Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…On Monday, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones announced that starting cornerback Orlando Scandrick has been suspended by the NFL for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. He apparently took the banned substance while vacationing in Mexico. Jones also indicated that an appeal of the ban has already been denied by the league. Scandrick will now be forced to miss the first four games of the upcoming regular season. The Cowboys will face the San Fransisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, St. Louis Rams and New Orleans Saints in those opening weeks.
Here’s what Scandrick had to say about the suspension in a released statement early Tuesday morning:
“I would like to apologize to my children, my family, the Jones Family, my coaches, my teammates and my fans. Failing a drug test is far out of my character, and although I never knowingly took a performance enhancing drug/banned stimulant while on vacation in Mexico, I take full responsibility for what goes in my body and more importantly for the embarrassment of a failed drug test…It’s my goal by issuing this statement to clear my name and more importantly to be judged by what happens to me in the future. I hope that my family, my Cowboys football family and all my fans can forgive me for this situation. I look forward to a successful 2014 season.”
This is terrible news considering the current state of the Cowboys defense. After a depressing debut by this unit last Thursday in a 27-7 loss to the San Diego Chargers, questions are increasingly circulating about the possibility that this defensive squad is even worse than last season’s historically horrific version. Now, a defensive backfield that has been without two of it top three corners for a portion of training camp, faces the start of the new season without Scandrick.
This suspension is especially troubling when you consider that Dallas’ other starting corner, Brandon Carr, just started training camp after missing the first three weeks while dealing with the death of his mother. And former first round pick (and potential bust), Morris Claiborne, has been out over a week and missed the Cowboys first preseason game with yet another injury (tendinitis). Once healthy, Claiborne will be asked to step in for the newly banned corner, who was the exact same player Scandrick replaced last season in the starting lineup.
Behind those top three corners are second-year disappointment B.W. Webb, journeyman Sterling Moore and Kory Lindsey, and rookies Terrence Mitchell and Tyler Patmon. Webb’s lack of improvement clearly has him on the roster bubble. But Scandrick’s absence could force the Cowboys to keep him around. Moore is an experienced back-up who needs to get healthy in order to contribute. And Mitchell is full of potential but lacks proper technique. Patmon has had a good training camp, but is extremely raw. And Lindsey was just signed prior to the Cowboys first preseason game.
The Dallas front office could look to add more depth at cornerback via free agency. Even if it’s just to add another camp body for practices and preseason games. And there are some big names currently available on the open market. Players like Terrell Thomas, Asante Samuel, Jabari Greer, Drayton Florence, Quentin Jammer, Corey Webster, and Dunta Robinson are all looking for work. But knowing the Cowboys, they’ll probably opt to sign an undrafted rookie cornerback they’ve had their eye on over any of these more established names.
Scandrick’s play earned him the starting role early on last season over the struggling Claiborne. He recorded career highs in tackles (65), passes defended (13) and interceptions (2) last year. Pro Football Focus ranked him the 38th best cornerback in the NFL last season, making him the best corner on the Cowboys roster. Unless something changes, Scandrick will now be the best corner on the Dallas bench this September.