IRVING, Texas – Injuries dominated the conversation Monday when Cowboys coach Jason Garrett held his first press conference since Saturday's game against Cincinnati.
Not all of that injury news was bad, however, as Garrett welcomed a trio of big names back to Monday's practice, headlined by cornerback Morris Claiborne. He also touched on the injuries to defensive tackle Jason Hatcher and guard Mackenzy Bernadeau, as well as the ongoing absence of defensive tackle Jay Ratliff:
Garrett addressed plenty of other issues at the press conference, including Saturday's woeful special teams play, Doug Free's performance at guard and Tuesday's impending batch of roster cuts.
- Claiborne worked mainly in individual drills, but he did not do any full team work. Garrett did not speculate about the possibility of playing Claiborne in the preseason finale against Houston.
- The groin injury Hatcher and the ankle injury to Bernadeau aren't "too serious," according to Garrett. He said the added rest time for starters, given that they won't play against the Texans, should help shore up the Cowboys' health ahead of the regular season.
- Several bad special teams plays, including a holding call on the opening kickoff, the punt return touchdown and the missed field goal, stood out on Saturday night. Garrett said he understands the Cowboys aren't using their Week 1 personnel on special teams, and he thinks special teams have improved during the course of the preseason, but "it hasn't been good enough."
- "There's no question that he's taken another step in the past year or so," said Garrett in regard to Dez Bryant's phenomenal preseason. Garrett said Bryant still has plenty of room to improve.
- Garrett described defensive tackle Jay Ratliff's injury status as a combination of his hamstring and his groin. Ratliff's biggest obstacle before he can be activated from the Physically Unable to Perform list is regaining his strength.
- Ratliff did not undergo any onfield rehabbing while the Cowboys were in California, as was typical of injured players. Garrett said Ratliff has been doing most of his work in the weight room, either alone or with Cowboys trainers.
- Doug Free's performance Saturday night at right guard "absolutely" made him a viable candidate to be a Week 1 starter at guard if the Cowboys need him to. [embedded_ad]
- The six turnovers in the Cowboys' loss to Arizona created an added emphasis on protecting the football in the Cincinnati game. Garrett said that contributed to his decision to pull running back DeMarco Murray when Murray fumbled "on the fifth or sixth play of the game" against Cincinnati. Garrett said Murray responded exactly the way he thought he would.
- "It's always very challenging to cut down your team and makes those kinds of decisions … these are people's lives, they're not some numbers on a white board," said Garrett of Tuesday's first batch of cuts to the roster.