FRISCO, Texas – The vibe in the Cowboys' locker room after the preseason finale always feels a bit like a final examination.
The hard work has been put in, the test has been taken – and there's nothing left to do but wait. The Cowboys will begin the process of cutting down their roster on Friday. But for players on the fringe of the roster, the whole weekend feels like a wait for the final grade.
"It's out of my control now, you know what I'm saying? I did all I could do," said Keith Smith after the loss to Houston on Thursday night.
Smith epitomizes what this weekend is all about. The majority of the players that will comprise the 53-man roster – Travis Frederick, Jason Witten, Orlando Scandrick and other starters – know they're assured of a job on Monday morning.
But guys like Smith, who has been asked to play fullback, linebacker and excel on special teams during his time here, can only hope that their contributions are deemed worthy of a roster spot. Smith knows that better than most, as he has bounced between the Cowboys' active roster and practice squad numerous times over the past two years.
"I've never known," he said. "I've been through so much with this whole process and whatnot, and I'm not assuming nothing at this point."
Elsewhere, fellow Cowboys will get a taste of the process for the first time. After enjoying his best performance of the preseason against the Texans, Rico Gathers said he intended to relax and see what happens.
"For the most part, I know I've worked my tail off," Gathers said. "It wasn't going to be easy for me, and at the end of the day God's got the last call. At this moment right now, it's all in God's hands. I'm not really worried about the cuts. I'm going to be at home enjoying my family and just sitting back."
The Cowboys will undoubtedly fill their 10-man practice squad with many of the roster cuts they make this weekend. That still means 22 players won't achieve the goal of making the active roster, and another 12 won't stick around at all.
Dez Bryant has never had to worry about his job status during his seven seasons in the league. But even for trusted veterans, it can be a difficult weekend.
"You know, building those relationships with those guys, and seeing it potentially end here tonight or tomorrow morning – it's heartbreaking," Bryant said. "Because you built those relationships, and you build them to where it's going to last forever, and it's just heartbreaking. You're just praying and hoping for the best for a lot of those guys."
At this point, hoping and waiting is all that's left to do.