Jones talks to disgruntled Ellis, but no contract change planned

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones finally sat down and talked with disgruntled and injured linebacker Greg Ellis.

While Jones refused Wednesday to discuss details of their hourlong chat this week, the owner still made a couple of points clear: He genuinely likes the player who has been with the Cowboys the longest, but he's not going to restructure Ellis' contract.

"Everything's there that speaks for itself," Jones said. "Greg's under contract for several more years. He's working off his injury. I know he's working hard to do that. ... I think he's got a great chance to be a part of a very successful team and defensive unit."

Ellis, who is set to make $2.5 million this season and is under contract through 2009, is still trying to come back from a torn Achilles' tendon last November. He has missed all 12 training camp practices, including both workouts Wednesday.

The linebacker was on the field for the opening session July 25, but felt unbearable pain in his surgically repaired foot and had to stop before the first snap. An MRI showed no damage, but he has been limited to working out with trainers on the side.

Jones said he is positive that Ellis will be "physically able to really make a contribution. I have no reason to think that that's not the case, none."

The Cowboys took Ellis, who will turn 32 later this month, with the eighth pick in 1998. He started 130 of 133 games before missing the final seven last season after getting hurt.

"We're counting on him. He knows we're counting on him," Jones said. "We don't have a player that understands the system any more than Greg does, and understands how you can put together a team and how you can keep it together."

Ellis didn't stop to talk to reporters after the first practice Wednesday, a rarity after a week in which he repeatedly discussed wanting his contract restructured as proof of the team's commitment to him. Ellis got a $4.2 million signing bonus with his new contract in 2003.

Former coach Bill Parcells moved Ellis from defensive end to linebacker last season. The Cowboys then used their top draft pick in April on Anthony Spencer, who plays the same position as Ellis.

"People can say, 'He's not going to take your job.' But that's the nature of this beast," Ellis said earlier in camp. "You don't draft a first-rounder to sit on the bench."

Ellis said he wanted to be released or traded if he didn't get his contract restructured. The Cowboys have turned down previous requests, and Jones sounds like that stance hasn't changed.

The owner said he wasn't tired of the drama surrounding Ellis.

"I'm glad we've got him," he said. "I wouldn't trade that for the alternative of not having him at all. I wouldn't even contemplate it. ... I don't consider it to be a problem."

Talk about Ellis and Michael Irvin's upcoming induction into the Hall of Fame were primary topics during Jones' 30-minute news conference Wednesday, but he touched on several other issues:

  • Jones said it would be OK if the Cowboys didn't sign quarterback Tony Romo to a new contract during the season. "If Tony does what I expect him to do, he'll be our quarterback. ... When we've had a quarterback that could compete at a Super Bowl level, we've always paid - and welcomed the chance to do it."
  • He said there are no plans to induct anyone this year into the team's famed Ring of Honor, but insisted that the honor is "not closed to players that were part of the tradition and history of the Dallas Cowboys before I became involved." There are 17 players in the Ring of Honor, which will also be part of the new stadium that opens in 2009 with the names "just exactly where they were in the old stadium."
  • After the news conference ended, Jones signed autographs for fans. Putting his signature on pennants, T-shirts and footballs is certainly cheaper for him than signing his name on players' checks. "You bet it is," he said with a big grin.
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