IRVING, Texas – Head coach Jason Garrett wanted to make sure his team had a say in the aftermath of one of the darkest moments in franchise history.
Garrett didn’t have much time to think about how to prepare his team following the death of linebacker
“I wanted to talk to the team about this situation,” Garrett said. “Typically what we do is we have a team meeting Saturday night, then we have a special teams meeting that lasts for about 25 minutes, then we have offensive and defensive meetings that last for about 40 minutes.”
Garrett asked the team what it wanted to do, if full meetings would be beneficial and if keeping the routine would help in this circumstance.
“We ended up not having the special teams meeting and having an abbreviated offensive and defensive meeting,” Garrett said. “So it was a little bit a sense of the routine, a little bit to get your mind back on the game tomorrow, but at the same time not be too involved in this hard-nosed football meeting when you weren't focused on it.”
Garrett said he encouraged the players afterward to grab a snack and spend time with each other.
“Some guys chose not to,” he said. “A lot of guys did and kind of hung out and were together. Another thing I said at the outset of the meeting was if anybody wants to leave this meeting, leave the next meeting, you don’t feel up to hearing all this stuff, leave. Do whatever you need to do. I'm not telling you how to handle anything. I’m just saying we’re here for each other. If you feel like you don’t want to be a part of this, if you want to walk out of the room and take a moment for yourself, you do that. There were no restrictions.”
The team had its normal chapel, where Chaplain Jonathan Evans spoke and tried to provide perspective. Garrett said, understandably, that more players participated than normal.
The situation presented to Garrett was unlike one most coaches must deal with, and he’s been commended for preparing his team given the tragic conditions. Garrett said there’s no manual on how to handle curveballs like the one thrown the Cowboys’ direction last weekend, so he trusted his gut.
“I think you just try to rely on your instincts as a person and how you were brought up, what's right, what’s wrong, compassion, all of those things,” Garrett said. “I think you try to do it together. It’s a human situation. It’s not a football situation.”
He told his team it’s hard to handle death at any age, especially the passing of such a young person, so being truthful to his team was paramount.
“It's just a difficult thing, particularly with people that you care so much about, so much invested in with,” Garrett said. “You just try to be honest what the situation is as best you can. Try to provide some perspective or wisdom if you have any, and again, try to keep emphasizing the importance of being together and getting through this thing together one day at a time.