Have you ever had that feeling when you show up somewhere, and something is off?  You know something isn’t quite right, but you can’t put your finger on it?  That eerie, sour sense of mystery likely flooded the air circulating through the Dallas Cowboys facility soon after the players arrived early Saturday morning, just hours after the death of one of their teammates.

It was an early wake-up for the Dallas Cowboys as meetings began at the training facility at 7:30am Saturday, with the team plane scheduled to take off for Cincinnati a few hours later, a source close to the team told PepperOnSports.   Once the players separated into groups, it became clear that two guys were missing from their respective meetings, third-year nose tackle Josh Brent, and rookie linebacker, Jerry Brown.  The players began talking amongst themselves, but were told only that there had been an “unfortunate accident,”  and no details were provided by team personnel, according to the source. 

It wasn’t until the team had boarded the charter plane in the afternoon that the players received the bad news from head coach Jason Garrett.  Jerry Brown was killed in a drunk driving accident, and Josh Brent - who was driving when his car flipped at 2:21am after hitting a curb at high speeds - had been arrested for DUI and manslaughter. 

Brent and Brown were on their way home from Privae nightclub in Dallas, where a dozen Cowboys players had spent the evening partying with comedian Shawn Wayans, according to a source close to the team.  The Privae website advertises free entry with an RSVP every Friday and promotes an evening with celebrity guest host Shawn Wayans for December 7.  Most bars and clubs in Dallas close at 2am.  

Not that there is ever a good time to learn that one coworker is dead and another is being blamed for it, but right before a two-and-a-half hour flight, without the comfort of friends or family outside of the office seems like a tough way to receive the news.   When asked about the mood of the players during the flight, the source replied, “silence on the plane.”  That was perhaps the longest flight of those mens’ lives.

(Update: “The team couldn’t immediately reveal the details because Brown’s next-of-kin had not been notified,” according to USA Today)

This takes us back eight days ago, in the wake of Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher, who murdered his girlfriend Kassandra Perkins, before killing himself at Arrowhead Stadium in front of KC’s general manager and head coach.  As of last Friday, there was no precedent in dealing with the murder/suicide carried out by n active NFL player, much less with the suicide happening in front of team personnel at the stadium.

Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be the first time an active NFL player has died in a car accident during the season.  Atlanta Falcons players Ralph Norwood and Brad Beckman were killed in separate car accidents less than a month apart during the 1989 season.

The Chiefs operated under a microscope last week, every decision and movement dissected by the media.  One can only imagine the level of interest and examination facing the Cowboys, a team whose 6-6 record - now seemingly inconsequential in comparison - is the subject of daily debate on both the local and national level.   It should be interesting to watch the ensuing behavior of frequently scrutinized Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in the wake of this tragedy. 

Hopefully the appropriate mental health support will be offered to players and team personnel for the remainder of the season.  One can only imagine the emotional weight the Cowboys will carry with them on to the field Sunday against the Bengals.  

LSU’s Claiborne Gets The Call Of A Lifetime

This is why we love sports.

Not only was the American football-loving public shocked when the Dallas Cowboys catapulted themselves eight spots up in the NFL draft (via trade), but the young man whom team owner Jerry Jones selected with the No. 6 overall pick was taken by surprise to the point of near-silence.

Morris Claiborne, the nation’s top-ranked cornerback out of LSU never even thought about the possibility of playing for the Cowboys, his family’s favorite team.  Why would he, as Claiborne expected to be drafted early in the first round while Dallas was nearly halfway down in the draft order with the  No. 14 pick overall. 

So when Claiborne answered his phone and realized Jerry Jones was unexpectedly on the line, (click on the video above to hear their conversation),  the 22-year-old Louisiana native was absolutely stunned. 

"I looked back at my family, and they were like, ‘Who is it?’ " Claiborne told the press at Radio City Music Hall. "And I was like, ‘The Cowboys.’ Just to see the look on their face, it’s just melted me."

The voice of his new bosses melted Claiborne too, as you can hear the Jim Thorpe Award winner break down in tears while trying to digest the moment he had likely dreamed about since childhood. 

Between twitter and the media leaking information about picks before they happen, this is quite a remarkable conversation as we rarely get to see true, raw emotion at the draft these days.  Congrats to Mr. Claiborne and to the Cowboys as well, who seem to have gambled on one grateful and hard-working young man.