The Dallas Cowboys officially ended what has been more than a year of drama with injured and disgruntled defensive tackle Jay Ratliff by terminating the contract of the former four-time Pro Bowl standout Wednesday.
The Cowboys released Ratliff from the physically unable to perform list, citing a failed physical.
Ratliff, who missed training camp and the preseason because of continued problems with “hernia” and hamstring injuries, was eligible to return to the team this week.
But Ratliff is still not close to being healthy enough to play.
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The Cowboys considered putting him on injured reserve for the rest of the season. But, according to a source, if he couldn’t get on the field this year there was no way they were going to bring him back next year with a $5.5 million base salary and a $8.2 million salary cap charge.
Cutting him now means that Ratliff will count $6.9 million in dead money next year because of his five-year, $48 million contract extension in 2011.
It will actually be a cap savings of more than $1 million, and he will be off the books for the 2015 season.
Neither owner Jerry Jones nor coach Jason Garrett was available to comment on the release Wednesday.
Ratliff’s agent, Mark Slough, said he was not surprised by the move and that his client will seek a fresh start elsewhere next year.
Slough also indicated that Ratliff’s nine-year career came to an end amid confusion and misinformation about his injury, complicated by a “strained” relationship with the team’s medical staff.
Ratliff tried to put a happy face on his departure with this statement, released by Slough.
“Let me say thank you to the Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones for taking a chance on me in 2005. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Cowboys and it was always my desire to begin and end my career here in Dallas. But I understand this business, and now it’s time to move on, turn the page and begin again.”
Slough then went on the offensive, saying Ratliff’s injury was much more severe than the slow rehab and setbacks from sports hernia surgery last December as it had been described by the Cowboys.
“This was not a sports hernia injury. This was never a sports hernia injury,” Slough said. “This was a very serious injury. Muscle was ripped off the bone — the pelvis — in two places. The tendons that are attached to the pelvis from inside the leg, and then from the abdomen at the top of the pelvis, were both ripped apart. It was a very vicious injury. This injury takes a long time to heal.
“The expectation from the beginning was that this injury would probably take a year [to heal].
“So the fact that Jay is not yet healthy is not a surprise based on the severity of the injury. I think people misunderstood — well, I know people misunderstood — because they never really had a clear idea of what happened.”
Asked why he didn’t make clear the misinformation any time after the initial surgery, Slough said, “We never felt the need to clear it up. Jay isn’t one to speak a lot in the media. As a result, I do what he asked me to do. So we chose to let it be.”
Asked why the team didn’t say it was something more severe than a sports hernia, Slough said, “That’s a great question. You should ask them.”
Ratliff played in six games last season before undergoing surgery for the supposed sports hernia in December. It was also when he began having problems with the Cowboys’ staff regarding his rehab. He was inactive for the first four games of the season with an ankle injury before injuring his groin in November, resulting in the hernia surgery.
Last season, Ratliff physically went after Jerry Jones after a game because he thought his commitment to rehabbing the injury was being questioned.
The battles with Jones and the staff over his injury and rehab — not to mention the five-year, $48 million contract extension in 2011, including $18 million in guaranteed money that the Cowboys got no return on — punctuated the bitterness of the decline and subsequent departure.
“They’re moving on, so we’re moving on,” Slough said.