IRVING, Texas – No one else could have done it in years past. No one else would have done it effectively in years past.
When Brandon Carr signed his five-year, $50.1 million deal in Dallas, it was to play cornerback. It's the position where he picked off four passes last year and broke up at least 13 in each of his previous three seasons to earn that big contract.
It wasn't at safety.
But he didn't mind making the shift there when Barry Church got hurt. It was a move Tampa Bay couldn't have anticipated, and a move he seemed to fit right into.
Not many athletes would switch positions away from the one that earned them millions of dollars, just to fit a scheme. Carr accepted it. It's a type of selfless move this Cowboys team needs to mesh into a cohesive group – one that cares about more than stats, a contract or a comfort level. One that can potentially become a playoff contender.
"It's really important," said head coach Jason Garrett. "We talked earlier in the week. Brandon embraced this. That is the right word. He embraced this opportunity. He saw that he could help our football team. It wasn't like, 'Hey, I'm a corner. I'm a cover corner. You've got to leave me there.'
"That's what really good teams do. Whatever the role might be that's going to help our football team, they embrace it."
Safety Gerald Sensabaugh talked earlier in the week about how this is the best defense he's ever played for. It's because of the talent and the coaching, sure. More importantly, though, he said he's never played for a defense that cared about each other the way this Cowboys defense does.
None of that gets said if Carr refuses to move and the Dallas defense gets beat deep by Jackson and enters this week against Chicago 1-2.
The switch allowed the Cowboys to play Mike Jenkins on the outside and get him readjusted to the speed of the NFL and one of the league's best receivers in Vincent Jackson.
"When you're a player and you feel yourself do something that you had been able to do in the past, but because of an injury you haven't been able to do it, the light goes on," Garrett said. "To me, observing the whole thing, I just saw (Jenkins) become more and more confident, and because of that, play with a spirit that we always liked about him."
That doesn't happen if Carr stays put. The Cowboys aren't taking their premier free-agent signee off the field for long, so if Garrett still tries to find ways to get Jenkins into the mix, it instead slows the progression of first-round pick Morris Claiborne.
Carr's versatility allowed the Cowboys to bring in Eric Frampton from Minnesota to bolster the safety spot. They didn't worry about signing a safety they had to immediately plug in to start this weekend because they have a player at cornerback who can become a capable safety whenever they want.
It's a luxury they may never have known if a different attitude existed in the locker room.
"He goes, 'I can do this. I haven't done it in a while, but I can do this,'" Garrett said of Carr. "I think he saw how it could help our football team, giving Jenkins an opportunity to play."