IRVING, Texas – Asked to clarify the Cowboys' new play calling mechanics, offensive coordinator Bill Callahan was crystal clear.
"Nothing has changed in terms of play calling, whatsoever," Callahan said. "There's not changes of plays or anything like that."
Word leaked the night before the Giants game last weekend that Cowboys coach Jason Garrett had altered the play calling process ahead of the team's crucial division matchup.
Throughout the season, Callahan has called the offense's plays upstairs from the coaching booth and relayed them to quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson on the sideline. Wilson then sent the call to Tony Romo in the huddle.
Starting last Sunday, Garrett moved Wilson to the coaching booth to help Callahan read coverages, and Callahan now sends the playcall to Garrett, who relays it to Romo.
The supposition is that the change in schematic offers Garrett the opportunity to be more hands-on, and even change Callahan's playcalls. But Callahan insisted that hasn't been the case.
"Here's what I think everyone needs to understand: there's great communication amongst the offensive coaches. Jason is a part of this process of gameplanning and being on the sideline during a game," he said. "I think he's just become more active with Tony in that regard, because he has been. And rightfully so – he's had that relationship with him on the sideline in his career, and he wanted to get back to that a little bit more."
Callahan has long maintained this season that, though he is in charge of calling the plays, the dialogue between the offensive coaches has been constant and effective. While Garrett's role in relaying the calls might have changed, Callahan said his influence has not.
"I think that the communication is what it's been – it's always been real consistent," Callahan said. "I think Coach (Garrett) has always injected his thoughts and observations, his ideas – not only on game day but during the week. We're all working the gameplan together, we're all in there together."
Pressed to specify Garrett's impact on play calling, Callahan reiterated the running dialogue. He said there is a steady conversation about what the offense hopes to focus on, rather than one coach giving orders.
"It's more like 'What are you thinking on this series, Bill? What are your thoughts going into this next drive? What do you have going?' He just wants to know, and that's communicated," Callahan said. "'We're going to do this, we're going to try to get this to personnel grouping. We're going to try to get to this run, or this group of passes.' That's what's communicated, essentially, on the headset during the course of the game."
Here are some more notes from Wednesday:
Dwayne Harris won't be available Thursday for the game against Oakland with a hamstring injury, which raises multiple issues for the Cowboys.
Harris has featured prominently as a punt returner, as he's currently tied for second in the NFL with an average of 14 yards per return. But he has also been reliable this season as both a kick returner and a tackling machine on kick coverage units.
That doesn't include his 80 receiving yards and two touchdowns this season – including the game-winning score against Minnesota on Nov. 3.
"Dwayne's been just such a good player for us. We've given him chances on offense, and he consistently goes up and makes plays and certainly been a huge factor for us in the kicking game – not only as a returner but as a cover guy," Garrett said.
Cole Beasley is set to handle Harris' punt return duties after he returned three punts for 19 yards Sunday against New York. Terrance Williams will handle kick return duties while Harris recovers. On coverage teams, Garrett said other plays will once again have to make the most of an opportunity.
"Like with the other injuries we've had on our team, you just put the other guy in there – whether it's one guy, or in his case, two or three guys, to make up for it," he said.
94 Feeling 97
As players continue to go down, DeMarcus Ware is building back up.
The lack of full pad practices in the short week can be a positive for the ailing Cowboys, including Ware, who said he got out of last week's game against the Giants unscathed. He said he's around 97 percent with the thigh injury he's battled through late in the season.
"Your body feels really good," Ware said. "You get a lot more mental reps. Usually, we'll take eight to 10 reps. This time, during the period we'll take 14 or 15 plays and there's not a lot of reloads either. Guys can really hone in on what we need to do."
Ware said it's essential late in the season to keep the momentum going, and he plans on being out there fully. Despite coming off injury and taking it easy this week, Ware doesn't plan on easing up or being a rotation player in Thursday's game. [embedded_ad]
"I didn't do that last week," Ware said. "That was the same rotation we had during the season. I didn't take it easy at all. That's going to be the same this week, too."
-- Rowan Kavner
There's no set timetable, but Justin Durant's hoping the Thanksgiving game's the last one he'll miss.
Durant's among the plethora of Cowboys with a hamstring injury, and he said his progress is coming along and he's worked up to running and sprinting now.
"Just have to test it every day, see exactly where you are," Durant said. "Right now I'm in a good spot."
It's difficult for him to predict just how soon he'll be back. Durant's tweaked his hamstring before, but it's never been as debilitating as this hamstring injury.
He said his return will come as soon as possible and hopefully with the long week after the Raiders game that will be enough time to get ready for Monday night against the Bears.
"You want to get out there," Durant said. "You see teammates working hard every day and putting it all out there on the field, and you're just on the side. It's kind of tough, but like I said, I'll be back as soon as possible."