Ellis says his status will be resolved by end of week

SAN ANTONIO, TX -- One way or another, Greg Ellis, the Cowboys' injured and disgruntled linebacker, could be a few days from ending the drama that's surrounded his relationship with Dallas the last year and a half.

Or maybe he's just adding to the drama.

Ellis said Saturday that an announcement about his status is coming by the end of the week. He stuck by that Sunday, explaining the announcement will "clarify the air and know what we can expect the rest of the season."

"I think by that time in training camp it should be, 'This is what we're going to do and this is how we're going to do it,"' Ellis said.

Nobody has been on the Cowboys longer than Ellis. A captain the last two seasons, Ellis is among the most respected guys in the locker room.

Yet in the last year, only Terrell Owens has raised more of a ruckus.

Ellis began worrying whether the team still wanted him before last season, when Bill Parcells moved him from defensive end to linebacker. He did just fine until tearing an Achilles' tendon in mid-November.

Ellis' concerns resurfaced in April when the Cowboys used their top pick on someone who plays his position.

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

So Ellis wants his contract restructured as proof of the team's commitment. If not, he's asked to be released or traded. He went 0-for-3 on the same requests last year.

Think about it from the team's perspective.

Owner Jerry Jones already has given Ellis a $4.2 million signing bonus in 2003 as part of a contract that pays him $2.5 million this season with two years remaining.

The Cowboys want him at linebacker for two reasons: He was tied for the team lead in sacks when he was hurt and the defense sagged without him. In fact, the drop-off contributed to the Cowboys spending the 26th overall pick on Anthony Spencer, a defensive end from Purdue being converted to linebacker.

Having both isn't just a luxury, it's logical -- fewer snaps will help preserve Ellis, who turns 32 on Aug. 14, and the rookie can be brought along slowly.

No wonder then that coach Wade Phillips said Sunday he's expecting to open the season with Ellis on the roster.

"I've expected that the whole time. I don't know why he wouldn't be," Phillips said. "He's got a contract for a while. We want him here. I think he fits in the scheme well. He's got an opportunity to do well. As a coach, you want players like Greg Ellis -- guys who can make plays, that work hard, that have the right character, great people."

Ellis' only options are retiring or walking out of camp. He's ruled out retirement.

"I still want to play football," he said. "So you've narrowed that one down."

The team's choices are trading him, cutting him or keeping him. Considering there aren't many teams looking for players of his age and salary who are coming off a serious injury, that leaves two possibilities. And why would the Cowboys cut someone they expect to contribute once he's healthy?

Adding to the confusion is Ellis' recovery.

He squeezed the usual 12-month rehabilitation into eight months, taking the field for the first practice of training camp. Spencer hadn't signed his contract yet, so Ellis' spot on the first team was waiting for him.

But Ellis felt unbearable pain in his surgically repaired foot at the start of the workout. He had to stop before the first snap.

An MRI showed no damage, just bursitis. He's done more rehab and has stepped up his running while teammates practice. When not being put through solo drills, he wanders over with the linebackers, often listening in when the coaches are talking.

"When things are going good, you take it for granted," Ellis said. "Obviously it was a serious injury and it is to be expected to have some kind of -- not setbacks, but hurdles to get in your way. You just have to give them time and jump over them when you can jump."

Ellis laughed off speculation that he might be faking the severity of his injury. Jones considered it ridiculous, too.

"When you look at what he's done as a player, you don't have to worry about him," Jones said. "He's going to give it all he's got."

At least through the end of the week.


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