FRISCO, Texas – If you were expecting a change in the message, you don't know Jason Garrett.
Fresh off a 13-10 win against the New Orleans Saints, the Cowboys' head coach presides over the hottest team in football. But regardless of his current four-game win streak or the manageable schedule in front of him, Garrett kept the focus narrow heading into the Cowboys' half-week off.
"We've done some good things here the last few weeks, but that really doesn't matter right now," Garrett said Friday. "What matters is getting away for the next couple days, getting yourself refreshed, recharged – then, let's get back to work."
That should sound familiar, as Garrett's approach doesn't deviate much despite the ups and downs of a season. To his credit, it's the same approach that helped him rally a 3-5 football team from a 28-14 loss to Tennessee on Nov. 5, and lead it to a 7-5 record on Dec. 3.
Garrett said the Cowboys' willingness to buy into his step-by-step focus speaks to the character in the locker room.
"We have guys that are tough-minded guys that love to play football, want to be part of a team, willing to work hard and fight through things," he said. "When you share a message as a coaching staff with guys like that, it typically resonates more."
If it resonated at 3-5, it ought to be just fine during a four-game win streak, as the Cowboys have an opportunity to seize control of the NFC East. Their two primary competitors for the division crown, Philadelphia and Washington, play against each other tonight. Six days later, the Eagles travel to AT&T Stadium in an all-important division game.
But however rosy things might look right now, Garrett was sure to stress that the Cowboys can't afford to let up in this final month of the season.
"You just have to continue to convey that message," he said. "I think they understand where we are. Our backs continue to be against the wall and we have to continue to fight, we have to continue to battle."
The time off will hopefully help with that effort. The Cowboys played five games in the month of November, including three games in 12 days from Nov. 18-29. By the time they return to practice on Wednesday morning, they'll have enjoyed five days off to gather themselves.
With any luck, that will help on the injury front. Sean Lee said before the game against the Saints that he's hopeful he can return to practice this week, having missed the last four games with a hamstring injury.
Garrett also said Friday that he's optimistic that Tyron Smith will be able to return to practice on Wednesday. The Cowboys' Pro Bowl left tackle has missed two-straight games after suffering a stinger in the Nov. 18 win against Atlanta.
"We're hopeful he's going to be able to practice next week," Garrett said. "We'll just see how he does here over the next few days, and hopefully as we get going with our first regular practice on Wednesday, hopefully he'll be out there. But again, we'll take it day-by-day."
There'll be other that bear monitoring, too. Garrett is hopeful that some time off will help Xavier Su'a-Filo with his ankle injury. The Cowboys are also monitoring Tavon Austin as he continues to recover from a groin injury, and Cole Beasley is now on the injury report with the foot sprain he suffered against the Saints.
These issues all seem manageable as the Cowboys prepare for the final month of the season. But although they've taken the time to catch their breath, the goal is not to slow down.