Back in 1993 at training camp in Austin, safety James Washington took it upon himself to inject some excitement into another hot, ho-hum practice.
“Offense getting a little cocky over there,” Washington told reporters as the Cowboys’ offense huddled. “’Bout to remind them we can play over here too.”
And on the next play – which was a run – Washington flew toward receiver Michael Irvin and flattened him after the whistle with a diving forearm between the 8s. A fight ensued. The message was sent. The Cowboys’ defense finished ranked No. 1 in the NFL and, of course, Irvin survived the skirmish to help lead Dallas to its second consecutive Super Bowl.
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I’m not about to say that J.J. Wilcox is Washington or even that Bryant is Irvin. But I did love what I saw on the field during Sunday’s scrimmage in Oxnard.
Bryant caught a pass over the middle, got de-cleated by Wilcox, and came up swinging. The Cowboys don’t have the talent, but they do have a pulse.
“I wanted him,” Bryant told reporters after the scrimmage. “He pissed me off. But you know, man, it was in the heat of the moment. When things got calmed down, I told him I loved it. Keep it coming.”
Like Irvin, Bryant constantly barks at the defense, attempting to illicit a response from a unit that was embarrassingly futile last season. Didn’t think Wilcox had that kind of fire in his belly, but I was impressed. Bryant needs to be popped in the mouth every once in a while, and the second-year safety took a huge step forward toward being a leader on the defense.
“It’s just a chip on our shoulder,” Wilcox said afterward. “We’ve been ranked No. 32 last year. It’s time to step up.”
If the Cowboys are to finally top 8-8, they’ve got to get better safety play. And if Sunday’s scuffle was any indication, Wilcox just might have the stomach for the fight after all.
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 lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.