OXNARD, Calif. -- Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says he's confident that his team's decision to release quarterback Quincy Carter last week can withstand scrutiny by the league and the NFL Players Association.
"I'm going to be very open with them if they want to talk to me about it," Jones said during a wide-ranging interview with two reporters Friday at the Cowboys' training camp here, two days after the Carter move.
The Players Association likely will file a grievance on Carter's behalf because the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the union prohibits a player from being released because of a failed drug test. Carter reportedly had a recent violation of the league's substance-abuse policy and already was in the program because of a previous failed drug test.
To win a grievance, the union would have to prove that Carter was cut because of a failed test. A union source, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the grievance has not yet been filed, said last week the Players Association feels it could accomplish that because Cowboys Coach Bill Parcells said a few days before the move that Carter was the front-runner to retain the starting job that he held last season.
Jones said that he and Parcells made their decision about Carter based on a series of events, not a single development. He declined to be more specific. That, Jones said, is what made Carter's case different from those of wide receiver Antonio Bryant, who remains with the club even after having a heated on-the-field confrontation with Parcells during an offseason practice, and guard Larry Allen, who still is with the team after clashing with Parcells over his work habits.
"With every player, this is a people business and it's a constant process of evaluating," Jones said Friday. "You don't in football -- like you don't outside football -- make a decision on one circumstance or one event. There's just too much incentive to be successful -- and you're so limited in your opportunities, especially with talented players and talented personnel -- that you lean toward giving. . . . the benefit of the doubt [to] the player. You always do. It's not like you bring people in here and you're leaning toward telling them to leave. Each case is on an individual basis and has different circumstances around it.
"The decision with Carter, I said, was not difficult. I didn't say it was easy. There's a difference. . . . It was very, very disappointing. You recognize the impact that decision would have, the impact that he had had on our franchise because he did a lot of good things here. But it was clear to me that we had to go in a different direction. It was not clear that we needed to go in a different direction with Antonio and those other examples. Given the circumstances, it was real clear that we needed to do everything we could to keep nurturing and trying to have a player like Antonio Bryant become the player that he can be for the Cowboys.
"Our players are not robots. It's not clear. It's subjective. . . . At some point in your decision-making on a player, you're going to go out there and trust your instincts and your feel for what's best for the team."
Union chief Gene Upshaw declined to comment late last week on the specifics of the Carter case, but confirmed that a player cannot be released because of a failed drug test. He said he would know more after spending the weekend in Canton, Ohio, for the Pro Football Hall of Fame festivities. Upshaw previously had expressed concerns about reports that Carter had failed a team-administered drug test, because individual clubs are barred by the collective bargaining agreement from conducting such tests. Cowboys officials told the league office that they do not conduct drug tests on their players.
Jones said his chief concern when he hired Parcells before last season was whether the legendary coach still had the energy his make his sideline magic work. Parcells has exceeded his expectations in that regard, Jones said, and their relationship has run smoothly.
"Everything is designed to make us better so we can win," Jones said. "I view it as a partnership, and I'm more so on that than it was when we started it. He brought everything here that he's about -- reputation, career. I've got everything here that I'm about. And we've got it out here at the same time in the middle of the table, and we're trying to make it successful in terms of winning a Super Bowl.
"The perception of my management style is that it's either my way or the highway, and if it's not my way it's going to be difficult. Bill shows that's not the case. It shows I am willing to work with someone with a different philosophy. I wanted fresh input, and bringing Bill in did that and does that.'' . . . Some people in the league are convinced that Parcells, with youngsters Drew Henson and Tony Romo currently backing up 40-year-old starter Vinny Testaverde, will sign an experienced backup quarterback later in camp, perhaps Ray Lucas or Neil O'Donnell. But late last week, Parcells said he was holding off because he wanted to get all the work for Henson and Romo that he could, and still get Testaverde ready for the season.
"Right now, obviously Henson, he's got to get returned to the football environment," Parcells said of the former University of Michigan standout who's returning to the sport after three years spent playing baseball in the New York Yankees organization. "You get a little torn. Vinny now is at the age where you don't want to wear him out in practice. I certainly don't want to do that. But by the same token, if I bring another person in to preserve him, I'm taking time away from what I know I need to do. I've just told [Testaverde], 'You just keep talking to me and let me know where you are.' And I've got to get these guys plenty of opportunities."
That means Parcells will go into teaching mode.
"This is a young team in many respects, with some good key veterans on it," he said. "But to get this team ready to play, I have to make believe like I don't have any veterans. I have to make believe like it's all young. The Flozell Adamses and the Larry Allens and the Richie Andersons and the Eddie Georges and the Keyshawn Johnsons and the Terry Glenns, they've just got to go with the flow. As we do that, I try to keep from wearing them out, and still accomplish what we want to accomplish.'' . . . The most unsettled spot on the Cowboys' in-flux offensive line is right tackle, where second-round draft choice Jacob Rogers is vying with Torrin Tucker and Javiar Collins for the starting job.
"It's going to be interesting," Parcells said. "I want to give all of them all the reps, but unfortunately I've got to give them [each] a third. . . . I've got a couple kids there on that offensive line that I've got to force-feed some things to.'' . . . Safety Darren Woodson was back in the Cowboys' camp over the weekend after undergoing back surgery, and is vowing to do whatever he can to be ready to play in the Sept. 12 regular season opener at Minnesota. Cowboys officials, though, seem to be targeting the Sept. 27 game at Washington, a Week 3 Monday night affair, for Woodson's return.
Philadelphia Eagles officials said that defensive end Jevon Kearse sprained his left ankle during today's morning practice. Kearse underwent X-rays, but no break was found, according to the club. The Eagles described Kearse's status as day to day. The team signed Kearse to an eight-year, $66 million contract in March via free agency despite his history of injuries while with the Tennessee Titans.
Wide receiver Tim Brown, released by the Oakland Raiders last week, could sign with a new team as soon as today. He spent the weekend at his home in Dallas and associates said that Brown planned to make his decision Sunday. His former coach in Oakland, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach Jon Gruden, has pursued him relentlessly, calling Brown three times on the first day that he was available. The Buccaneers need a receiver with Keenan McCardell holding out in a contract dispute and Joe Jurevicius sidelined after undergoing back surgery, and appear to be the front-runner to sign Brown.
The Miami Dolphins seem likely to sign free-agent wide receiver Antonio Freeman to replace David Boston, who's slated to miss the entire season after tearing his left patellar tendon Friday.
Freeman is scheduled to visit the Dolphins within the next day or two. The club canceled a scheduled visit by another veteran free agent, MarTay Jenkins.
Freeman, 32, has been a top receiver for much of his nine-year NFL career, eight seasons of which have been spent with the Green Bay Packers. He has 477 catches for 7,251 yards and 61 touchdowns. But he had only 14 receptions for 141 yards and no touchdowns last season for Green Bay, and might not have much left. . . .
The Dolphins also are likely to sign a free-agent safety or two because of injuries to Chris Akins and Shawn Wooden. One possibility could be Jason Sehorn. . . . Dolphins officials and agent Drew Rosenhaus have resumed negotiations on a long-term contract for defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, last season's AFC sack champion who has not yet reported to camp. The Dolphins are offering Ogunleye a deal similar to the five-year, $30-million extension to which they signed wide receiver Chris Chambers last week. That contract includes about $11.5 million in bonus money, split between a signing bonus and a second-year roster bonus.
Tailback Chris Perry, the 26th overall pick in the draft, is applying the finishing touches to a five-year contract with the Cincinnati Bengals worth approximately $7 million, an NFL source said this morning. That would leave four first-round selections still unsigned -- San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers (No. 4 overall), Cleveland tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. (No. 6), Seattle defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs (No. 23) and New England tight end Ben Watson (No. 32). . . . The Pittsburgh Steelers signed free agent linebacker Adrian Ross to a one-year contract worth about $535,000. . . .
The Arizona Cardinals perhaps lost tailback Marcel Shipp for the entire season when he suffered a dislocated left ankle and broken left fibula Friday. Shipp led the Cardinals in rushing last season but Coach Dennis Green named Emmitt Smith the starter at the position entering training camp. Josh Scobey and Damien Anderson are competing to be Smith's backup. . . .
The cornerback-needy Chicago Bears signed Eric Kelly, who was released by Minnesota in June. . . . San Francisco signed free agent defensive tackle Riddick Parker. . . . The New England Patriots released quarterback Kurt Kittner and offensive tackle James (Big Cat) Williams over the weekend. The travels continue for Kittner, who has been released by four teams -- Atlanta, Cincinnati, the Giants and New England -- since April. . . .
The Cowboys last week unveiled the throw-back uniform that they will wear on Thanksgiving, and it includes a white helmet with a blue star. . . . Linebacker Zach Thomas is scheduled to return to the Dolphins' practices today after being sidelined for nearly a month by torn knee cartilage . . . .
A series of brawls in a joint practice Friday between the Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs was precipitated by Minnesota defensive end Brock Lesnar, the former pro wrestling star trying to latch on in the NFL, hitting Chiefs quarterback Damon Huard during a drill in which quarterbacks weren't supposed to be hit. . . .
When linebacker Roosevelt Colvin came back from his hip injury to practice with the Patriots on Sunday, it meant that New England no longer had the option of placing Colvin on the physically unable to perform list to open the season (a move that would have given the Patriots the option of activating Colvin around midseason). Now the Patriots must have him on the active roster to open the season or make him ineligible to play for New England all season by placing him on the injured reserve list.