OXNARD, Calif. – It makes sense that Brandon Carr would be one of the players to check in on J.J. Wilcox.
Carr, who dealt with significant personal tragedy of his own last year, said he'd give Wilcox a call at some point Tuesday to talk to him and keep his spirits up while the rookie safety tends to his ailing mother.
"It's very hard when it's real life situations that kind of make football take a backseat to things that are going on," Carr said. "This is a game for us. It's an honor and a privilege for us to play, but at the same time, we still have family and people we care dearly for, and you have your mom, somebody that's been there for you your whole life and gave birth to you, it kind of makes football, like I said, take a backseat."
The emotional roller coaster last year for Carr began when he lost two friends in former teammate Jovan Belcher and Belcher's girlfriend. A week later, he heard news that his current teammate at the time, Jerry Brown, had passed away.
Carr said he wants to let Wilcox know he'd be in his prayers and that the team has his back as the rookie through his own tough times. Head coach Jason Garrett said the team would give Wilcox as much time as he needs. Carr didn't even realize what had been going on for Wilcox personally, because the young safety still came out every day without a complaint.
"That just kind of shows you his maturity level as well," Carr said. "It's a big issue, but at the same time, he didn't really let it affect his play or let it be known or show it out here when it's time to come out here and work. Now he's doing what he has to do to take care of his family, and we understand that."
More specifically, if anyone understands working through tough times, it's probably Carr, who's not quite a year removed from his dramatic season in his first year with the Cowboys.
"I never would have imagined going through a time like that, but at the same time, I learned a lot about myself, just going through that adversity," Carr said. "There's a difference between going through a game where you're getting picked on, you're getting passes caught or you're getting penalties and things like that to actually people that you know and shared intimate moments with passing away.
"You still have to come out here and focus and play the game. It was pretty tough, but I found strength within and it also allowed me to exercise my faith and to actually test myself and see how strong I was in my word. At the end of the day, I just let everything figure itself out. Some things you won't understand or have an answer for everything, and I was fine with that, because I just believe in a higher power."
Wilcox left the team to attend to his mother after the second preseason game, in which he led the team with six tackles and an interception. All those tackles came on a single drive, which ended with an interception in the red zone.
Carr singled out Wilcox as the one young player in the secondary who's caught his eye since the draft. He's even given Wilcox the nickname "the red zone killer," dating back to the plays the rookie made in Organized Team Activities. He said the sky's the limit for Wilcox.
"He's a guy that's all over the field," Carr said. "You saw that last week with the drive he got in, he made the first five whatever tackles, coming from a free safety or coming from outside the box and being around the ball. At the same time, getting interceptions in the red zone, that's the same thing he'd been doing at OTAs, so I mean it's no surprise he kind of got a name around here."