IRVING (AP) – Demoted defensive lineman Igor Olshansky, last year’s starting fullback Chris Gronkowski and veteran kickers Shayne Graham and Dave Rayner were among the players the Dallas Cowboys released on Saturday to get their roster down to 53.
The departure of the experienced legs means the Cowboys are sticking with David Buehler and Dan Bailey. Buehler almost certainly will handle kickoffs, with Bailey handling field goals. Bailey was named the top kicker in college football last season, but wasn’t drafted.
Olshansky joined the Cowboys in 2008 to be reunited with Wade Phillips, who’d been his defensive coordinator in San Diego. Between Phillips getting fired midway through last season, and Dallas signing Kenyon Coleman — who spent the last two seasons in Cleveland playing for the Cowboys’ new coordinator, Rob Ryan — Olshansky’s release was no surprise. The move also saves Dallas more than $3.3 million against the salary cap.
Gronkowski, who has two brothers playing in the NFL, made the team as an undrafted rookie last season. His tenure will best be remembered for a missed block that led to Tony Romo breaking his collarbone. He becomes the sixth offensive starter from last season to be released under coach Jason Garrett, who has been the offensive coordinator the last four years.
Also dumped were fifth-round pick Josh Thomas, a cornerback, and seventh-rounder Shaun Chapas, a fullback; last year’s fourth-rounder, safety Akwasi Owusu-Ansah; and two members of the 2009 draft class, linebacker Brandon Williams, a fourth-rounder, and receiver Manny Johnson, a seventh-rounder.
Owusu-Ansah played with the first team at the start of training camp, but failed to make the most of his opportunity. Ditto for Lonyae Miller, who got extra work because of injuries to two running backs ahead of him. Phillip Tanner beat him out for the No. 4 spot behind Felix Jones, Tashard Choice and DeMarco Murray.
The Cowboys kept no fullbacks. In addition to Gronkowski and Chapas, they let go Jason Pociask and Isaiah Greenhouse.
Another thin position is inside linebacker. Dallas stuck with only Bradie James, Keith Brooking and Sean Lee, dropping Kenwin Cummings and Orie Lemon.
Rookie free agent Alex Albright beat out Williams for an outside linebacker job.
Dallas put receiver Raymond Radway on injured reserve. Radway, an undrafted rookie, broke his leg on the final play of the final preseason game after having earned a roster spot.
Receiver Teddy Williams, a star sprinter in college who hadn’t played football since high school until joining the Cowboys last season, was dropped. He missed most of camp with an injury caused when he ran into receivers coach Jimmy Robinson in one of the first drills of camp.
Other cuts included safeties Andrew Sendejo and Collin Zych; receivers Lyle Leong and Tysson Poots; cornerbacks Mario Butler and Chris Randle; linebacker Mike Balogun; defensive end Jimmy Sadler-McQueen; guard Pepa Letuli; quarterback Tom Brandstater; and punter Chris Jones.
The roster is certain to be in flux, with the Cowboys looking for players cut by other teams who could be upgrades here. They also have eight practice-squad spots to fill.
Dallas opens the season a week from Sunday on the road against the New York Jets.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)