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Cowboys want Orton -- or money -- back in 2014

The SportsXchange

VALLEY RANCH, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys got played by defensive tackle Jay Ratliff last year.

They don't intend to let Kyle Orton do the same again this year.

The Orton situation will come to a head when the Cowboys hold their mandatory team minicamp next week. Orton, who has boycotted the offseason program and organized team activity workouts while contemplating retirement, is expected to show up to avoid paying a $70,000 fine.

Orton doesn't want to play. If he remains retired, the Cowboys insist he must repay $3 million in signing bonus money. The Cowboys could cut Orton, but if there is a chance to get money back, the franchise plans to pursue the option.

Last year, the Cowboys released Ratliff -- a move many chided the team for despite his ongoing injury concerns -- only to watch him sign with the Chicago Bears a few weeks later and then play against Dallas in a blowout Cowboys loss at frigid Soldier Field.

The Cowboys are losing no sleep over the situation with Orton, especially because backup plan Brandon Weeden has been better than advertised.

Initially signed as a development quarterback for the future, Weeden, the former first-round bust of the Cleveland Brown, has been so impressive in OTAs the past three weeks that the Cowboys are eyeing him as Romo's primary backup in place of Orton.

"Certainly that is the whole part of the plan," offensive passing game coordinator Scott Linehan said. "I thought he has done a great job from the start of our offseason program to now three weeks on the field. He has got a lot of really quality reps with the first group, he has really has had his best week this week and that's what you want to see is a progression of him getting more comfortable with the offense. So I have been really happy with him. He keeps progressing. He certainly has got a great shot at it."

Weeden has received all the snaps with the first-team offense the past three weeks and has more than looked the part. It has allowed him to regain confidence after some down times in Cleveland as well as earn the confidence of his new teammates and coaches.

The former 22nd overall pick of the Browns in 2012, Weeden was 5-15 as a starter in Cleveland. The Browns released him even before making Johnny Manziel the 22nd overall pick this year, and Dallas quickly signed him to a one-year, $1.23 million deal with no signing bonus.

"I'm striving for it," Weeden said of the backup job. "But that's not why I go out here every day. I go out here every day to get better and build on what I have done the last two years. It's not about saying I'm going to be the backup. That takes care of itself. If you play well and you prove yourself to guys around you and the coaching staff, things will fall into place. That's my main focus."

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