Bryan McCann brightens Cowboys' day
In a flash, speedy rookie CB from SMU returns to spark an otherwise dismal season
IRVING, Texas -- To borrow a line used by Princeton graduate Jason Garrett every time he meets with the media, "Good afternoon, guys; how's everyone doing?"
I've heard complaints from local reporters that Garrett is condescending toward the media, but I've found his nonanswers to be much more entertaining than Wade Phillips'. Garrett has even found a favorite line that he comes back to when things get a bit tense and reporters dare to match wits with the man behind the magic lectern.
"The Lions are going to be here at 12 noon Sunday," Garrett said while dismissing a question.
And really, I want this man to win the job, if for no other reason than because he has at least four or five family members on the Cowboys' payroll. Is there another NFL team that would be able to absorb all those salaries?
Garrett has the rare ability to answer questions politely while reminding reporters that his college curriculum was probably more taxing than theirs.
But his face brightened Wednesday when he was asked about the legend of Bryan McCann, who was named the NFC defensive player of the week following the Cowboys' 33-20 win over the Giants. For our non-Methodists in the audience, McCann starred at SMU before signing a rookie free-agent contract with the Cowboys.
The Cowboys hoped to sneak McCann through to the practice squad when they relased him on cutdown day Sept. 4, but the Baltimore Ravens' director of player personnel, Eric DeCosta, and his crack staff had been tracking McCann throughout the preseason and signed him to their 53-man roster after releasing royal cornerback Prince Miller.
It was only a week later that McCann was called into Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome's office and told he was being released to make room for Miller's return. Newsome said he wanted McCann on the practice squad, but the rookie liked his odds better in Dallas, where the Cowboys had only three cornerbacks on the active roster.
When the Cowboys continued their demolition of the '09 draft class by releasing Jason Williams, McCann was promoted to the 53-man roster. And that's why he was in position to make the biggest play of Sunday's game, a 101-yard interception return for a touchdown that put the Cowboys up 16-3. Replays showed McCann watching himself in one of the new end zone video boards at the new Meadowlands stadium.
"Those screens were nice," he told me. "But I'm glad there wasn't a delay, or I could've been in trouble."
Once McCann got inside leverage on Hakeem Nicks and picked off Eli Manning's pass, he knew he had a great shot at scoring. He won the 6A state title in the 100-meter dash for Putnam City (Okla.) High School his senior year and he ran a 4.28-second 40-yard dash at his pro day at SMU. But even though he's a former track star, McCann said he had to ask for a breather on the ensuing kickoff.
"I was exhausted," McCann said. "I didn't notice it until I got to the sideline, and then realized I had to go out there and go down and cover a kick. I thought, 'I can't do that.'"
He said fiery special teams coach Joe DeCamillis wasn't exactly thrilled with his choice.
"He told me never again," McCann said. "He said, 'You're a rookie; you don't get that privilege.'"
Garrett described McCann as "tenacious" and said he was an "achiever." In a season full of disappointments, the Oklahoman has been one of the few bright spots. I wouldn't be surprised to see him play a lot down the stretch.
For now, it seems like he's enjoying the sudden notoriety. He proudly told me he'd gone from 177 followers on Twitter to 320. And if he continues to make big plays for the Cowboys, I could see him hitting 1,000 by the end of the season.
Editor's note: If you're not following Matt Mosley on the generically named "espn_nfceast" handle, you have fatal flaws in your game.
Matt Mosley covers the NFC East for ESPN.com and the Dallas-Fort Worth sports scene for ESPNDallas.com.
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