OXNARD, Calif.– When the dust settles from Tuesday's dustup with the Rams, the Cowboys know they must get refocused for the next two preseason games (Sunday at San Francisco and the customary 'dress rehearsal' game Aug. 29 against Minnesota) as they prepare for the biggest date on the 2015 calendar: the Sept. 13 opener against the Giants.
"This is an important time for us in building our team," executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "We all know that these next 10 days leading up to that third preseason game are going to be a big, big deal in terms of how we get this team prepared for the season."
They'll have to do it despite new injuries to the roster, particularly on the offensive line.
Typically these next two games include progressively more playing time for the starters. But with four of five linemen sidelined or limited by recent injuries – guards Zack Martin (stinger) and Ronald Leary (back) joined tackles Tyron Smith (biceps) and Doug Free (foot) on the injury list Tuesday – there could be a trickle-down effect to quarterback Tony Romo's playing time Sunday.
The Cowboys' depth is being affected at other positions, too, with projected starters/contributors such as receiver Cole Beasley (sore Achilles), defensive linemen Nick Hayden (ribs) and Tyrone Crawford (back), and cornerbacks Brandon Carr (hand), Orlando Scandrick (knee) and Byron Jones (shoulder) recently or currently banged up.
Still, the team will press on, and it starts with moving past Tuesday's shortened practice due to multiple skirmishes. Jones anticipates head coach Jason Garrett will reiterate his message to the players about channeling their passion for football the right way.
"Jason verbalizes it very well with these guys and he'll do it again tonight," Jones said. "He'll be outstanding about it. He's certainly not happy about it and he'll point out all the negatives that come with it. He knows it's a point of emphasis this year."
The Cowboys have been very thorough and measured in handling players with injuries, ensuring no one is in a position to sustain a setback upon their return. Expect that diligent approach to continue as the team looks to get solid work done over the next 10 days.
"This is really the meat of it coming up," Jones said, "and I know Jason wants to have good practices."