PHOENIX – It's technically called a breakfast, but there wasn't much time to eat.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett sat down with reporters at the annual NFL Coaches Breakfast on Tuesday morning. And while there was an omelet bar and an assortment of other options, Garrett spent the better part of an hour fielding questions about the state of his team to this point in 2019.
From offseason acquisitions to suspensions to scheme changes, Garrett dished on a variety of topics in his first public comments since the NFL Combine. Here are the highlights:
- Garrett has commented on Randy Gregory's status before, as the four-year defensive end was suspended by the league during the NFL Combine. Asked about it again on Tuesday, though, Garrett said the Cowboys are working with the NFL on the situation – and he noted that Gregory continues to work hard to get himself back into the league.
"Again, without going into the details of all the things he's done to try to get to the point where he can play for us, it's been a very serious approach as an organization and his approach has been serious. He's been able to make strides," Garrett said. "He was able to come back and play for us and be a very productive player and a productive guy in our locker room but unfortunately, my understanding of all of this is sometimes relapse is part of rehab, so we're working through the process of suspension right now with the NFL, but Randy Gregory is working very hard trying to get back, trying to get the situation under control and we're doing everything we can under the rules to help him do that."
- Speaking of pass rushers run afoul of the league, Garrett was bound to be asked about mercurial defensive tackle David Irving – who was also suspended by the NFL in February. Irving sprained an ankle during practice in October, and he wasn't seen for the rest of the Cowboys' 2018 season. Following the suspension, he took to social media to announce his retirement, citing the NFL's drug policy as his reasoning. Later, Irving alleged that Garrett encouraged him to quit the team.
Asked about that report, Garrett responded:
"To that particular point the only thing I would say is there are some rules and parameters you have in the NFL if you want to play and you have to follow those rules, independent of what your opinions are on any particular topic, you have to stay within the confine of the rules or they're not going to let you play," Garrett said. "So, if something so important to you to break those rules and that prevents you from playing, you're making a decision about what you value most. I was just trying to indicate to him if you want to play in the NFL these are the rules, these are the parameters you have to follow. Hopefully he understands that."
As it currently stands, Irving's NFL suspension is indefinite.
- The Cowboys have visited with former Seahawks defensive tackle Malik McDowell since the start of free agency, but it doesn't sound like any kind of deal is imminent. McDowell was picked 35th overall by Seattle in the 2017 NFL Draft, but he never played a snap after suffering a brain injury in an ATV accident.
Garrett spoke highly of the Cowboys' evaluation of McDowell coming out of Michigan State. But it doesn't sound like the go-ahead has been given in regard to his medical evaluation.
"I think the biggest question with him is the medical question. Making sure we're comfortable with that," he said. "He's a young player, some uncertainty about him because he hasn't played. But if you got back to the evaluation coming out of school you say, 'Boy there was a lot to like about him.' We're just in the process of trying to find out more about him. He came in and we had a good visit with him and we'll continue to go down that process of doing our due-diligence."
- On Monday, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones joked that he'd have to see Jason Witten take a reduced role to believe it was going to happen.
Garrett was asked about that Tuesday, as the Cowboys try to find snaps for both their Hall of Fame tight end, as well as the up-and-coming duo of Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz. As usual, Garrett spoke of the importance of competition. It's a good bet the Cowboys will feel that out as they work through the offseason toward training camp.
"I think over the last couple years, as you get into Year 14, 15, I think he recognizes the importance of being able to take a practice off in training camp and I think the same thing applies to how we would use him in a game right now," Garrett said of Witten. "His greatest strength is his competitiveness, his desire, his drive to be a great football player and have a positive impact on our team. He'll go to all ends of the Earth to be able to do that – that's why he's a Hall of Fame player. You never want to take that away from him. Having said that, we have a couple of young tight ends who emerged last year and started playing better and better as the year went on. We feel like those guys will have a role for us. All of that stuff will be fleshed out as we get going, but suffice it to say we're really excited he's back."