Jerry Jones takes dead aim at 3 former Dallas Cowboys players for being unavailable

Gus Ruelas/AP
·4 min read

Hall of Fame Dallas Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders once said, “if you think I’m talking about you, then I’m talking about you.”

Well, the spider senses of former Cowboys players wide receiver Amari Cooper, right tackle La’el Collins and defensive end Randy Gregory should be tingling after owner Jones took dead aim at them during a press conference to open training camp Tuesday.

Jones said availability or lack thereof was the main reason the team let them go following the 2021 season, and caused them to be unreliable in the team’s quest to win a title.

“Let me be real clear, we’re in a sport where in football, certainly your skill level and your ability to be a player is why you’re even being considered as a player,” Jones said. “More important than anything, these decisions that we made, I made relative to top players not being here, had everything to do with their availability and my concern about their availability.”

Cooper was traded to the Cleveland Browns. Collins was released and signed with the Cincinnati Bengals. Gregory initially decided to return to the Cowboys before reneging on a deal and signing with the Denver Broncos after Jones didn’t acquiesce to his demand to take a clause out of his contract.

All the situations were different.

But the end result was the same and reasons were synonymous, per Jones.

He didn’t mention them by name.

But it was clear who he was talking about.

“We lost three really high-profile players,” Jones said. “Those players were in the top 10 of our players that make the most money. When you get into that spot, I can tell you, your standards go up. Your bar is higher, your conduct is higher, your attention to the team is higher, not just your own performance but everything.

“When you have that kind of responsibility, which you do when you have that much of the financial pie. What I’m trying to say is those decisions were made more about the availability than ability and they were made as to how you arrive at not being available at times.”

Much of the talk around the team’s decision to trade Cooper to the Browns for a fifth-round pick surrounded his $20 million base salary and not realizing the production of a No. 1 receiver.

But Jones’ comments reveal that the team was also disappointed in Cooper being one of just two players on the team who declined to take the COVID-19 vaccine before the season.

Cooper missed two games during the season after testing positive for COVID-19, and the Cowboys lost games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Las Vegas Raiders.

Cooper was then fined $14,650 by the NFL in December for violating the COVID-19 protocols for unvaccinated players by attending a Dallas Mavericks game and not wearing a mask.

Collins, who missed the 2020 season for hip surgery, missed five games of the 2021 season due to a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

He was also accused of trying to bribe the drug-test administrator.

The suspension had been whittled to two games because Collins decided to appeal and it was reinstated to five games.

Collins was cut by the Cowboys in March, freeing up $10 million in salary cap space. He missed the start of Bengals training camp on the non-football injury list.

Gregory’s situation is muddled as the Cowboys had stood by him through a number of issues.

He was suspended for 14 games in 2016 for violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He was suspended the entire 2017 season, two games in 2018 and the entire 2019 season for multiple violations. He was then suspended the first six games of 2020.

Gregory missed five games in 2021 due to injuries but the team believed in his potential and offered him a five-year contract extension.

But when he balked at the language in the deal, Jones washed his hands. Gregory has never played a full season in his career and has never had more than six sacks in a season.

Gregory opened training camp with the Denver Broncos on the physically unable to perform list.