FRISCO, Texas – This might be one of the most unique workplaces in America, but on a day like Thursday it feels just like every other place in this country: distracted, heartbroken and afraid.
Even in a building like The Star, where the halls are abuzz with the start of this year's OTAs, there's a permeating sense of sadness at the news coming out of Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were gunned down Wednesday at Robb Elementary School.
And while the Cowboys might have taken to their indoor practice field for their second organized practice of the offseason, it's understandable if their minds were elsewhere at times.
"It's very hard. It's nerve wracking," said DeMarcus Lawrence. "Every time I have chance to go in the locker room, I hit up my wife. 'How are the kids? Are they home yet?' It's something you wouldn't expect. But this is what we are dealing with."
Lawrence has been particularly outspoken in the time since the massacre, as he took to social media Wednesday to call for stronger security in schools, and elaborated on that with reporters on Thursday.
"This is all of us. All of us are going to have to step in," he said. "Make sure we are builder a safer work space, safer environment for us to grow in."
Again, as might be expected across the nation, the range of emotions covered the gamut. For every angry reaction, there was intense sadness. Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy teared up when he was asked about it, elaborating that one of his daughters is in fourth grade – the same age as many of the victims.
"I don't like talking about these things because it's hard enough to think about as a parent," McCarthy said. "We've been talking about it a lot today. This is obviously a topic for all of us here. So, yeah, we've got to be better. The responsibilities we have as a community, as parents. To see this go on in today's world, I find it troubling."
That's a sentiment anyone can identify with, while plenty of questions remain about how to fix it.
For his part, Dak Prescott had scheduled a town hall meeting in Arlington on Wednesday night. Planned far in advance, the event was put together by Prescott and his Faith Fight Finish Foundation to bring North Texas community groups together with law enforcement leaders, education leaders and mental health experts for a conversation on how to better work together.
The conversation was planned before the events in Uvalde – not to mention the killing of 10 adults in a Buffalo supermarket just two weeks ago. But in both cases, it's a pertinent reminder of how much there is to talk about and how much work can still be done.
"If yesterday and two weeks ago and all of what we've been through hasn't been a call for each and every one of us for help, for our neighborhood and what's going on with them individually and how we're protecting, policing and serving one another throughout our community, something has to be done and a change has to happen now," Prescott said.
Prescott talked about the need to have uncomfortable conversations with community leaders. Lawrence, who like McCarthy is a father, said he wasn't quite ready to have those types of conversations with his children.
"It's just a lot to take in, especially to bring to your kids' attention," he said. "I don't want my kids to be fearful of going to school and looking over their shoulder every time they're in class. They're too young to have that type of responsibility."
That responsibility will fall to others, and rightfully so. Though, as has been the case throughout countless tragedies, a solution seems elusive.
And so, while the Dallas Cowboys might have a different job than most, they spent their work day in similar circumstances to everyone else – scared, sad and at a loss for words.
"I don't know how something like that doesn't impact everyone, I don't care if you're an athlete or not," Prescott said. "We're talking about children. We're talking about the future. I mean, I don't have kids and can't imagine having to send my kid to school with that anxiety. Honestly, it makes me fearful to have children, and that's not right. That's sad."