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Eatman: Leadership Revisited With Lewis Up Next; Views Vary

The Cowboys are coming off a loss 10 days ago. They're sitting here with an average record. And what do you know; the poster boy for NFL leadership is next up for this team.

Of course, the leadership questions have resurfaced once again.

If you remember back in the offseason, Cowboys defensive end Jason Hatcher told a local radio station the team lacked leadership and needed more guys like Ravens' linebacker Ray Lewis in the locker room at Valley Ranch.

That sounds good. The problem is … who else is like Ray Lewis?

We always talk about great leaders, but it seems like it starts and ends with Lewis. He's the guy NFL Films captures getting his teammates hyped before the game and he's always got a great and colorful sound bite to add.

But if he wasn't one of the NFL's best linebackers to ever wear a uniform, would he really be a great leader?

Personally, I don't think so. I've always questioned whether a great leader has to be a great player first. If not, then how are the rest of the guys really going to follow an average player who might talk a great game in the locker room or the huddle, but doesn't walk it on the field.

That same question got asked to a pair of Jasons on Wednesday. The head coach and the team captain/tight end had completely different answers.

Garrett said a great leader doesn't have to be a great player.

"Absolutely. You can lead in so many different roles on a football team," Garrett said. "I've seen great football players be great leaders. I've seen great football players be only OK leaders and guys who might be a lesser player have more of a leadership role on the team. I've seen guys who aren't starters be great leaders. It has a lot to do with your work ethic, your passion, your commitment to the football team, what guys respond to."

Garrett's biggest leader in this locker room is probably Jason Witten, who was asked the same question and had a different view. He was asked the question directly – do you have to be a good player to be a good leader?

"Absolutely," Witten said. "The film doesn't lie.  You spend so much time watching that tape … your play better back it up or you're not going to have any voice to stand on as far as getting in front of the team and talking. Line 1 is: be a good football player in every phase of the game in how you prepare and how you play."

Witten acknowledged Lewis as a true leader for the Ravens, but not just because of how he plays, but the guys around him.

"He rallies everyone around him," Witten said of Lewis. "The ultimate true sign of a leader is to make everyone around you better at what they do. He's a really good middle linebacker still at his age. But everyone around him is better because of the way he leads."

Lewis probably said it best when it comes to natural leaders.

"Honestly, it's something that you have or you don't," he said. "I think it's something that experiences sometimes can take you through things and can develop that, but I believe truthfully that it's something that you have or you don't."

He has it for sure. But he's one of the very view in this league.

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