Cowboys LB Ellis will play even though he's still unhappy

SAN ANTONIO -- Greg Ellis seriously considered retirement. The disgruntled and injured linebacker had even determined how much of his signing bonus he would have to return to the Dallas Cowboys.

While still disappointed and unhappy that he didn't get the restructured contract with an extension that he wanted, Ellis said Friday that he would continue playing and not walk away from the game.

"Retirement was really there for me, but I still love the game," said Ellis, the former first-round pick going into his 10th NFL season, all with the Cowboys. "I know if I walk away from the game right now, I would regret it."

Ellis is set to make $2.5 million this season and is trying to come back from a torn Achilles' tendon last November. He has missed all 14 training camp practices, though he came out for the opening workout July 25 before he felt an unbearable pain in his surgically repaired foot.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones met with Ellis for about an hour Monday night, and just like he did before last season, Jones refused to change the contract. Ellis didn't discuss their chat until Friday, which was his self-proclaimed deadline for a decision.

"He didn't budge anything on the contract," Ellis said. "It was for me to retire or accept what he's saying and deal with that."

Ellis got a $4.2 million signing bonus with his new contract in 2003, and would have had to return about half of that had he retired. The deal still has two more years after this season.

Jones wasn't at camp Friday. He was already in Canton, Ohio, where he will present Michael Irvin for the former Cowboys receiver's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"I'm glad we've got him," Jones said earlier this week when asked about Ellis. "I wouldn't trade that for the alternative of not having him at all. I wouldn't even contemplate it. ... I don't consider it to be a problem."

The Cowboys drafted Ellis with the eighth pick in 1998. Ellis, who will turn 32 later this month, started 130 of 133 games before missing the final seven last season after getting hurt.

Former coach Bill Parcells moved Ellis from defensive end to linebacker last season, a year after Ellis had to make the adjustment to playing end in a 3-4 defense for the first time after spending his entire career in four-man fronts.

Ellis said several conversations with his wife and a phone call from former teammate Darren Woodson on Wednesday night convinced him that he wasn't ready to retire. Ellis woke up about 3 a.m. Thursday and knew then that he wanted to keep playing.

The linebacker insisted his desire for a restructured contract wasn't about getting more money, but that he wanted a longer commitment from the Cowboys.

"I've got a family and I love to play football and I don't want to be in the situation where I have to move around the country to play from team to team," Ellis said. "This was solely just trying to get a commitment. That didn't happen, so we are where we are."

Ellis said he would still like to think that he would be able to retire having spent his entire career with the Cowboys, but "in all honesty, I just don't see it happening."

Ellis also doesn't believe Jones would have given him a new contract even if the linebacker was healthy.

While Ellis thought he would be back on the field by now, he won't rule out playing in the season opener Sept. 9 against the New York Giants.

"The tendon is still intact. There are no bone spurs," Ellis said. "When you go hard on it, it's sore for a couple of days. It will subside. ... We were on a fast pace. We jumped on it real hard, and probably should have broken in a little slower."


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