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Cowboys Focused Only On Handling Business


FRISCO, Texas – There will be speculation throughout this week, regardless of what the Cowboys say. That's the nature of the beast.

However much this team might prefer to talk about anything else, it's just not going to happen. There are millions more people outside the locker room than within it, and they're all largely concerned about something else.

With Sunday's game against New York lacking playoff implications, and with the Cowboys' eventual playoff game still almost two weeks away, the focus always turn to playing time.

How will they handle their workload against the Giants – and how should they?

It's an idea that has been thrown around since Sunday, when the Cowboys locked themselves into the NFC's No. 4 seed. And by Wednesday, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett understandably balked at the concept of resting players.

"This idea that you have a whole other team, we're not going to play the starters, we're going to play the backups, logistically, you can't do that," Garrett said. "The numbers don't allow you to do that. We're going to play our football team. Anybody who is healthy is going to play in this ballgame and play to the best of their ability."

Garrett makes a solid point, and for the most part he's correct. With just 46 players available on game day, starters will have to play. But the Cowboys can still make some concessions. Zack Martin has been dealing with a knee injury for most of the season, while Tyrone Crawford is still recovering from the scary neck injury that briefly hospitalized him on Sunday.

Asked about it Wednesday, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones wouldn't get into specifics, but he agreed that "the obvious ones who make sense" might not see the field this weekend.

Of course, the Cowboys don't want to get into the specifics of their game plan, which only serves to prompt further speculation.

For his part, Ezekiel Elliott said he doesn't expect to see a difference.

"Like I said, we're approaching it the same as a normal week," he said.

That's noteworthy coming from Elliott. Two years ago, when the Cowboys had secured the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, Elliott took to the bench for their Week 17 trip to Philadelphia. Other starters like Dak Prescott joined him as the game went along.

The Cowboys famously lost their next game, losing an overtime classic to Green Bay in the divisional round of the playoffs. Elliott said he didn't think the time off affected him, but he also emphasized how important he thinks it is to get reps in New York.

"I think we're built a little bit different," he said. "I think we definitely rely a lot more on our intensity and how hard we play and kind of being in a groove. I think this is just the right thing to do."

He wasn't here in 2016, but Amari Cooper shared a similar attitude when asked about playing time. If anyone would know about missing some playing time, it'd be the guy who came to the Cowboys during the middle of a bye week transition.

"When I got here, I had two bye weeks — or really I got knocked out in the Seattle game, then I had a bye week with Oakland, I came here and had another bye week," Cooper said. "So I really didn't play football for three weeks, and I didn't feel like I was out of a rhythm then, so you shouldn't fall out of a rhythm in one week."

Having said that, Cooper balked when someone asked him why he should play against the Giants. His answer was pretty simple.

"Because I love football," he said.

Cooper wasn't particularly interested in hearing about the injury angle, either. He said injuries can occur at any time, and playing with the mindset of avoiding them doesn't help.

"Me going out there worried about getting hurt, that's usually when you go out there and get hurt, because you play kind of timid," he said.

None of that is going to quell the speculation. Elliott joked with reporters that he would happily take 40 touches against the Giants, if that's what it took. It seems doubtful it will come to that, but only the Cowboys know for sure.

In the meantime, the focus is to finish the season on the right footing – and the details can sort themselves out from there.

"We've got to make sure we come out there and and we've got to be ready and build some momentum going into this wild card week," Elliott said.