Cowboys notes: Undrafted rookie safety ready to make first start

Posted Friday, Oct. 25, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
A

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

Jeff Heath last played at Ford Field in a state championship game as a senior. He attended Detroit Lions games there, too.

So at least he can take comfort in his surroundings as he makes his first start for the Dallas Cowboys.

Heath, an undrafted rookie from Saginaw Valley State, will start at strong safety in place of rookie draft pick J.J. Wilcox. Wilcox, who has started the past five games, sprained a knee in Thursday’s practice.

“You only have so many guys on the team, so you have to be ready to play,” Heath said Friday. “We have kind of had that on our defense the whole year, guys coming in and stepping up and playing good in games. Now it’s my turn to do that.”

Heath got some valuable experience in last week’s victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, spending time at each safety spot. He was in for 24 plays. Heath had played only 17 snaps the first six games.

“We like him,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s been a guy who’s done a lot of really positive things for us since he’s been here. Again, a college free agent who came in and said, ‘I’m going to make your football team based on my performance each and every day.’ It first showed up on special teams, but he’s been a solid performer on defense when he’s gotten opportunities.”

Wilcox, who injured his knee fighting for the ball with tight end Gavin Escobar during red zone drills, walked with a noticeable limp Friday. He could miss next week’s game against the Minnesota Vikings, too, but executive vice president Stephen Jones said Friday that he expects Wilcox’s injury to be short-term.

“It’s similar to what DeMarco [Murray] has,” Jones said.

Murray missed last week’s game with a sprained knee but is expected back this week.

Back-to-back

For the only time this season, the Cowboys play back-to-back road games on consecutive weekends. (They have a bye between trips to New Orleans and the New York Giants.)

Having won last week in Philadelphia, the Cowboys try to make it a sweep this weekend in Detroit.

The Cowboys have not won back-to-back road games on consecutive weekends since 2009. From 1996-2012, the Cowboys faced 34 back-to-back road trips — 68 total games — and they managed to sweep only three times.

“One of the things we’ve preached to our team is you really can’t worry about where you’re playing, who you’re playing, when you’re playing, all that kind of stuff,” Jason Garrett said. “We all smile when I say that stuff, but I just believe it.…What matters is how we prepare and then how we go play, regardless who the opponent is and where we’re playing them. That’s really our mindset.”

Ware doubtful

The Cowboys list defensive end DeMarcus Ware as doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Lions.

He has not practiced since injuring his thigh two weeks ago against the Redskins.

Receiver Miles Austin (hamstring) was limited in Friday’s practice and is questionable. So is running back DeMarco Murray, who was limited this week with a sprained knee.

The Cowboys have ruled starting safety J.J. Wilcox out with a sprained knee and rookie linebacker DeVonte Holloman (neck) will miss a second consecutive game.

The other eight players on the team’s injury report, including Dez Bryant (wrist/hamstring), are probable.

Ratliff drama

The Cowboys continue to try to put a happy face on the drama with former defensive tackle Jay Ratliff. The Cowboys released Ratliff last week for a failed physical, but Ratliff’s doctor this week cleared Ratliff to play.

Ratliff’s agent is soliciting offers from other teams.

The Cowboys insist there are no hard feelings toward Ratliff, though they acknowledge they might pursue legal recourse with the former four-time Pro Bowler who was signed a five-year, $40 million contract extension in 2011.

Owner Jerry Jones said Friday on his radio show on KRLD-FM that the Cowboys could possibly get salary-cap relief if Ratliff signs with another team.

“It is better for everybody concerned if Jay can go on and play,” Jones said.

Charean Williams 817-390-7760 Twitter: @NFLCharean

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?





Friday, October 24Full Scoreboard
Kansas City 10/24 8:07 PM ET
San Francisco TV: FOX
110th World Series, Game Three. Series tied, 1-1.
Full Scoreboard
Friday, October 24Full Scoreboard
Dallas 10/24 7:00 PM ET
Orlando 
New York 10/24 7:30 PM ET
Toronto TV: MSG, TSN2
Minnesota 10/24 8:00 PM ET
Chicago TV: CSN-CHI
San Antonio 10/24 8:00 PM ET
Houston TV: CSN-HOU, NBA TV
Miami 10/24 8:00 PM ET
Memphis TV: Sun Sports
Phoenix 10/24 9:00 PM ET
Utah 
Sacramento 10/24 10:00 PM ET
LA Lakers TV: TWC SN, D
Denver 10/24 10:30 PM ET
Golden State TV: CSN-Bay
Portland 10/24 10:30 PM ET
LA Clippers TV: FSN-PT, NBA TV
Full Scoreboard
Week 8Full Scoreboard
Thursday
San Diego21Final | Box
Denver «35Gridiron Replay
Sunday
Detroit 9:30 AM ET
Atlanta TV: FOX
Seattle 1:00 PM ET
Carolina TV: CBS
Baltimore 1:00 PM ET
Cincinnati TV: CBS
Miami 1:00 PM ET
Jacksonville TV: CBS
St. Louis 1:00 PM ET
Kansas City TV: FOX
Chicago 1:00 PM ET
New England TV: FOX
Buffalo 1:00 PM ET
NY Jets TV: CBS
Minnesota 1:00 PM ET
Tampa Bay TV: FOX
Houston 1:00 PM ET
Tennessee TV: CBS
Philadelphia 4:05 PM ET
Arizona TV: FOX
Oakland 4:25 PM ET
Cleveland TV: CBS
Indianapolis 4:25 PM ET
Pittsburgh TV: CBS
Green Bay 8:30 PM ET
New Orleans TV: NBC
Monday
Washington 8:30 PM ET
Dallas TV: ESPN
Full Scoreboard
Friday, October 24Full Scoreboard
Dallas 10/24 7:00 PM ET
New Jersey TV: FSN-SW, MSG+
Tampa Bay 10/24 8:00 PM ET
Winnipeg TV: SUN, TSN3
Vancouver 10/24 9:00 PM ET
Colorado TV: TVA 2, SNE, SNO, SNP, Alt
Carolina 10/24 9:30 PM ET
Edmonton TV: SPSO, SN-W
Columbus 10/24 10:00 PM ET
Anaheim TV: FSN-OH, FSN-PT
Full Scoreboard