. He had three tackles and two passes defended against the Saints, including an impressive stop of Saints tight end Jimmy Graham.
Moore is an undrafted player out of SMU, but he makes plays. He had a fourth quarter fumble recovery that he likely would have returned for a touchdown had the officials not blown the call.
Cornerback Orlando Scandrick plays with an edge and is clearly better than every other corner. He had seven tackles against the Saints with two passes defended. The Cowboys had no choice but to bench Claiborne for Scandrick and it paid off.
One Cowboys insider said he thought the team would win once he saw that linebacker Rolando McClain (groin) would play. McClain was credited with two tackles, but he is active and visible. He told me he did not feel as good as he did against the Titans two weeks ago.
I asked him if he was aware that his team needs him.
"Yeah," he said. "And I need them."
Before he suffered a quad injury, linebacker Bruce Carter was again having another impactful game. He had six tackles with a pair of passes defended, including one tipped pass that Justin Durant intercepted off of Drew Brees.
Saints coach Sean Payton blew it in the fourth quarter when he had his punter attempt a pass on a trick fourth down play when his team trailed by two touchdowns but had some momentum. Payton has a Hall of Fame quarterback to throw it, but preferred his punter throwing a pass over Drew Brees.
Up Next: The Houston Texans are frauds, but somehow a team with Ryan Fitzpatrick as its starting quarterback is 3-1. They will be 3-2 next week after the visit AT&T Stadium to play the Cowboys in the battle for Rick Perry's Cup.
IRVING, Texas - The act that everything is OK with Tony Romo is over, and the Dallas Cowboys have simply embraced the reality they have to be careful with their money quarterback.
For the second consecutive Wednesday, Romo took the day off from the normal practice and team activities. No reason other than caution. At 34, and with years of experience, there is no reason to push a back that had two surgeries on it last year.
I asked Romo on Wednesday if his back hurt.
"No, it doesn’t hurt," he said. "Over time through torque and things that happen after surgery develops - normal soreness, like coming back from normal surgery of any kind. You want to guard against that so you are not feeling those effects come Sunday."
That explanation makes sense.
The other part I have wondered if players, or people, coming off invasive procedures will subconsciously look for pain and soreness in that area because they think it should be there. That if they had not had the pain, the soreness would be written off.
Romo believes he is not experiencing any of this.
"What happens is you end up, if you do too much or put too much pressure on it, sometimes you will then feel it but you don’t look for it," Romo said. "You go and do it. There are certain moves and things that will put more pressure or inflammation as you continue to do it, so you try to do the right amount of reps."
Mark Cuban is never boring, and his efforts to include fans in the re-design of a new alternate jersey for his little toy have resulted in a slick new uniform that was unveiled today. Cubes used "crowd sourcing" that resulted in hundreds and hundreds of potential selections before he settled on a new design.
The new jerseys were unveiled today at a press conference at the American Airlines Center, but the actual jersey itself will not be worn until 2015-'16. Yes - these will be on sale soon ... what are the odds?
Hard to complain about this new look. The first preference, of course, was simply to use a Cuban selfie, or cariacture cartoon, as the new jersey, but this second option is not too bad. But on first glance, it does look like a distant cousin to another team in the National Basketball Association ...
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ST. LOUIS, Missouri - DeMarco Murray continues to be used as a feature back with no partner. Whether Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett believes Murray is a bell cow or lead-dog or whatever, he is using him in a way that says he does not trust the other guys.
Not that Joseph Randle or Lance Dunbar are bums, but through three games the Cowboys' committment to run the ball is almost exclusively on Murray. The Cowboys rank second in the NFL in rushing offense - 157 yards per game - and that is nearly all because of one guy.
The Cowboys rank fourth in the NFL in rushing attempts. It's only three games, but Murray is on pace for 400 carries for 2,053 yards. That would be a decent season.
For a player who has battled little injuries throughout his career both with the Cowboys and the University of Oklahoma, his professional team is obviously not worried that the bug will bite him again this season.
As long as this holds, and he stops fumbling, no one will complain.
OTHER WEEK 3 POST OP OBSERVATIONS
Rookie fourth round pick Anthony Hitchens said after the win against the Rams that he did not believe the speed of the game was something he struggled with. He led the team with 13 tackles; he also had one tackle for a loss and one pass defended. Hitchens did make the stop of Rams running back Zac Stacy on a 4th-and-1 attempt in the third quarter.
Hitchens started because Rolando McClain was out with a groin injury. Bruce Carter had a nice game, but this team needs McClain, who was making plays at the line and on the ball in a way no other defender has for this team.
Defensive end George Selvie told me he fully expects defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to do some yelling at his defensive line this week. The Cowboys defensive line has no sacks this season. Selvie still looks like he possibly is nursing a sore shoulder, and defensive tackle Henry Melton was trying to play through a groin injury during the game. Jason Hatcher may not have repeated his 2013 season in 2014, but his absence is rather large right now.
Dez Bryant has 20 catches for 247 yards with two touchdowns, but it feels like he has a ka-boom game coming.
A handful of people noticed this, but on DeMarco Murray's 44-yard run in the second half, the man running down the field was center Travis Frederick. The second-year center from Wisconsin displayed some Larry Allen-type wheels on that run.
The Cowboys were trying to run out the clock with less than 2:30 remaining when Tony Romo picked the worst time to miss a pass. The Cowboys were facing a 3rd-and-3 from their own 32 when Romo's pass for an open Lance Dunbar was wide, and forced the Cowboys to punt. That was Romo's only imcompletion of the second half. Before that throw, Romo was 7 for 7 for 128 yards with two touchdowns in the second half.
Up Next: AT&T Stadium will likely turn into the Superdome on Sunday night when the New Orleans Saints visit for Sunday night football. The Saints are 1-2. The last time these teams played was November 10, 2013 - a Saints' 49-17 win. You may recall that game. The Saints had 40 first downs and 625 yards of offense.
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The last time we saw the Dallas Stars they were slapping their hockey sticks on the hockey ice after a disappointing end to what was a good hockey season. (Saying the word 'hockey' over and over just does not have the same macho impact as the word football.)
The Stars were defeated by the Anaheim Ducks in the first round of the NHL's Western Conference playoffs in the spring. Since that Game 6 loss, Stars general manager Jim Nill went all-in by adding forwards Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky to the roster.
There are still concerns on the blueline, but in terms of forwards the Stars have about as good as group as any in the NHL, including the Chicago Blackhawks.
Which brings us to the following PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT - HOCKEY IS BACK, AND RETURNING TO DOWNTOWN FORT WORTH.
From Friday Sept. 19 to the 21, the team will have its training camp at the Fort Worth Convention Center. This is an ideal way for fans to watch these guys up close and personal, and the perfect opportunity for autographs, pictures, etc. Hockey training camps are relaxed, light and fun.
Practice times at FW Convention Center Friday Sept. 19: 9 to 10:45 a.m. (Group A); 11:45 to 1:30 p.m. (Group B) Saturday Sept. 20: 9 to 10:45 a.m. (Group A); 11:45 to 1:30 p.m. (Group A&C) Sunday Sept. 21: Intra-squad scrimmage 10 a.m.
Beginning at 3 p.m. on Friday at Sundance Square, the Stars will have their Cowtown Kickoff. The event will feature games for kids and live music.
At 7 p.m. there will be a fan Q&A with members of the Dallas Stars organization.
NASHVILLE, Tennessee – What felt unattainable after Week 1 now looks promising after Week 2. The loss/win/win/loss pattern the Dallas Cowboys have dutifully followed for years running remains the best way to the ultimate goal of 8-8.
The Cowboys have an NFL record four straight seasons of .500 in their sights, and it is once again theirs for the taking. The Cowboys visit the St. Louis Rams next Sunday, and host the New Orleans Saints in Week 4. After September, the Cowboys should be 2-2 with a chance to blow it in Week 17.
All sarcasm aside, the Cowboys' 26-10 win against the Titans on Sunday is the joys of the Jerry Coaster this team has taken you on for roughly a decade.
Twice since the 2003 season have the Dallas Cowboys been completely out of it by the start of December: 2004: This was Bill Parcells’ second season, and the team was 4-7 by the start of December. 2010: This was the season Wade Phillips was fired after a 1-7 start.
Other than those two dismal years, the team has been around the playoff chatter every time since ’03. At a minimum the Cowboys do maintain the ability of holding our interest for nearly the entire duration of the regular season, making every game count in the standings more than draft order.
Granted, paying close attention to all of this can be hazardous to your health and drive you to drink, but thus far in 2014 the Jerry Coaster is humming just fine, and 8-8 is still attainable.
OTHER WEEK 2 POST OP OBSERVATIONS
Kicker Dan Bailey(find Dan Bailey on Twitter here) is the pound for pound best player on the team. It sounds silly that a kicker should receive this type of love, but along with right tackle Tyron Smith, Bailey is this team’s most consistent player. Bailey was 4 for 4 on field goals, and is one of the top three in the league at his position. He has missed two kicks in his last 18 games, and is kicking at a 91.3 success rate in his career.
He will be part of a larger discussion but the way linebacker Rolando McClain (click here for McClain's profile on NFL.com)is playing is serving as a legit substitute for Sean Lee. McClain looks like the No. 8 pick in the draft. For the majority of the season, people will fear McClain’s interest in the game and his ability to remain injury free, but through the first two games of the season he has been everywhere and the team’s best front seven player. Against the Titans, he had a sack and as athletic of an interception that could happen. He should have had been able to allow to return that interception for a touchdown in the second half but the refs blew the call. In two games, he has 12 tackles, one pass break up, one interception and one sack.
... Jake Locker is the second coming of Vince Young. The Titans starting QB is big, athletic and he can move but he is not an accurate passer. Locker was 18 of 34 passing for 234 yards with two interceptions. Other than the opening drive of the second half, Locker struggled throughout and he needs to do more to convince Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt he has a guy who can save his job.
... Cowboys corner Orlando Scandrick is closer to returning if the NFL and the NFLPA can agree to a new drug testing policy, and when he does come back from his four-game suspension Sterling Moore is going to make the secondary crowded. Moore is making himself noticed by making plays in the secondary and at the line of scrimmage. On Sunday, Moore was credited with five tackles, one tackle for loss, two passes defended and one forced fumble. Because the Cowboys invested so much in Morris Claiborne, Moore may not be a threat to start but he is going to take snaps away from somebody.
... Cowboys right tackle Doug Free struggled badly in the first half and allowed at least two of the four sacks to Tony Romo. The outside first step taken by a handful of Titans' pass rushers gave Free fits. Asis the case with many right tackles, space is the enemy. On the other side, however, Tyron Smith cleared space for DeMarco Murray on many of his long carries.
... One week after Mo Claiborne and Brandon Carr each played zone coverage most of the game, both corners were allowed to do what they are better suited to do - play near the line and use their hands to press. "We talked about it on the bench - how we would be rather be closer to the line of scrimmage rather than play zone," Claiborne said. "Coach did a great job of mixing it up and kept us down more than we had last week."
... Should you re-watch the game, try to find Dez Bryant on the Cowboys' first snap from scrimmage. The Titans lined up two corners on him at the line as if Bryant was a gunner on special teams.
... The Cowbys travel to St. Louis in Week 3. The last time the Dallas Cowboys played in St. Louis was Oct. 19, 2008. This was the infamous game before hand then Cowboys corner Adam "Pacman" Jones said, "They're the Rams, dude." The Cowboys were without Tony Romo, and backup Brad Johnson quickly showed he was done. The Cowboys scored a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead, and the Rams scored three first quarter touchdowns and 34 consecutive points to win 34-14. This was one of two wins for the Rams that season. The Cowboys finished 9-7.
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