IRVING, Texas - If the coaches' decision to bench Bruce Carter for part of last week's game was to motivate the linebacker, then consider the job accomplished.
Carter said he's not sure if that was the coaches' intentions one week after a poor performance against the Chargers, but the temporary benching makes him more excited to get back on the field and prove his worth.
"It definitely puts a chip on your shoulder," Carter said. "You've just got to go out there and prove to everybody that you can play at a high level and you're capable of what you're able to do. You can't take anything for granted." [embedded_ad]
Carter was one of the standouts on defense last season and even early this year, as he accumulated 24 total tackles and three sacks through the first three weeks of the season. But a rough performance against the Chargers in Week 3 led to the coaches going more with Ernie Sims last week in the nickel package against the Broncos.
Never before in his life had Carter been in a situation like that.
"I've never been benched or a backup or none of that," Carter said. "It's a learning lesson. I definitely will say that. I can't take my position for granted or playing for the Cowboys, period."
Carter said he's not positive what will happen with the rotation in the nickel this week, although it's likely he gets more snaps going forward. He had trouble in coverage against the Chargers, as Danny Woodhead got behind him for two scores.
All the linebackers seem to be struggling more in coverage this year in their first season in Monte Kiffin's 4-3 defense. He said at times the linebackers might be thinking too much instead of playing quickly. At times, stopping to diagnose plays can appear like a lack of effort.
"It's a lot of stuff you have to cover, and it might not even be right in your face, it might be on the other side of the field," Carter said. "That's where, for me, things get complicated, just getting back in your drops, having to look across the field. That's something we've just been working at all week and I think we're getting better at."
- Rowan Kavner
FedEx Winner for Romo
So Tony Romo knocked off Peyton Manning in something this week. Although he came up short in the game, the fans actually voted Romo ahead of Manning and Drew Brees for the FedEx Air & Ground Players of the Week award.
Romo threw for a franchise-best 506 yards in the epic 51-48 loss to Manning's Broncos. Romo had a 140.0 quarterback rating and five touchdowns, but his costly fourth-quarter interception led to the Broncos' game-winning field goal in the final seconds.
Manning was stellar himself, passing for 414 yards and four touchdowns.
On the "Ground" side of the award, Kansas City's Jamaal Charles won the honor, besting Frank Gore and Knowshon Moreno.
- Nick Eatman
Miles Austin said he's not in control of the number of reps he will receive Sunday night, but did have an answer for his playing status.
"I'm playing in the game," he said Friday. "I'm excited. Ready to go."
Austin has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury he sustained in the Rams game on Sept. 22. Last week, the Cowboys racked up 506 passing yards, including a career-high 151 yards and a score from rookie Terrance Williams, who has started in Austin's place. Cole Beasley also had four for 47 yards and a touchdown last week.
In the first three games this year, Austin had 15 catches for 125 yards, including 10 for 72 in the opener with the Giants.
Six different players have caught touchdowns from Romo this year, but Austin has yet to find the end zone.
- Nick Eatman
The Cowboys are holding out hope Jay Ratliff will be on the field at some point this year, but there's still no set date for the defensive tackle's return.
Ratliff may not be ready to play when he's eligible to come off the Physically Unable to Perform list next week. He's also not rehabbing with the Cowboys, according to executive vice president Stephen Jones.
Jones told 105.3 FM "The Fan" that Ratliff has "had his frustrations in terms of his medical situation," and the Cowboys gave him the opportunity to explore different avenues in his rehab, though the team didn't prefer it.
"This is rare, but we felt like if it mentally helped him and gave him a better chance to get back to where he thinks he needs to be, we were up for him doing that," Jones said. "As far as knowing where he is, we get reports daily and understand how he's progressing, so we're aware of what's going on."
Ratliff only played in six games last season before getting sports hernia surgery at the end of the year. He injured his hamstring during the conditioning test at the beginning of training camp this year and hasn't played since.
"Any time you reward a player, you hope he plays at a high level," Jones said. "Any time it doesn't work out, it's frustrating, obviously. But that's a part of the business we're in.
"I'm sure Jay wishes it were different. I know we wish it was different. We could use him, but that's not the way it is."
- *Rowan Kavner**