FRISCO, Texas – It's rare that the talk of the town is quite literally about just that – talk.
Such is life when the Dallas Cowboys are 2-4 with a defense that's on a historically bad pace. The fallout continued on Wednesday after an NFL Network report levied anonymous criticism at the Cowboys' coaching staff from within the locker room.
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy had his chance on Tuesday night to address the report, which alleged that his coaches are unprepared, among other things.
Wednesday, it was the players' turn, as the microscope turned toward the locker room where this frustration is allegedly mounting.
"The first thing I think with anonymous sources, you never really can take them serious," said Sean Lee. "First, they don't put their name on it. Second, you don't know if the person's in the room, or not in the room. Maybe they were. Maybe they're not now. Sometimes you don't know if it's through a secondhand source. Maybe it is a player, but maybe it's coming through an agent. You just can't speculate."
It was interesting to hear from the Cowboys' longest-tenured defender in a time like this. Lee is currently working his way back from injured reserve and has not played yet this season. But as an 11-year veteran in this organization, he's got plenty of expertise on weathering these types of storms.
"You have to just say, listen, the consensus in our locker room, with our defense right now, is that we all need to work hard. We all need to improve," he said. "There's no pointing fingers. The only way out of this is to keep faith in each other. And we have that faith. Like we said, anything anonymous, we're not going to worry about that."
It has obviously been a talking point, both inside the Cowboys' facility and outside. McCarthy was asked Wednesday if he addressed the report with his team when the group convened for the start of preparations for Washington. He declined to elaborate on what he said, but McCarthy did allow that he's always looking for teachable moments.
The chatter might not pertain to his side of the ball, but – like McCarthy – Ezekiel Elliott said the Cowboys would do better to keep those conversations private.
"We need to keep that type of stuff in house," Elliott said. "Everyone in this building needs to take a look in the mirror and figure out what they could doing to help this team win. Just every one look in the mirror and fix that and we will all be better."
McCarthy has long said that his preference is direct communication, and it sounds like that's bearing out in this latest crisis. In that regard, Lee said he think it will help having a coach who is willing to take a direct line.
"I think it's squashed with the way he's handled it and he's talked to us," Lee said. "It was great what he said about if you have a problem come to my door. He doesn't have a problem talking to guys, embracing other people's opinions."
Obviously, the best way to squash frustration would be to win – or show improvement, at the very least. Lee is expected to return to practice this week on a limited basis, but it's unknown when he'll be able to play again. Randy Gregory returned to the roster this week, and there's optimism Chidobe Awuzie can return at some point. Perhaps the reinforcements will help.
Regardless, maintaining focus will be an added challenge on top of trying to cure what ails them defensively. Lee credited McCarthy with doing exactly that.
"We're not where we want to be, but we have so much opportunity in front of us and that's where our focus goes," he said. "And he refocused us on that and that's where we need to be."