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Robert Jones denied concocting a plot to kill a man, and even the alleged target of the purported hit never believed the story. A court ruling handed down May 8 will give the former Dallas Cowboys standout the chance to clear his name once and for all and end an ordeal that has dragged on for nearly six years.

Robert Jones made a quick early impact with the Dallas Cowboys

Robert Jones started more than 120 NFL games after becoming an immediate fixture for the Dallas Cowboys at the height of their success in the early 1990s. The Cowboys’ first-round draft pick out of East Carolina in 1992 moved straight into the starting lineup at linebacker. He helped teams coached by Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer win three Super Bowls in his first four seasons.

He left the Cowboys as a free agent after the 1995 season and Super Bowl triumph to play six more seasons with the St. Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins, and Washington Redskins. Jones retired after the 2001 season with 766 tackles in 151 pro games.

These days, he’s known less in football circles as a former Dallas Cowboys player than as the father of Zay Jones, who is entering his fourth pro season. The Las Vegas receiver’s brother Cayleb was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings before being released in September 2018.

A bizarre accusation triggers a lawsuit ran a story in June 2014 saying that Robert Jones was under investigation in Cleveland for allegedly trying to hire a hitman to kill Jordan Woy, the retired player’s Dallas-based agent. Jones immediately denied the story, and Woy also said there was no merit to the report.

Jones, who made 44 starts for the Dallas Cowboys, filed a libel suit against TMZ in Texas, saying TMZ had been conned by a cousin who was a convicted felon and heavily in debt. He alleged that the man, Theodore Watson, had been harassing his family for money. Jones obtained a restraining order against Watson, court records show.

The lawsuit by Jones alleged that TMZ encouraged Watson to tell Cleveland police that it was Jones who was resorting to harassment. The lawsuit says TMZ then used that police report as the basis of its report on Jones. It also said the website embellished the story by “reporting a further fabricated tale that Robert Jones was at the center of an ongoing investigation” involving an alleged hit on the agent.

The former Dallas Cowboys player, now 50, says he was never given adequate opportunity to refute the allegations ahead of time, and that he refuted the story immediately after it was published; the story remains available on the TMZ website.

TMZ has lost another round in court

The Texas Supreme Court ruled by a 5-3 margin that former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Robert Jones’ 2015 libel lawsuit against TMZ can move forward. The 24-page decision said Jones made a timely request for a correction.

A trial court had previously rejected the motion by TMZ’s attorneys to dismiss the lawsuit. That was followed in 2017 by the Third Court of Appeals in Austin, Texas, upholding that ruling in general but dismissing Jones’ claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.