Nick Eatman is the author of the recently published ****If These Walls Could Talk: Dallas Cowboys***, a collection of stories from the Cowboys' locker room, sideline and press box, with a foreword written by Darren Woodson.*
IRVING, Texas –Not long after Brandon Weeden heard the news circulating on social media and the internet of the Cowboys acquiring veteran Matt Cassel via trade, his cell phone started to get a few calls and texts.
One that he made sure to answer was from head coach Jason Garrett, who made sure to remind Weeden that he was still the Cowboys' top option at quarterback heading into Sunday's game with the Falcons.
"He was very up front. 'It's your deal – take it and run with it.'" Weeden shared. "He said we're behind you 1,000 percent. It was comforting coming from home. He didn't have to call me. It was the way I was going to approach it that way."
Cassel, an 11-year veteran who has started 72 games (34-38 record) in his career, arrived in Dallas Wednesday afternoon and didn't practice with the team. The Cowboys have also called up Kellen Moore from the practice squad, meaning the Cowboys might have three quarterbacks active for Sunday. But Weeden said he's not looking for his shoulder and actually understands the Cowboys' decision to add a veteran behind him.
"That's just the nature of this business," The quarterback positon is so important that you have to have guys in place if something were to happen. I'm not worried about. He's been around this league a long time. He's been around Brady. He's been around good quarterbacks. He'll have a lot of positive information for us. He's a pro. He's been doing this a long time. I'm excited to have him. I'm not putting any extra pressure on myself."
While he understands the level of concern around the Cowboys' losing Tony Romo for what will be at least eight weeks with a broken collarbone, Weeden admitted he has to be excited about his opportunity, especially because he knows this is the kind of chance that could land him another contract next year as he is expected to be a free agent.
"I mean, it's a big year," Weeden said. "I'm not trying to sugarcoat that. I've got to go play well. I want to keep continuing to play in this league and in order to do that you've got to play well. I'm auditioning essentially for 32 teams next year but hopefully I can come back here. I love it here."
But Weeden, of course, isn't focused on next year. He knows more than anyone that the real opportunity in front of him is starting against the Falcons on Sunday. And while he's had his struggles in other starts, which includes a record of 5-21, Weeden said he couldn't be more confident heading into a game.
The reason? Well, Weeden said it stems from his comfortability of the offense.
"Being here for the second year in the same system," Weeden said. "Being around the same guys, hearing the same language, being around Tony. I've learned a lot from him. Playing this position is hard. Whether you've been in this league 5, 10,12 how many years, it's a challenging position. I'm in a system I love and comfortable in. It gives me a lot more confidence than my second year in Cleveland where I'm having to learn a whole new offensive and grinding out the playbook. Here, we've got a system in place and now it's just going out and executing ball plays."
Finding the balance between executing and playing smart seems to be the biggest challenge for most quarterbacks. Weeden said he's no exception to the rule.
"I'm an aggressive guy by nature. I always have been. Maybe sometimes it's to a fault," Weeden said. "You have to be smart at the same time but you still have to go out and execute plays. We preach it around here – the ball, the ball, the ball. The team that usually wins the turnover battle, 9 times out of 10, wins the game. You have to be aggressive but also smart when to check it down. But I have confidence in my arm. I always have confidence in my ability to throw the ball. It's just playing fast and being on the same page, communication standpoint. I think being in the system for a second year gives me a little more confidence."
And the Cowboys seem to have the same confidence in him. But with the addition of Cassel, they've at least protected themselves if things go sour.
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