Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett spouted the company line when it was time to discuss the team’s most recent suspension, defensive end Damontre Moore being sidelined for two games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Garrett and the Cowboys expected as much when they signed Moore. The suspension stemmed from a DUI arrest last December when he was a member of the Seattle Seahawks.
The Cowboys signed him anyway after making him go through a program with their support staff with strict conduct and behavior stipulations.
“We understood what that situation was when signed him,” Garrett said. “Like we talked the other day, he made great strides in our evaluations by our player engagement people and so we went ahead and made that signing under our conditions knowing full well a suspension was a possibility. ... But again we knew this situation with Damontre Moore before we signed him and he’s done a nice job since he’s been here.”
While that puts a nice little bow on the Cowboys’ point of view, it doesn’t change the optics that this is a team and organization that continually has suspension issues.
Moore is the fourth player to be suspended for the start of the upcoming season, joining defensive end Randy Gregory (one-year for violating the drug policy), defensive end David Irving (four games for taking a banned substance) and receiver Shaquille Evans (four games for violating the drug policy).
Evans has already been released.
But the Cowboys are facing three other possible suspensions in 2017, considering that linebacker Damien Wilson has been charged with two counts of aggravated assault from an incident in July, cornerback Nolan Carroll was arrested for DWI in Dallas in May and running back Ezekiel Elliott is awaiting the results of a year-long domestic violence investigation.
So while Garrett talks philosophically about the Moore suspension and the others along the defensive line being a great opportunity for guys to step in and show what they can do, the continued unavailability of teammates is a source of frustration to linebacker Sean Lee.
“No question this is a tough deal,” Lee said of the Moore suspension. “Guys have to understand we have this unbelievable opportunity to play with these teammates and to play for this organization. Anytime you have that opportunity you have to take advantage of it.”
Sadly, Lee said the Cowboys have experience dealing with these types of setbacks and they will overcome and move on.
The Cowboys have had an NFL-high 16 suspensions since 2014. They had three players suspended last year, four in 2015 and three in 2014. Of the three in 2016, two players were suspended twice in Gregory and linebacker Rolando McClain.
Lee said it’s past time for guys to learn to make the decisions on and off the field, and know they are affecting their teammates with their poor choices.
“Every decision I make I keep my teammates in mind,” Lee said. “I keep this organization in mind. I keep the fact that we have this unbelievable tradition in mind and this opportunity to play. As leaders, we have to teach some of these guys a better way and they have to respond.”
Lee had been waiting to address this issue since the start of camp. He then went on a personal diatribe about what more the leaders can do, while drawing from his own personal experiences of unavailability due to injuries.
“We have to get across that we are blessed to play,” Lee said. “Every time we step on this field we are blessed to play. I feel that way because I have been injured so much. When you are out of the game it’s a terrible feeling. When you have this opportunity you have to do everything possible to take advantage of it. We have to instill that in them. We can do a better job as leaders and some of the younger guys have to respond.”