IRVING, Texas – Head coach Jason Garrett has a good idea which players will be ready to go for him this week. That's just not information he wants to divulge.
After saying he has a "pretty good feeling" how he'll play the group on the offensive line this week, he followed by saying the team hasn't made final determinations. Garrett said guard Brian Waters had a good day in his first day on the field Wednesday and felt fine Thursday morning, but he wasn't full go at practice.
The Cowboys have a few players coming back slowly from injuries, including starters Anthony Spencer, Ronald Leary and Morris Claiborne. Leary and Claiborne are both back practicing, while Spencer didn't participate.
Spencer had surgery on his knee at the end of July, and the Cowboys are still easing him back in to practice. Garrett said he thought this was around the right timetable for him.
"We'll just see how well he does and how he responds," Garrett said. "He's been doing stuff over the last few days to get himself closer to playing. His rehab has less to do with yesterday's practice as much as it does what he's been doing for the last four or five weeks to get himself ready to play. We're hopeful, again, he's going to do something today, and we'll see how he does."
Claiborne missed the preseason with his knee injury, but Garrett said he's getting healthier every day and has stacked together a couple good practices this week.
"Those guys, it's a great thing as a coach when you look out there and you see guys like Mo Claiborne and Brandon Carr competing against Miles Austin and Dez Bryant and the other guys," Garrett said. "You try to create a lot of competitive situations in practice, whether it's 1-on-1s or just the regular 7-on-7 and team drills. So we really emphasize embracing that opportunity to get better."
Garrett also touched on other subjects at his Thursday press conference, including the newcomers on the team, his assistant coaches, takeaways and the new pad rules.
- Garrett wants to make sure all the systems are clean, user-friendly and simple throughout the team so when players such as Waters come in, they can pick it up fast. The language needs to make sense, and the main teaching has to be explaining what the terminology means.
- The Giants have had the Cowboys' number in Arlington in recent years since what is now AT&T Stadium was built, but Garrett's not concerned about that or bringing it up with his team.
"You have turnover every year and you have changes, but we feel like we have a good feel for their team," he said. "I know they feel that they have a good feel for us. We've had some great games against them. Our stadium, their stadium or the parking lot, it doesn't really matter."
- Landon Cohen and George Selvie took advantage of their opportunities and chances, and that's what Garrett said the NFL is all about. He had a good idea of their backgrounds and the kind of people they were, and they've followed that up with strong performances to make the team.
- Garrett said takeaways are always line one when talking to any player who will touch the ball, not just quarterback Tony Romo, although he has had conversations with Romo about turnovers throughout his career. Garrett said takeaways are the No. 1 most critical stat in the game.
- Since Bill Callahan became the play-caller, Garrett said the structure of the offense has still stayed the same. Interaction is an essential part of the offensive system. For instance, Garrett said he's even asked Wade Wilson about his team's screen-game back in the early 1980s. The head coach said the team's benefitted from Callahan's presence and coaches need to grow together and embrace evolution.
- Garrett stressed that he doesn't want any one area of the team to feel too much of a burden, because when the burden's too big, players tend to try to do too much. He wasn't just talking about Romo, either. In order to limit the burden in any area, all areas of the team have to be strong. [embedded_ad]
- The Cowboys haven't had any issues with the new leg pad rules, requiring all players to wear thigh and knee pads under the pants. Garrett said that's just a rule the players need to get comfortable with and is good for player safety.
- Garrett sees Dez Bryant as a mentally and physically tough player who's learned the right way to respond. He said Bryant may end up with fewer catches this year, but still end up playing better. The receiver's developed a great deal, and Garrett said that reflects in how he goes about his work. He said it's hard not to love Dez.
- The captains at this weekend's game against the Giants will be Romo and Jason Witten on offense, Sean Lee and DeMarcus Ware on defense and Dan Bailey on special teams.