With $12 million, Cowboys owner talks Haley out of retirement


Charles Haley has proved once again that talk is cheap.

It's certainly not worth $12 million.

The Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman said after his team's bid for a three-peat was derailed by the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game last January that he was retiring.

Nobody really took Haley seriously because retirement comments by a 31-year-old athlete after a tough loss can easily be discounted.

Owner Jerry Jones came up with 12 million reasons last week for Haley to continue to play. He signed Haley to a four-year, $12 million deal.

Haley, though, insists the retirement talk wasn't a contract ploy.

"After I said I'd retired, I talked to Jerry and we talked about the team and where he and I wanted it to be," Haley said. "We talked two hours about football, not money. The bottom line is Jerry made a commitment [to winning]."

Jones may have learned a lesson from Emmitt Smith's bitter holdout in 1993 when the team started out 0-2 and Haley threw a helmet into a wall after the second loss. Jones can't keep all of his players in this salary cap era -- this year he lost, among others, Alvin Harper, Mark Stepnoski and James Washington -- but he's got to get his key players signed.

Jones said he thinks the Haley signing will make it easier to sign three other defensive starters he wants to keep -- tackle Leon Lett, cornerback Kevin Smith and safety Darren Woodson.

"I can't imagine taking the field without Charles Haley," Jones said. "Without him, we couldn't spell Super Bowl."

Jones says the Cowboys are ready to challenge the 49ers again. Despite all the off-season maneuvering, one thing hasn't changed: It's still a two-team league. San Francisco and Dallas, the winners of five of the last seven Super Bowls, are still the class of the league.

"As good as I feel about our prospects, we're definitely chasing," Jones said.

"But that could change real quickly. Those 60 minutes [on Nov. 12 when the Cowboys play host to the 49ers] could dramatically change who's chasing who."

Despite the two losses to the 49ers last year, Jones said, "We know we're a better team than to lose two ballgames to anyone."

Another significant thing about the Haley signing is that he appears to have found a home in Dallas. When the volatile Haley was traded to the Cowboys by the 49ers in 1992, the speculation was it would take only two or three years for him to wear out his welcome in Dallas the way he did in San Francisco.

Instead, he became a leader of the Dallas defense.

"I heard all the horror stories about Charles, but I found out he's no different than any other great player," Cowboys coach Barry Switzer said.

The Posse minus one

When the Miami Dolphins signed Ricky Sanders last week, they found themselves with two of the three members of the Posse -- the wide receiving corps for the Washington Redskins back in the days when they won seven games in half a season instead of every two years.

That's because the Dolphins had earlier signed Gary Clark. They're only missing Art Monk, who will apparently have to retire because no team has showed an interest in him in the off-season.

Clark, who lives near Haley in Centreville, Va., in the off-season and played with him in college at James Madison, wants to close the gap on Haley, who is one of only two active players with four Super Bowl rings. The other is Ronnie Lott.

Clark, who has two rings, said of Haley, "Every time I look up the street in the off-season, I see his ugly face. Sometimes during the course of the summer, he's going to bring up the fact he has more rings than I do. . . . I know I need to get a third one."

The Buddy file

Arizona Cardinals running back Garrison Hearst, who was in Buddy Ryan's doghouse last year while recovering from a knee injury, has moved to Ryan's penthouse this year.

"He's a leader of this team, the guy the offense is built around," Ryan said, even though Hearst carried only 37 times last year.

Replacing Hearst in Ryan's doghouse is cornerback Patrick Hunter, who has a knee inflammation.

"I don't know if he's got enough courage to play our game or not. He's a soft player," Buddy barked, even though he signed Hunter to a three-year, $2.6 million deal as a free agent.

Hunter brushed it off as Ryan being Ryan. "No big deal," he said.

The move

Nobody was more surprised than the NFL office when Raiders owner Al Davis turned down the league's Hollywood Park plan to return to Oakland.

In a league publication called NFL Report that was published this week, it was reported that the Hollywood Park Stadium "is expected to be the home of the Raiders." Now it's uncertain if the Hollywood Park stadium will even be built.

The owners are expected to approve the Raiders' move at a meeting in Chicago Friday.

The meeting was delayed a week because the league is trying to think up reasons that Rams owner Georgia Frontiere was forced to pay a $29 million relocation fee to move to St. Louis while Davis won't pay anything to move to Oakland.

The real reason is that Frontiere preferred paying to going to court. Davis would rather go to court than pay, and the owners have no appetite for battling Davis in court again.

But they prefer to give a different reason in public. One explanation will be that Davis created the Oakland market in the first place while the league created the St. Louis market in the expansion process. This overlooks the fact that Frontiere could have argued she shouldn't have had to pay anything because the league rejected St. Louis as an expansion market.

It's obvious, though, that even the other owners are conceding that Davis follows his own rules.

The price

Quarterback John Elway of the Denver Broncos said last week that the cost of his NFL career will be knee replacement surgery after his playing days are over. The knee has been so damaged over the years that it can't be saved.

But he denied an ESPN report that he'll only play one more year. At age 35, Elway said he wants to play three more years before retiring.

Elway argues that the longer he plays and delays the surgery, the more advanced the knee replacement technology will become.

Elway likes to play too much to give it up as long as he can still walk onto the field.

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