ARLINGTON, Texas – The Cowboys participated Wednesday in their annual kickoff luncheon at AT&T Stadium, complete with a silent auction, lunch, an introduction of the entire team and an announcement of awards from the previous season by Cowboys coaches and staff.
The luncheon benefits Happy Hill Farm, which is a residential school for at-risk youth that houses the Dallas Cowboys Ed Block Courage House. Happy Hill Farm, founded by Ed Shipman, strives to equip motivated and deserving students with the knowledge and skills necessary for life-long success.
"Ed Shipman is just a rare human being," said Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. "I know the impact he's made on so many different lives, individuals' lives, families' lives and generations of families' lives."
Some of the awards presented at the luncheon included the Tom Landry Legend Award, which went to Cornell Green, the Ed Block Courage Award, which went to Jason Witten for his early return from a lacerated spleen, and the special teams, defensive and co-offensive MVP awards, which went to Dan Bailey, Anthony Spencer and Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, respectively.
Garrett said the story of Witten returning to play in the opener against the Giants is the one he'll remember from Witten's career, more so than any stats he puts up. Every player spoke after earning their respective awards.
"The ultimate compliment is to get the respect of your teammates," Witten said, before giving credit to his family and the trainers for a speedy recovery. "Any time you overcome injury, there's a lot of people who have an impact in that."
In addition to the awards and the lunch, current and former Cowboys players and personnel also spoke about the state of the team, particularly regarding the team's health right now.
- Head coach Jason Garrett said the final preseason game will give the younger players competing for a roster spot a much better opportunity to prove their worth to the team. He wants to evaluate as many of those players as possible on Thursday.
"Different guys will play different amounts based on what their injuries are," Garrett said. "We don't anticipate seeing many starters in this ballgame. We don't know (Morris Claiborne)'s status right now, but I wouldn't anticipate him."
- Former safety Darren Woodson also commented on a variety of Cowboys issues, but particularly on the secondary and Claiborne, who's battling through his knee injury.
"I'd like to see a lot more of Claiborne," Woodson said. "I haven't seen a whole lot this preseason, and if anyone needs to get these reps right now, it's Claiborne. (Brandon) Carr's a guy that's more of a veteran player. He understands the game mentally and physically. Claiborne's a guy that, as talented as he is, he needs these types of reps to take that next step."
- Owner/general manager Jerry Jones said he knows what 8-8 feels like and he wants to be better than that. He believes that the team can do that by using all of Garrett's talents and his experience.
"Jason, my hats off to you," Jones said. "You have absolutely gone beyond any expectation that I could have imagined the way you put this team together."