IRVING, Texas – History's on the Cowboys' side this week as they prepare for their first Thursday night game of the season.
The short week's typically favored the Cowboys, who are 28-15-1 and have won five of their last six games on Thanksgiving. They've played the Redskins more than any other team on Turkey Day, going 6-0 all-time, though past records may not make much of a difference for a Cowboys team dealing with a litany of injuries.
"For years, only a handful of teams were playing on these Thursdays, but everybody is playing on Thursdays this year with the NFL package, so it's just part of the deal," said head coach Jason Garrett. "We have a routine we like to get into and we went through the first day of that routine today with our players, and we don't spend really any time on the game we just played. We get focused on the game that's coming up as quickly as we can."
Garrett said the team will make as many quick corrections as possible without getting bogged down on Browns' film when the time could be better utilized watching the upcoming opponent.
If there was a week the Cowboys could use more time to look at tape of the Redskins and of the past week's game, it would be this one. The Cowboys allowed seven sacks against the Browns and used a handful of new offensive linemen they'd like to critique. They're also playing against an opposing quarterback in Robert Griffin III they've never seen in person before.
"They are certainly playing different offensive football than they've played in the past because of RGIII being their quarterback," Garrett said. "We certainly have to do our best to get on top of what they're trying to get done. They've certainly been very impressive at different times and they do a variety of things, and we've got to make sure we can contain him."
One of the new Cowboys isn't accustomed to the typical November short week. Cornerback Brandon Carr's excited to participate in his first Thanksgiving Day game, and he knows staying as healthy and fresh as possible is critical with only three days off.
A total of 13 players were listed at the Cowboys' injury report Monday, including eight who didn't participate at all. The quick work week won't help any of those athletes who weren't healthy enough to practice, which includes three offensive linemen.
"The most important thing is to take care of your body," Carr said. "Everybody's banged up from such a hard week, but at the same time, a quick turnaround, another big game's upon us, just get everybody mentally prepared for the challenge of an offense that can do multiple things on the field."
Linebacker Anthony Spencer said the short week can be tough physically, but the extra time that exists after the game to heal for the upcoming week can help motivate players to push on.
"You just grind through it and try to win the game," Spencer said. "The game is going to be played regardless, so how you're feeling or where you are mentally doesn't' matter."
For defensive signal caller and linebacker Bruce Carter, extra studying outside of Valley Ranch becomes essential with less time to prepare.
While most players might have witnessed Griffin on highlight tapes at Baylor or with the Redskins, Carter said the first time he sat down and watched film on the rookie star was Monday morning before and after team meetings. He said he'll watch more at home, where most of the studying must occur to stay on top of the defense in a short week.
At any point he has free time, Carter said he'll have his iPad out watching tape. Despite all the injuries sustained by the Cowboys, the mental side of a short week is tougher than the physical side for the linebacker responsible for setting the defense.
"If guys take care of their bodies the right way, you should be fine, but it's more of a mental thing where you just got done playing one team, now you're on to another one in a short span, so you've really got to learn the game plan fast and execute it as fast as you can," Carter said. "When you make mistakes, you've got to correct them fast."