IRVING, Texas – With every story, every conversation, every mention in passing about this team, one number gets added to the equation:
That's at least for this week. You can't talk about the Cowboys without mentioning their six-game losing streak, which should dominate the conversation. For this team, it's the only thing that matters right now, and it's the very reason why things are getting testy, if not heated, here at Valley Ranch.
But let me say this: Six is inaccurate, especially if you work here every day. Because unlike the fans, who know this team has lost six straight games, it's not just a six-game losing streak around here. Even saying they haven't won in seven weeks isn't doing it justice.
Plain and simple, this is a 53-day losing streak. That's really the only way to describe it if you're inside these walls.
To the fans, the Cowboys are losing every Sunday. To the players, they feel this losing streak every single day.
And on Thursday, it was another example of how the results on Sundays can boil over and turn ugly.
By now, you've probably heard or seen the locker room spat between Dez Bryant and a couple of members of the media. All of it stemmed from an article written by an ESPN reporter, Jean-Jacques Taylor, who has covered this team since the mid-1990s. Taylor wrote an editorial piece on Dez following the Seattle game, simply stating that the Cowboys need more from their $70 million receiver than two catches for 12 yards.
Dez took offense, not so much with the premise, because I'm sure he'd be the first to agree that he needs to contribute more, but more about Taylor not being in the locker room on the particular day he heard about the story. Taylor's rebuttal to that was Dez not being available after the game Sunday night against the Eagles.
OK, that happens all the time. No big deal really, and honestly, when the two met up on Thursday, it got heated, but it shouldn't have escalated like it did.
As a bystander, I've learned my lesson about getting too close to these altercations, and so I can't tell you that I heard any racial slurs. I did talk to Taylor later in the afternoon and he strongly denied using any slur toward Dez or Devin Street, who walked up and put himself into the conversation.
Once that seemed to calm down, Dez left and then came back in the locker room and noticed a reporter, Robert Klemko from the website The MMQB, had tweeted about the incident and included some of the expletives from the conversation. That set Dez off again. He became visibly upset that he was singled out on social media. While it never got physical, the two had to be separated in the locker room by the Cowboys' public relations staff, which also received a few choice words from Bryant, who pointed out that these are the types of incidents that keep him from talking to the media on a regular basis.
The second altercation occurred during Jason Witten's weekly visit with the media, and he eventually stepped away from the cameras in an attempt to calm Dez down.
I've only been in one locker room for the last 16 seasons, but I can promise you this isn't happening right now in Carolina. Not happening in Cincinnati or New England.
This, is yet another example of what losing does for a football team and for individuals.
This incident reminded me of a similar one in 2010. Jay Ratliff had a standoff in the locker room with a reporter about a story that was written about Ratliff reportedly being benched. That altercation went on for several minutes with some uncomfortable threats being tossed around.
Want to take a stab at the Cowboys' record during this incident? Yeah, that would be a big 1-7, thanks to a five-game losing streak.
Now, I'm not condoning any type of volatile behavior and saying it's all right to do what you want if you've lost five or six games in a row. But it's more about the culture around here on a 24/7 basis. Losing streaks extend way past Sundays.
I'm not trying to defend Dez because I think he could've handled the situation differently. I also believe that he knows he should've handled it differently.
But let's not forget this part. Other than just being physically gifted, the thing that makes Dez Bryant such a great football player is his passion. And it's not just a passion for the game, but for life. It's a passion that stays with him on and off the field.
When they signed him to his multi-million contract in the offseason, the Cowboys pointed to the passion he brings to the team and the locker room and the huddle. Well, passion is passion.
What we saw on Thursday is Dez being Dez. He cares what is written about him. He cares that he missed five straight games when the starting quarterback was also out. And he cares that this team is 2-6.
Personally, I'd rather have that passionate Dez on the field and then try to work with him on some of these incidents. But I think it has to be pointed out that it's not really an either-or situation. Dez stays passionate all of the time.
It just gets magnified a little more when the record is 2-6.
Nick Eatman is the author of the recently published *If These Walls Could Talk: Dallas Cowboys, a collection of stories from the Cowboys' locker room, sideline and press box, with a foreword written by Darren Woodson.*