There were times with Jay Ratliff when I ... Respected him. Feared him. Pulled for him. Laughed with him. Hated him. Missed him. Sympathized with him. And, in the end, forgot about him.
An underdog career that sky-rocketed to Pro Bowls and was trending toward the Ring of Honor ended with a subtle thud Wednesday. Ratliff, not long ago the team’s fiercest competitor and most ferocious leader, was cut. Paid to go away by the team that drafted him in 2005 and that desperately needs a player just like him in 2013.
In 2010 I hosted a radio show on 105.3 The Fan in which Ratliff made a weekly appearance. Of all the similar shows I hosted – Elvis Andrus, Sean Lee, Brandon Carr, Jason Garrett, Jerry Jones, etc., Ratliff was the only guest who consistently did it not by phone, but in person. He had a driver back then, to keep him out of trouble. And he had jovial personality back then, often offering to stay in studio with us after his segment to joke around and talk other sports, current events, whatever.
He was honest in that he didn’t love Garrett, then the team’s interim head coach. And he was honest about football and the injuries that accompany the violent game.
“I’m gonna play as hard as I can for as long as I can,” he said. “But I plan to walk away from this game, not limp.”
Apparently Ratliff still wants to play football. But the Cowboys don’t want him.
Because he’s long since deteriorated from the undersized, 7th-round long-shot in 2005 who made four Pro Bowls. In recent years he’s been injured, he’s gotten into a shouting match with Jones in the post-game locker room, he’s been arrested for DUI – just six weeks after Josh Brent’s accident that killed teammate Jerry Brown – and he’s been at odds with the team’s medical staff.
The Cowboys were so counting in Ratliff that they awarded him in 2011 with a five-year contract extension worth $40 million. In 2014, when he’s playing for another team, he’ll count $6.9 million against Dallas’ salary cap.
At one time he was the Cowboys’ closest thing to Ray Lewis. Now, sadly, he’ll be less productive than Crazy Ray.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently writes a sports/guy stuff blog at DFWSportatorium.com and lives in McKinney with his fiancee, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.