IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys won't have Dez Bryant or Tony Romo back on the field for several more weeks, but both injured stars will travel with the team to New Orleans, head coach Jason Garrett said.
Bryant did not make the trip to Philadelphia in Week 2 just a few days after having surgery to repair a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot.
Even though they're sidelined, Romo and Bryant can be sounding boards for quarterback Brandon Weeden and the wide receivers.
"The only time players won't make a trip is if we feel like it's better for them medically to stay here, whether it's flying or staying in a hotel, whatever those factors are," Garrett said. "We like to keep our team together. Just because they're not playing because of an injury doesn't mean they're not part of the team. Those guys are great leaders on and off the field."
When the Cowboys' locker room opened to the media on Friday, it hadn't been determined if Drew Brees would start for the Saints.
True to their head coach Jason Garrett's example, Cowboys defenders stressed an inward focus on their own game, rather than worrying about the opposing quarterback.
"It doesn't really matter what quarterback is playing," Tyrone Crawford said. "For us on the D-Line, it's simple: we just play our ball, we go out there and we focus on us. We do what we've got to do, we read our keys and everything should work out."
Brees was announced as the starter during the middle of the locker room session, and to their credit, the Cowboys stayed on message. Sean Lee said it was no surprise to hear that New Orleans' Pro Bowl signal-caller would be available.
"We expected that, being the quarterback he is," Lee said. "Obviously, it will be an incredible challenge. He's a Hall of Fame type of guy. We knew with a guy like that, he's fought through injuries before."
It's got to be nice to have some clarity about the opposition, given the uncertainty of whether it would be Brees or Luke McCown taking the field for the Saints. As Garrett has repeated all week, Lee said the process is more about studying the offense than a specific player.
"You study their system, you study how they like to attack us, our defense and a lot of things," Lee said. "But knowing him and knowing how tough the player is, we knew there was probably a good shot he'd be playing."
As for being disappointed that Brees is playing, or preferring to play McCown – no chance. The Cowboys said they welcome the challenge.
"You want to play against the best," Corey White said. "Drew Brees is probably going to go down as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play, and you want to play against the best."
Round 3 vs. Rob
The Cowboys' offense has faced former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan twice since he joined the Saints in 2013.
Two years ago, the Cowboys only gained 193 total yards in a lopsided 49-17 loss at the Superdome. Last year, the tables turned: the Cowboys racked up 445 yards and held the ball for 34:45 in a 38-17 blowout at AT&T Stadium.
With different personnel on the field this year – namely, no Romo (collarbone), Bryant (foot), or DeMarco Murray, who has been replaced by a committee of running backs – the Cowboys know they might not necessarily see the same looks from Ryan's scheme on Sunday night.
"He throws a lot of different looks at you," tight end Jason Witten said. "He plays a lot of different coverages. You've kind of got to see how he's going to attack you. I think the thing that he does differently than most defenses is that he has a game plan for every week on how he's going to try to play you."