Found October 18, 2012 on
Fox Sports Southwest:
IRVING, Texas Felix Jones knew exactly what everyone was saying about him. He opened training camp by failing a conditioning test and then he became the public face of the Dallas Cowboys' embarrassing special teams unit.
But last Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, Jones ran for 92 yards while filling in for an injured DeMarco Murray. He appeared to have a burst that's been missing since he had shoulder surgery this past offseason, especially when he raced 20 yards down the sideline for a touchdown in the first half.
Some players claim they never pay attention to what's being said about them in the media, but Jones told FoxSportsSouthwest.com on Wednesday that he's heard everything. Most of the jabs centered on him appearing overweight, and at least one local radio host claimed to see Skittles falling out of Jones' pants during kick returns. So did the jokes serve as motivation?
"Absolutely. Absolutely!" he said. "I listened to all that stuff, but I tried not to let it get me down. And my teammates were extremely supportive. They kept encouraging me even when things weren't looking good."
And right on cue, Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff walked over to Jones, put his arm around him and said, "Felix is the man." Even against a Ravens defense that had been vulnerable against the run, it was stunning to see the Cowboys put up 227 yards. One of the most enduring storylines this season had been the poor play of the offensive line. The running game hadn't been an option after the Week 1 win over the Giants because backs were being hit at or behind the line of scrimmage. The return of center Phil Costa to the starting lineup certainly played a role in the improved play, but other linemen finally appeared competent.
Former Panthers guard Mackenzy Bernardeau revealed Wednesday that he'd been called out by offensive line coach Bill Callahan last week. There were rumblings that Bernardeau, signed as free agent over the offseason, could lose his right guard spot to the immortal Derrick Dockery. But as Cowboys coach Jason Garrett noted, Bernardeau responded with his best game of the season.
"He knows when it's time to be blunt," Bernardeau said of Callahan. "He said he had higher expectations for me than what I was showing. He's a master of technique and that's really helped."
For fans that have yearned for players to be held accountable at Valley Ranch, this has to be good news. I had hoped that Callahan's history as a head coach and playcaller would be a great resource for Garrett. But it's still unclear how much input Callahan has during games. With 26 seconds left in the game last Sunday and one timeout remaining, Garrett should've given Romo and the offense two plays. Based on conversations I had with players Wednesday, it sounds like the short pass to Dez Bryant was the only play that was called. If that's true, it's something that needs to be addressed. Callahan needs to step in and help Garrett in that situation. It's unfathomable the Cowboys could have another game management debacle on the heels of what happened in Arizona last season.
But for now, Callahan will try to build on his offensive line's best performance of the season. And it helps that Carolina is ranked 23rd in the league against the run. The Panthers have given up 127.4 yards per game and have allowed three running backs to surpass 100 yards.
Starting left guard Nate Livings didn't want to show any disrespect toward center Ryan Cook, but he admitted that Costa had a major impact against the Ravens.
"Phil's been here for a minute," Livings said. "And he knows exactly what we're trying to accomplish."
Costa returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday's session with a knee issue. Cook (hamstring) wasn't able to practice Thursday. But for one week, no one's talking about how bad this offensive line is. And the Felix Jones jokes have also been shelved. Of course, he knows he's only one bad game away from hearing the criticism.
"Hey it's part of playing in this league," he said. "You take the bad with the good."
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G.J. McCarthy / Staff Photographer
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