Cow­boys’ play­off trip to Rams is LA reunion for Tavon Austin

Cecil Whig - - NFL PLAYOFFS -

— Tavon Austin’s fresh start with the Dal­las Cow­boys wasn’t much dif­fer­ent than the stale fi­nal sea­son the ver­sa­tile re­ceiver en­dured with the Los An­ge­les Rams.

The dif­fer­ence is that Austin has a chance to change the feel­ing — against his for­mer team, in the divisional round of the play­offs.

The Cow­boys traded for Austin dur­ing the draft, but he missed nine games af­ter in­jur­ing a groin. While he was out just one game last sea­son un­der first-year Rams coach Sean McVay, Austin was ham­pered by wrist and ham­string is­sues while sim­ply get­ting buried on the depth chart.

He’s try­ing not to view Saturday night’s game in LA as a matchup of a team that wanted him against a team that didn’t .

“You’re al­ways go­ing to feel dis­re­spected be­cause you’re get­ting traded,” Austin said. “If you get traded, ev­i­dently you’re not do­ing some­thing right. Or you ain’t get­ting it done, or they don’t be­lieve in you. I felt dis­re­spected, but at the end of the day it’s the busi­ness side.

“(McVay) talked to me on the phone about it and told me he was go­ing to give me a chance to go some­where else and fin­ish my ca­reer. And that was good enough for me.”

Austin had the first long play of the sea­son for the Cow­boys, a 64-yard touch­down catch from Dak Prescott in a Week 2 win over the New York Gi­ants be­fore get­ting in­jured four weeks later. He re­turned in time for the reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale at New York, set­ting up a strong show­ing in the 24-22 wild-card win over Seat­tle.

An 80-yard punt re­turn for a touch­down was nul­li­fied by a hold­ing penalty that didn’t make any dif­fer­ence in Austin break­ing free. He added a 51-yard re­turn early in the fourth


quar­ter to set up a drive that ended with Prescott throw­ing an in­ter­cep­tion in the end zone.

The Cow­boys haven’t had much of a threat in the re­turn game with­out Austin, and haven’t been able to uti­lize many gad­get plays on of­fense with­out the hy­brid re­ceiver/run­ner.

The eighth over­all pick in 2013 when the Rams were still in St. Louis, Austin had five dis­ap­point­ing sea­sons, in­clud­ing the fran­chise’s first two af­ter mov­ing back to LA. The for­mer West Virginia player heard the “bust” talk, but tried to ig­nore it. He’s still try­ing to ig­nore it.

“Ever y game is emo­tional,” Austin said. “Not re­ally a dif­fer­ence be­tween games. It’s just the fact that I played over there for so long. I’m all right. I’m not go­ing to make it a Tavon against the Rams thing.”

It wasn’t so much the Rams want­ing to dump Austin as it was sim­ply not hav­ing a spot for him two years af­ter he signed a fouryear, $42 mil­lion ex­ten­sion.

The 28-year-old Austin was a good fit for Dal­las be­cause of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Scott Line­han likes gad­get guys. Line­han just never got to use him much.

“Tavon has the unique abil­ity of mak­ing big plays with not play­ing ev­ery game,” Line­han said re­cently. “He’s go­ing to feel like a guy with fresh legs on the field.”

And Austin has a fresh out­look, even af­ter an­other stale sea­son marked by an in­jur y that led to ca­reer lows in games and catches.

“You al­ways want to show out. That’s the point,” Austin said. “We’ll see when we get over there. Hope­fully I do, but if I don’t, hope­fully we just get the win.”

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