FRISCO - As anybody who is involved in journalism knows, "unnamed sources'' are a necessary evil. To the reader, and maybe even to some reporters, they add a level of "mystery'' and "espionage'' to a job that in reality isn't quite as glamorous and thrilling as they make it look in the movies.
But they also allow a source the freedom to be wrong - a freedom the journalist doesn't really have.
Nevertheless, oftentimes, as a last resort, gathering information from a source who, for whatever reason, does not with to have his name attached to that information ... is a useful tool.
The Earl Thomas "connection'' with the Dallas Cowboys - whatever "connection'' there actually is - would be made so much clearer if the Cowboys themselves would issue an on-the-record truth about it. Short of that (and yes, I'm definitely including owner Jerry Jones' vague word-salad non-answers as being unclear), the fan/reader is left to ... pick a reporter to trust.
And the reporter is often left to make educated guesses, to follow leads, and to ... pick an unnamed source to trust.
One such source with first-hand knowledge of the circumstances has been for days telling me, flatly, "No!'' regarding the Cowboys' interest in the troubled-but-talented 31-year-old Thomas, a seven-time Pro Bowler who plays safety, a glaring Dallas position of need.
I've been slow to write "No!,'' however, because my "educated guess'' is that while the door is presently shut, maybe it's not locked shut. Maybe, for instance, on some Monday morning, when Jerry sits down with his staff after a game in which his safeties got roasted, he'll ask a pointed question:
"Tell me again that Darian Thompson is better than Earl Thomas?''
So for me, "No, not now'' has been the smartest position for the Cowboys to take, and for me to take. And keep in mind, I'm not obliged to "take a position'' - I just want to make sure I get it right.
When a colleague reports that the team is meeting with Thomas in "the next 48 hours,'' and I can't get anybody involved to corroborate that? I don't shoot it down ... but I sure don't report it.
And as happened on Monday, when defensive coordinator Mike Nolan issues a comment that insists he's never been involved in any conversation about Thomas? I'll publish his quote ... but I sure don't have to completely believe him.
I know for a fact that the Cowboys have discussed signing Earl Thomas, and have done so for weeks. I know that they (like the rest of the league) have discovered some unfortunate things about his behavior. I know that of The Star higher-ups most likely to want to revisit the idea down the road, Jerry Jones fits that bill.
And my personal plan, I guess, is to continue to explore. Or, at least, it was.
But now comes a communication from a person who would know about the "situation.'' The person must remain an "unnamed source,'' but the person's direction to me is an offering I find valuable.
"You,'' this person said of my Thomas-to-Dallas persistence, "are wasting your time.''
NFL football teams are obliged to be in the "never-say-never'' business, and the business of "24/7 player evaluation.'' So I continue to hesitate to announce a hard "No!'' on the idea of Earl Thomas to the Cowboys.
But the advice to quit "wasting my time''? I don't need to hesitate to take that guidance. There is a football team for us to follow, with 55-plus players employed for us to follow. There is a game to be played, and Earl Thomas isn't playing in it.
There is time better spent.