FRISCO, Texas – There sure didn't seem to be any celebrating in the Cowboys locker after the first, and very short and light, practice Wednesday, beginning preparation for the New York Jets this Sunday at AT&T Stadium, knowing they won't have to face Aaron "Cowboys Killer" Rodgers, now out for the season with the torn Achilles suffered four plays into the Monday night's season opener against the Bills.
Nor will they have to be reminded of how Rodgers has dominated the Cowboys in eight of the last nine meetings with the Packers, including two playoff beatings and last year's 31-28 overtime loss at Green Bay.
When posed with the question of his thoughts on not having to face Rodgers, Cowboys veteran defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence simply put his head down, sort of smiled, then said, "Sorry for his injury, and wish him the best for his recovery."
And when the question was posed to veteran defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, the big guy said, "Hey, still got to go out there and play our game. Great competitor, great guy."
No sense taking shots at poking any bears up there in the Northeast.
- Eerie Coincidence: This is crazy. On Sept. 11, 1999, in the New York Jets' season opener, Jets starting quarterback Vinny Testaverde went down at Giants Stadium after suffering a season-ending torn Achilles. No way, right? Twenty-four years to the day later, Rodgers, on Sept. 11, 2023, goes down with the exact same injury, four snaps into the opener against Buffalo while playing a home game at MetLife. Back then Jets head coach Bill Parcells turned to experienced backup Rick Mirer. But after a 2-6 start to the season, Parcells turned to quarterback Ray Lucas, who led the team to an 8-8 finish. When asked about the Jets mishap in the opener against the Bills, now having to turn to former first-round draft choice Zach Wilson to replace Rodgers, Parcells had this to say about soldiering forward: "You are charged with winning games under any circumstances that exist, and that's what you have to try to do. I said (back then), 'They're not canceling the games. They're not canceling them.' You're coaching them. It's your job to get your team ready to play to the best of their ability. It's a player's job to prepare and play to the best of their ability. If they do that, then they should have a chance to win."
- Greatly Exaggerated: So many are burying the Jets after losing Rodgers in the opener, giving the Jets little chance going forward with Wilson at quarterback, even though they have a strong running game and a mighty stout defense, all perplexing head coach Robert Saleh. "I don't know why people are trying to put an obituary under our team name," Saleh told reporters on a Zoom call. Hey, it's New York, pal. Already headlines saying the Jets won't call Tom Brady. Headlines proclaiming another blow for those "long-suffering Jets fans." And Jets' Super Bowl odds plummet. Don't call it the Big Apple for nothing.
- Good Move: There was a lot of criticism out there last year when the Cowboys decided to release starting right tackle La'el Collins in favor of starting Terence Steele, a 2020 undrafted rookie free agent who actually was outplaying Collins coming back from his hip injury ending the 2020 season and suspended-shortened 2021 season. Well, the Bengals signed Collins last year, when a back injury cropped up, limiting his availability and the season ended when suffering a torn ACL in Week 16. Collins was just released by Cincinnati and Steele ends up signing that five-year extension on Sept. 4 worth $86 million, with a $15 million signing bonus and $50 million guaranteed, including his next two base salaries ($1.3 million and $7.25 million) along with his 2025 base in March of $13.25 million). Only problem, the Cowboys had signed Collins to a five-year, $50 million deal in 2019 and he's still costing them $8.168 million in dead money this year after $5.25 million last year. Big ouch.
- Golden Memorial: A one and a half hour memorial service was held Tuesday for Cowboys Hall of Fame personnel director Gil Brandt, who passed away Aug. 29 at the age of 91. And yes, it was a golden ceremony, with eight Hall of Fame members in attendance, including Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Mel Renfro, Bob Lilly, Drew Pearson, Cliff Harris, Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett and Troy Aikman, along with Scott Howley, representing his dad Chuck Howley, recently inducted into the Hall this August. The majority of those were wearing their gold Hall of Fame jackets. Pearson gave one of the eulogies, pointing out how Brandt had this knack for finding "players overlooked" in the draft, raising his hand in the air as one of those, then saying, "Hello Cliff," in reference to the undrafted Harris out of tiny Ouachita Baptist in Arkansas.
- Harder Knocks: So if you hadn't watched all five episodes of this summer's Hard Knocks, documenting the New York Jets, you probably didn't know about Xavier Gipson, the Jets' undrafted rookie wide receiver who returned the overtime punt for the walk-off touchdown to defeat the Bills, 22-16. Turns out "Zay" is from right here in Dallas, went to high school at Woodrow Wilson, college at Stephen F. Austin and became one of the storylines during Hard Knocks. And in the last episode when the Jets were making their final cuts, Gipson was called into the practice facility to meet with Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas. Usually never a good thing, Gipson coming in expecting the worse, and Saleh and Douglas pile on, going on and on about how he gave it his all, came in as an undrafted underdog, played as well as he could, but that these are always tough business decision, all leading to Gipson just knowing he was on his way out. And after ending the ruse, they tell the rookie, but you made it. Looked as if Gipson was going to pass out, and as it turns out, the best decision the Jets could have ever made, saving the day and game in the opener. And now should be a helluva homecoming for Zay, already his former high school coach and school officials being interviewed for TV stories.
- Week 2 Bites: Sure didn't like seeing wide receiver Brandin Cooks on the injury report with a knee problem incurred during the season opener, but felt somewhat better with him not practicing during the walk-through on Wednesday after McCarthy said, "He has a chance." He was somewhat coy after practice fielding questions … Equally, didn't like left guard Tyler Smith unable to at least participate in the walk-through, but also like that McCarthy confirmed what we thought after last Sunday's game that backup Chuma Edoga "played really well against the Giants," but then added referencing the Jets stout defensive line, "He'll have a big test this week." … Former NFL playing dads are sending their kids to the University of Colorado to play for Coach Prime, including Omar Stoutmire, a former Cowboys teammate of Deion Sanders (1997-98), his son freshman cornerback Carter Stoutmire, and former NFL kicker Jay Feeley, his son Jace now the Buffalos' kicker. Thought the Cowboys would end up the No. 1 defense in the NFL after giving up just 171 yards in the opener against the Giants, but Cleveland outdid them, holding Cincinnati to just 142 yards … When seeing Jets running back Breece Hall take off from his own 4-yard line and breaking into the open for that 83-yard run, brought back thoughts of Tony Dorsett on his 99-yard run for a touchdown against the Vikings back in the final game of the 1982 season (Jan. 3, 1983).
No one wishes bad injury luck on opposing players, and count Mike McCarthy in that group, getting this week's last word on his personal feelings about Rodgers suffering that season-ending torn Achilles, emphasizing the personal relationship the two had all those years in Green Bay together when winning that Super Bowl.
"I definitely reached out to him," McCarthy began. "I think I go back to last year. It was great to see him personally, got a chance to spend some time with him. I was really irritated about how well he played (tongue in cheek). It's great to compete against people you care about. We had been through a lot together. This is tough.
"I know he was very excited about this chapter of his life. I was looking forward to seeing him this weekend. And time in this game – you see how precious these opportunities are. Every game is such a special opportunity to compete in this league. Yeah, I think we are all feeling for him personally."