FRISCO, Texas – Tavon Austin didn't have any particular rooting interest in Bears-Eagles last Sunday, despite knowing a Philly win would send the Cowboys to L.A. for a divisional-round playoff matchup against his former team: the NFC's second-seeded Rams.
"I was kind of hurt for the kicker," Austin said, referencing the last-second miss by Chicago's Cody Parkey. "I've been there before and I've lost games before."
The Eagles' victory meant the Cowboys will indeed face the Rams on Saturday night. But Austin doesn't want to dwell on the past – specifically, his exit from the team that drafted him eighth overall five years ago.
Injuries hindered Austin in 2017, his final year in L.A. He had wrist surgery that offseason and hurt his hamstring early in camp. He played all 16 games but caught a career-low 13 passes.
The Rams traded Austin to the Cowboys last April for a sixth-round draft pick. Speaking to reporters Monday, he acknowledged the move "hurt a little bit" due in part to the injuries he tried to play through last season.
"It was a little tough just because I think it was the first time I'd been through it," he said. "I'd seen other people going through it, but you never know until it's you.
"When you're getting traded, evidently you ain't doing something right or you ain't getting it done or they don't believe in you – one of those areas. So I felt disrespected, but at the end of the day, it is the business side."
Austin said he and Rams head coach Sean McVay had a positive discussion about the move last year and there were no hard feelings.
"He talked to me on the phone about it, told me he'd give me another chance to go somewhere else and finish my career," Austin said. "And that was good enough for me."
It has worked out for the 27-year-old receiver/returner. In last Saturday's wild-card win over Seattle – his second game back from a groin injury – he had five punt returns for 73 yards, including a 51-yarder in the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys knew Austin's speed and quickness could be an asset on special teams and on offense as a space player. After a two-month absence due to injury, he's rounding back into form at the most critical time of the season.
"He's practiced the last few weeks to get himself to the point where he can be game ready," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. "He made some big plays in the game the other day, he obviously had the 80-yard punt return that was called back but then he had another one 50-plus yards and did a good job in general, handling those punts and making positive plays for us and had an impact on offense.
"He's a really good football player and worked hard to get back to this position and he's helped our team, no question about that."
Austin (groin) remains on the injury report this week, but he practiced Tuesday and Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones sounded optimistic on 105.3 The Fan that the veteran wideout would be available against the Rams.
Despite the hype around facing his old team, Austin emphasized he's only concerned with helping his new team win a playoff game.
"We all know what it is, and I love the Rams to death," he said. "Just go over there, play my game, have fun, see some of the guys I used to kick it with -- blood, sweat and tears over there. But it is what it is."