Why the Cowboys support Josh Brent

June, 28, 2013
6/28/13
10:00
AM ET
It would be easy for the Dallas Cowboys to release Josh Brent.

He's failed two drug tests while on bail for an intoxication manslaughter charge resulting in the death of his best friend and practice squad player Jerry Brown. Brent, in my opinion, should be released.

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The Cowboys won't do it, at least for now.

It's not a financial reason because Brent's base salary is $630,000 and he counts $641,889 against the salary cap, so you're not saving a lot of money here by letting him go.

One of the big reasons Brent remains on the roster is he knows he's going to jail for a period of time. It's not a matter of if he goes to jail, it's when. How long is uncertain.

Those close to Brent say he's living with tremendous guilt over the death of his best friend. Last December at the memorial service for Brown in Dallas, numerous teammates hugged Brent and welcomed his presence. Brent attended the first half of the Cowboys' game against the Pittsburgh Steelers last season, though he left after his presence irked some fans and members of the media.

"At the same time, you know he's probably beating himself up inside," defensive end Jason Hatcher said last year of Brent. "But just being around the game he loves and to come in there and put a smile on our face as well as him, that was an unbelievable feeling. From now on, I don't know what will happen as far as him coming to a game. But the support of him is going to be amazing from us."

Brent is described as a well-liked player who would talk all day with reporters and teammates about who the best point guard in the NBA is, debate the best teams in Big 10 basketball (he attended Illinois) and at times would sit at his locker and just relax.

"Support is support," fullback Lawrence Vickers said after the car accident last December. "Josh understands the things that are going on, we understand the things that are going on, but one thing -- our house is going to stay good and strong. We're going to stick with our values and the morals that we have, and that's being there for each other."

Brent would hang out with his fellow defensive linemen, a close-knit group led by nose tackle Jay Ratliff and Hatcher. The players don't care what the media or the fans think about keeping Brent around on the roster because at some point he won't be here come September.

Some players have been in Brent's shoes before, although maybe not to the same extent, so there's a compassion there. Nearly two months after Brent's car crash, Ratliff was arrested for a DWI.

"With me, I just think about making the right decisions," DeMarcus Ware said on Sirius/XM radio after Ratliff's arrest in January. "Sometimes you just got to get people around you that you can trust. If you’re staying out late, get a driver, get a taxi. That’s been the main thing in general with drinking and driving. In Texas, they do not play. They do not play at all with that. Just being careful with that. You got families and you have a lot of things at stake, and you have to be careful."

People outside the Cowboys believe cutting Brent is the right thing to do. But for the Cowboys, keeping him around to support him, to help him get through his mess is the right thing to do, too.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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