Mac Engel

Cowboys should bring back Josh Brent

The person in you is not going to like this, but the fan in you will deal with it: The Cowboys should keep Josh Brent and let him play when he can.

There is the issue of the former Cowboys defensive tackle serving his 180-day jail sentence for last week’s conviction on intoxication manslaughter. He can thank Jerry Brown’s mother for playing such a key role in his reduced sentence.

Brent already has begun serving his sentence, and he could be out by late July — right around the time training camp begins.

Then he will have to tell the NFL he will “come out of retirement,” after which he could have to serve a suspension from NFL Police Commissioner Roger Goodell.

There is a reason why the Cowboys have not said an absolute “no” to a potential return for Brent — it’s because they want him back.

Of the many players Jerry Jones has given a second chance to — Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, Alonzo Spellman, Dimitrius Underwood, et al. — at least Brent has demonstrated he can play for this team. The people at Valley Ranch like him, and he was a respected and liked teammate.

The Cowboys still own Brent’s rights, and the Jones family could be safe in the knowledge the team will still need a defensive tackle whenever he is eligible to play.

Josh Brent does not have a college degree, he turns 26 on Thursday, has two DUIs on his record and will have a chance to make six figures playing football. Purely from a financial standpoint, it is hard to believe Brent is done.

The person in you says he does not earn another chance. That playing in the NFL is a privilege. That if Josh Brent had worked at a bank, he would never be rehired, considering his past. And you are right.

Quit thinking that somehow the same standards apply between us and them. Those standards apply when they are convenient, but exceptions are always made when talent meets need, which is often.

There is no debate that what Josh Brent did was terrible, and he is likely suffering internally in a way that few could imagine. This is not about second chances. The Cowboys were his second chance. This is about the ugly business of pro football.

Pro sports and entertainment have never operated under the same rules as the rest. Hell, the NFL is a billion-dollar business and is still tax exempt.

Pro sports and entertainment have always hired personalities that happily exist at the fringe of societal norms.

Not necessarily by choice, but usually as a matter of necessity, pro sports makes exceptions all the time.

The precedent for this scenario is Donté Stallworth. The Browns receiver was drunk when he hit and killed a pedestrian in March 2009. Stallworth received 30 days in jail and eight years’ probation, then was suspended for the 2009 season. He eventually returned and played three more years for three different teams.

And a Josh Brent is harder to find than a Donté Stallworth.

There are not many 6-foot-2, 321-pound men who can do what Josh Brent does. You may not remember because so much time has passed since Brent last played a game — Dec. 2, 2012, against the Eagles — but he was a rapidly developing, quality interior defensive lineman.

Long before the Cowboys continued their fruitless dog-and-pony show with Jay Ratliff, Brent was primed to take Ratliff’s spot and become the full-time starter. He has good feet, can plug the middle and collapse a pocket. He was regarded as a good teammate.

You likely recall, after watching the Cowboys in the 2013 season, they desperately need a guy like Josh Brent. Brent could have made a difference.

That’s what the Cowboys need along the defensive line (and a few other places) — guys who make a difference. Brent can be that guy.

Ideally, the proper argument should be whether Brent deserves yet another chance. And if he worked for at the local bank, the argument applies. He would need a buddy just to get a job that paid minimum wage.

Pro football isn’t a bank. It’s about talent. Josh Brent has it, will be relatively cheap talent and still in his prime. The Cowboys will need him, whether Josh Brent is available in July 2014, or the spring of ’15. He will come back, be a distraction for a short bit and it will blow over.

The person in you may not like it, but the fan in you will always deal with it.

Follow Mac Engel on The Big Mac Blog at

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