FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys returned to The Star for practice and meetings on Wednesday for the first time since the scary scene we've all witnessed on Monday in the Bengals-Bills game involving Damar Hamlin.
As the Cowboys get ready for this week's game in Washington, the team is looking for balance to steer them in the right direction in the middle of a tough week.
On one hand, the players speak of a brotherhood between other "gladiators" across the league that sacrifice their bodies for this game. So when an incident occurs like the one with Hamlin, it's impossible for these players not to think about it, especially as they move forward. And in reality, they don't want to put it out of their mind either.
But on the other hand, the NFL is moving forward with games this week and the Cowboys must figure out their own way to focus on the task at hand, as difficult as it might be.
"I do understand – it's a physical game that we signed up for," Micah Parsons said on Wednesday. "I think you understand this game might come with some horrific injuries. If you're lucky enough, you may not face any of them. Everyone in the league signed up to play football and understand that things can happen. That was just a horrific incident and accident. Even when I pray before the game, I pray for the other team. I hope everyone on the teams come out OK. But it shouldn't just a brotherly league when someone goes down, it should be a brotherly league no matter what. We're all in here together, just playing a game we love."
DeMarcus Lawrence, one of the oldest players on the team and one of the defensive leaders, said there is a way to keep both perspectives on your mind at once.
"We said prayers to him and his family. And we just need to make sure we have to stick together as a team," Lawrence said. "But honestly, for me, we play this game our whole life. Seeing something like that, yeah it is hard to accept. It doesn't change what our job is. This is our job – this is how we feed our family."
Dak Prescott, someone who has had the misfortune of losing both his mother and his brother, spoke of the fact that he's sadly been prepared for hardship in his life, but never on the football field. But still, he's going to continue to keep positive vibes for Hamlin, who as of Wednesday, remained in critical condition after suffering cardiac arrest on the field Monday.
"For me, it's being thankful for your moments and be thankful for everything," Dak said of watching Hamlin on the turf and what was going through his mind when he witnessed the players' reaction. "I have all the hope and belief that Damar is going to fight through and he's going to make it."
Prescott brought up the 2020 season when the Cowboys dealt with the sudden death of strength and conditioning coach Markus Paul, just two days before the Thanksgiving Day game.
"It brought me back to Markus Paul and that morning and how people reacted," Prescott said. "That's a tough one, especially when you've dealt with something similar in your own locker room. Player or coach, we're all family. I felt for the players, not only for Damar, but his teammates, players, coaches and the Bengals. It's traumatizing for people."
But before Sunday's game, the Cowboys will go through a week of practice, including Wednesday's session, which Parsons described as "normal."
And that alone is a big step, considering the last few days – from Cincinnati to Buffalo to any other city in the league – it has been anything but normal.