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Cowboys In No Hurry To Answer Playing Time Questions Ahead Of Season Finale

FRISCO, Texas – If the final game of the season is going to look different from the rest, Jason Garrett certainly isn't going to admit it.

That was the feeling from Garrett's Tuesday afternoon press conference, where the Cowboys' head coach wrapped up the 42-21 win against Detroit and turned toward Philadelphia.

With a 13-2 record and homefield advantage secured through the playoffs, there's been plenty of speculation about whether Garrett might try to rest players in the regular season finale. True to his season-long mantra, Garrett said he simply wants to prepare for a productive week of practice.

"Our focus is on everybody who's healthy practicing and planning on playing in this ballgame, and that's the approach that we've really taken all year long," he said.

How that affects Week 17 might depend on one's definition of "healthy." The Cowboys have obvious injury concerns, such as Tyron Smith, who left Monday night's win with a knee injury. Garrett might want to play as many people as possible, but not at the expense of the upcoming postseason.

That isn't luxury the Cowboys can afford across their roster, though – and Garrett was sure to emphasize that fact. The Cowboys only have 53 players on the active roster, and they can only dress 46 for a game. Given those limitations with the roster size, the coaching staff will undoubtedly have to play some starters.

"Sometimes I think there's a feeling that people think, 'OK, let's just put that second offensive line group in there,'" Garrett said. "We have seven active offensive linemen on our team. So five of them are going to play in the game. It's like that for most of the positions on the team."

Of course, there are some obvious exceptions to the rule. The Cowboys could undoubtedly get away with sitting some of their skill players, such as Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott or Dez Bryant. Whether they opt to do that is another matter – though it is interesting to try to read between the lines.

Speaking on the issue on Monday night, team owner/general manager Jerry Jones suggested the Cowboys might treat Week 17 just like this previous game, with all available starters playing to win.

"Now, I don't want to get ahead of things, but there's no reason why we shouldn't go with the way we went this week," he said.

With nothing to gain or lose from the result, it'd be interesting if the Cowboys do in fact choose not to rest any starters. There will undoubtedly be scrutiny on Tony Romo and whether he gets his first reps of the season in Philadelphia.

To hear it from Jones, the Cowboys are confident enough with his progress in practice that they don't want to insert Romo into a game unless the full complement of starters is available.

"We're just not concerned about him having play time," Jones said. "But sure wouldn't want him to get any time other than playing behind our firsts."

Again, that raises questions about what this upcoming game might look like. If the Cowboys don't want to use Romo in relief, will Prescott play all 60 minutes against the Eagles? Or does that mean Mark Sanchez will make an appearance against his former team?

For his part, Prescott made his opinions on the matter perfectly clear after the game.

"I want to play every game," he said. "I want to keep this momentum going. Any rep I can get is making myself better and I want to take advantage of those."

These aren't questions the Cowboys are in a hurry to answer, having just wrapped up their Week 16 game. But the situation will certainly bear monitoring as the week goes on.

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