Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is in the final year of his four-year contract.

Garrett
Garrett
He’ll tell you he’s too consumed with today’s to-do list to spend any time thinking about his contract situation and whether he’ll get an extension.

At the same time, Garrett spends a lot of time talking about building a program and how the process of building a team with staying power takes time.

Garrett is 29-27 as a head coach and has missed the playoffs each of his three full seasons as head coach.

For now, Jerry Jones isn’t interested in committing to Garrett beyond this season.

“Well if I said that, I’d be giving him a contract and that’s not how we’re operating here,” Jones said of committing to Garrett beyond this season.

“I have in no way shut that door, but I have already decided that we were going to operate this year with his contract status the way that it is.”

As you would expect, Jones declined to rule out altering Garrett’s contract status during the season.

“I’m just saying as we sit here right now and as we enter the season, then I thought it was in the best interest of the team for us to keep the status of the coaches’ contracts the way that they generally are across the board,” Jones said. “And I haven’t changed that from the way you started training camp.”

Claiborne upbeat despite missing action

August, 29, 2014
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ARLINGTON, Texas – Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne missed the entire preseason. Again.

That didn’t work out well last year, when the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft struggled and lost his starting job. But Claiborne isn’t sweating it after sitting out the preseason opener due to tendinitis in his right knee and the last three games due to a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder, saying the media seems more concerned about it than him.

Claiborne
“I’m not frustrated at all,” Claiborne said. “Where I’m at right now, I’m happy. I’m not upset at missing time or anything. I’m in a good place.”

Claiborne practiced all week. The original plan was for him to play a series or two in the preseason finale to chip off some rust, but executive vice president Stephen Jones said the team opted to sit Claiborne to avoid the risk of re-injuring the shoulder.

Claiborne said another factor was that “it wasn’t worth it” for the medical staff and him to do everything they would have needed to get him ready to play for just a handful of snaps. He anticipates taking a pain-killing injection before next week’s season opener against the San Francisco 49ers and probably several games after that.

“I have all my range of motion,” said Claiborne, who sprained the AC joint in his left shoulder during last season’s opener and had offseason surgery to repair it. “The biggest thing is the pain. Can you tolerate the pain? The pain is there and it’s not going anywhere.”

Claiborne’s career trajectory hasn’t gone anywhere in his first two seasons. He plans for that to change this year despite standing on the sideline for the entire preseason again.
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Cousin Sal tries to convince Bill Simmons that his Cowboys have a chance to win the NFC East over the favorite Eagles.

Dallas Cowboys' projected roster

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
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IRVING, Texas -- Examining the Dallas Cowboys' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
I'm holding firm with two quarterbacks and believe the Cowboys will be able to slide Dustin Vaughan to the practice squad. He has some skills that might be worth developing, but not even Romo's worrisome back has me keeping a third quarterback. They have too many other needs.

RUNNING BACKS (4)
Ryan Williams is among the Cowboys' best 53 players but they just can't find a way to get him to the game on Sundays to make it worthwhile to keep him on the roster. There is this possibility: If he clears waivers he has practice squad eligibilty. I kept Clutts because I believe Jason Garrett will fight to keep a fullback.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)

This has been the same group all year. LaRon Byrd has practice squad eligibility, so he could be back if he clears waivers.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

This group hasn't changed either, but they could look for more of a blocking tight end if they don't believe it is worth it to keep Clutts.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)



Stephen Jones said the other day that going with eight offensive linemen was too light, so I added a ninth. I just don't think that guy is on the roster. John Wetzel didn't solidify a spot on Thursday. Darrion Weems missed the whole preseaon. Nwaneri also struggled against the Broncos, which could put his spot in jeopardy. The Cowboys only dress seven linemen for games, so they can take some waiver-wire pickups to work with early on.

DEFENSIVE LINE (11)



Lawrence is back on the roster because he has to be on the team through Tuesday before he can be placed on short-term injured reserve. Of all the guys on the bubble Boatright helped himself the most, so gets the final spot away from Dartwan Bush. The Cowboys will look for help outside of the building with this group. Just because these guys are on the roster Saturday doesn't mean they will be on the team Sunday.

LINEBACKERS (6)

I've had seven linebackers but I had to move to six in part because Lawrence needs to be on the active roster for the first couple of days. Will Smith would be the seventh but the Cowboys look for help on the street for a special teams type like they did a year ago in Kyle Bosworth.

CORNERBACKS (5)

The decision to cut B.W. Webb was only surprising because of how inexeprienced they will be with their backups. Webb didn't do enough to make the team and was a disappointment as a fourth-round pick. Patmon is one of those feel-good stories, making the team after earning a rookie camp tryout. I don't think Mitchell should sleep well these next few days. He just has taken too many penalties and might need some practice squad seasoning.

SAFETIES (5)



The Cowboys claimed Thomas off waivers from New England on Wednesday and he played Thursday. He is a player they liked coming in the draft, so he gets the final spot with Jakar Hamilton suspended the first four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Like at every other spot on defense, however, the Cowboys will look for help outside the building.

SPECIALISTS (3)

There has not been a change here all summer.
In the 20 years since Jimmy Johnson left, Jerry Jones has had six head coaches. For some reason, Jones still can’t get over the breakup.

Johnson
Johnson
And that is why Johnson, who led the Dallas Cowboys to a pair of Super Bowls, will probably never get into the Ring of Honor.

"In the Ring of Honor, the last word is honor," Jones said after Thursday’s preseason game. "And so you have to give that some thought and we have to look at the definition.

"Tex Schramm told me the definition is someone who made a material difference in where the franchise is. It didn’t have in there Super Bowl-winning coaches.

"It said, somebody that has made a difference in the franchise. And so that will always be a debate."

Really?

It’s hard to believe Jones has to think about whether Johnson made a material impact on the franchise.

He did.

It would make more sense if Jones simply said he didn’t like Johnson and didn’t want him in the Ring of Honor.

Johnson helped take a broken franchise to a championship as the Cowboys went from 1-15 to two-time Super Bowl champs in five seasons.

"Can you get over disloyalty and the understanding of what disloyalty is? Can you get over those items you’re talking about," Jones said. "Let me just say this: A lot of people had to get over a lot of things to get in a lot of Halls of Fame.

"We debate this all of the time. When was the last time they put a perfect one in a Ring of Honor or a Hall of Fame? I haven’t seen one."

Jones didn’t say he would never change his mind about putting Johnson in the Ring of Honor, but it’s clearly not happening anytime soon.

Jones 'proud' of picking Zack Martin

August, 29, 2014
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- In case you somehow haven’t heard, Jerry Jones really wanted the Dallas Cowboys to draft Johnny Manziel.

The subject came up again in Don Van Natta Jr.’s lengthy profile of Jones on ESPN.com, which included Jones hissing about being “so damn mad” that he was talked out of drafting Manziel when the Cowboys went on the clock with the 16th overall pick. Jones recalled telling son Stephen, the team’s director of player personnel and one of several voices who strongly opposed picking Manziel, that “we laid up” by picking Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin.

Months later, Manziel is the highest-profile backup quarterback in NFL history, having been beat out by Brian Hoyer with the Cleveland Browns. Martin will start right away at right guard for an offensive line that is expected to be the strength of the Cowboys.

Jones says he’s now satisfied that the Cowboys went with the safe pick instead of the sex appeal of Manziel.

“I think I’m proud of that decision right now,” Jones said, “and I’m proud I was a good listener.”

Final decisions hard for different reason

August, 29, 2014
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The hardest part for teams when they make their final cuts is trimming the last few spots.

For the Dallas Cowboys that will be difficult as well, but for a different reason. They might not have 53 players worth keeping. Seriously.

After Thursday's 27-3 loss to the Denver Broncos left the Cowboys winless in the preseason, coach Jason Garrett talked about the effort he received from players fighting for their lives. And he was right. There was plenty of effort. That's not been an issue. The players have bought into Garrett's "fight" mantra.

The problem is talent, especially on defense.

The Cowboys had their worst defense in franchise history last year and you would be hard-pressed to find enough players to fill out this year's defense to make it better. That's not a good thing going into the regular season against the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 7.

"We believe we have guys that are worthy of making this football team," Garrett said. "You saw a lot of those guys out there tonight. Guys who made plays and kind of stuck their hand up in the air saying 'Hey, I deserve to be here.' But unfortunately some of those guys aren't going to be able to be with us. So that's what makes it hard."

That's a nice thing for the coach to say, but is it really true?

In the past the Cowboys have cut players who have gone on and had success with other teams. This year it looks like the Cowboys are choosing among different levels of backups.

Of the players on the bubble Thursday, only Kenneth Boatright and Dartwan Bush might have helped their chances. Backup offensive linemen Uche Nwaneri and John Wetzel struggled. You didn't see many plays from linebackers Will Smith or Keith Smith.

At safety Jemea Thomas was claimed off waivers from the New England Patriots on Wednesday and played Thursday. Can he beat out Ryan Smith, who has been with the Cowboys since May, now that Jakar Hamilton has been suspended the first four games of the season?

Those are the kinds of decisions the Cowboys have to make over the next 24 hours.

Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys will be active in looking to add players before, during and after the final cuts. Last year the Cowboys added four players the first week of the season. It's possible they could add more this season.

The Cowboys named Will McClay the assistant director of player personnel because of his ability to find players off the street to contribute. He's done it with guys like Laurent Robinson, Tony Fiammetta, Ernie Sims and Eric Frampton.

The Cowboys will study the waiver wire hard. They will look to potentially make trades to bolster the back end of the roster, but not the top-end. This isn't a team that is one player away from a Super Bowl.

The game is trying to find players that are "better than." In other words better than they have right now or could be better than in a few weeks.

The Cowboys might have to find a lot of "better than" players.
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ARLINGTON -- The Dallas Cowboys completed their first winless preseason since 2000 Thursday night at AT&T Stadium.

Denver smashed Dallas 27-3 as the Cowboys joined the Indianapolis Colts as the only teams to lose all four exhibition matches. The Cowboys lost their four games by a combined score of 116-60. The 56-point differential was the NFL's largest.

The Cowboys went 0-5 in 1962, 1986 and 1998 and 2000.

Chan Gailey's 1998 team that had Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders went 10-6 and won the NFC East. None of the other teams made the playoffs.

Nothing owner Jerry Jones has said in the last 24 hours should make you feel optimistic about the 2014 season.

[+] EnlargeJerry Jones
AP Photo/Brandon WadeJerry Jones knows this Cowboys team has a lot of question marks on defense.
In an ESPN The Magazine article Jerry is quoted as saying he's still mad the Cowboys didn't quarterback Johnny Manziel in the first round because it would've made them relevant for another decade.

Has Jerry really been so seduced by the Cowboys' cache and marketing prowess -- Forbes reported this week the Cowboys are worth $3.2 billion, tops in the NFL -- that he's forgotten what's important?

Even if the Cowboys drafted Manziel in April he wasn't going to play anytime soon because Tony Romo's six-year, $108 million contract extension begins this season.

The only way Manziel was going to get on the field is if Romo suffered an injury, forcing him into the lineup.

Jerry's in love with the idea of Manziel keeping the Cowboys on prime time television and in the headlines no matter how bad the product on the field.

Here's a novel approach: Win some games. Win some playoffs games. Compete for a championship.

The Cowboys have one playoff win since 1996, which is shameful. They have missed the playoffs each of the past four seasons and it'll probably be five when this season ends.

Perhaps, Jerry has forgotten the Cowboys didn't become America's Team and one of the most polarizing franchises in professional sports because of glitz and glamour. They became marketable because they won with a collection of personalities and Hall of Fame players.

Don't forget, the the Cowboys used to be sarcastically called, "Next year's champions" because they couldn't win the biggest games.

Making the playoffs an NFL record 20 consecutive years with players ranging from Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett to Aikman and Smith made the Cowboys' blue star among the world's most identifiable logos.

Drafting Manziel would've been the dumbest move Jerry made since letting his ego get in the way of his relationship with Jimmy Johnson. We know this because Jerry's the only one in the organization that thought it was a good move.

Not vice president Stephen Jones. Or coach Jason Garrett. Or assistant director player personnel Will McClay. Or anyone else in the organization with a valued opinion.

If the Cowboys did a better job of drafting and developing players they'd have more young stars such as Dez Bryant to build marketing campaigns around.

Then again, Jerry is as desperate as he's ever been. This team is as far away from the Super Bowl as the day Jerry hired Garrett, in part, because the Cowboys have been trying to rebuild without bottoming out.

It's a worthy goal, but it has left the Cowboys with a quality offense and an abject defense.

Having watched training camp and four preseason games, you get the feeling several offensive players such as Jamar Newsome, Ryan Williams and LaRon Byrd will wind up on NFL rosters or practice squads if they get released, while defensive players who don't make this team will need to contemplate the next phase of their life.

That's one of the reasons Jerry told fans at the team's kickoff luncheon Wednesday that the 2014 season was going to be an "uphill battle."

"These guys we're expecting to play have a lot to prove to play the way we expect them to play," Jerry said. "I candidly have these thoughts that you do your best work when you have the longest odds.

"This team has no-name guys. Guys that weren't No.1 draft picks. Guys that were retired. You have guys coming back from injuries. This a to-prove group. The to-prove Cowboys."

This from a man who wears Ray-Bans with rose-colored lenses to bed, while listening to Tony Robbins CDs. If Jerry isn't optimistic, then this team must be far worse than we even imagined.

Jones wants NFL to rule on Brent now

August, 29, 2014
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ARLINGTON, Texas – Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones anticipates that commissioner Roger Goodell will rule on defensive tackle Josh Brent’s reinstatement to the NFL before the Saturday afternoon’s deadline to cut rosters to 53 players.

“I’m thinking that it was in the next day or two, but we haven’t heard from it,” Jones said. “I’m just sure we’ll get some word here as we’re making this roster and we’re making these decisions about the status of players and certainly the players that are on the 53. So I would think just knowing that it’s roster-making time, we would hear something from the league on Josh Brent.”

The Cowboys will create a roster spot for Brent as soon as he’s ruled eligible by the NFL.

Brent has not played since the December 2012 car accident that killed practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown. Brent was convicted of intoxication manslaughter and sentenced to 180 days in jail, with a judge allowing him to serve the final 45 days in an addiction rehabilitation center.

Sources recently told ESPN’s Ed Werder that Brent, who retired last summer while awaiting his trial, will have to serve a suspension before being allowed to play for the Cowboys again. The length of the suspension is up to Goodell, whom Jones believes will make a ruling before the Cowboys must make their roster moves Saturday.

Jones on Dez: 'We had some good visits'

August, 29, 2014
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has had a pair of one-on-one meetings with Dez Bryant to discuss the Pro Bowl receiver’s potential contract extension, but no deal is imminent.

The parties are working to get a deal done before the regular season begins -- as Bryant will cut off negotiations until next offseason -- but neither side is certain an agreement will be reached over the next week.

[+] EnlargeBryant
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsThe Cowboys have a week to sign Dez Bryant to a contract extension before the regular season begins.
“I don’t know,” Jones said. “Certainly I don’t mean to say anything is a given or easy, but I do want what’s in his best interest and I want him to be a long-term player for the Cowboys. He knows that. I’m proud of the progress he’s made and we’ll just see if we can make this work for everybody.”

Bryant, who is due to make $1.78 million this season in the final year of his rookie deal, is encouraged by the individual attention he has received from Jones this week. They met to talk about a contract Tuesday and Wednesday.

It’s extremely rare for Jones to personally meet with a player to discuss a deal without the presence of an agent in the room.

“We have had good visits,” Jones said. “It’s a little different to be talking directly, for me to be talking directly with the player. I know of two that I’ve spent a lot of time directly talking with in some pretty sensitive areas when you’re talking about money. We all understand what that means. One of them Michael Irvin. He asked me to induct him into the Hall of Fame later and Emmitt Smith, he asked me to induct him into the Hall of Fame later. Troy [Aikman] always had Leigh Steinberg there, but we kind of talked straight in there together.

“But Dez and I have been visiting for years, ever since he’s been a Cowboy regarding things, and so it is a fairly unique situation that we’ve talked as much as we’ve talked, made it pretty easy and maybe propitious to be able to talk to him about his contract. That’s why we were actually talking there.”

Bryant has made it clear that he believes he’s one of the NFL’s top five receivers and wants to be paid as such, meaning his annual salary would be in the neighborhood of $12 million.

The Cowboys opened negotiations with a significantly lower number, attempting to use DeSean Jackson's three-year, $24 million deal with the Washington Redskins as a starting point. However, Jones said he has no issue with Bryant’s insistence that he’s one of the league’s highest-paid receivers.

“I will say this, that all Hall of Famers and great players are as competitive with their business as they are on the field,” Jones said. “I understand that. I had hundreds of negotiations and I understand that it is a natural thing to get your back up a little bit when you’re talking about your money.

“...I’m saying that, I understand the competitiveness or the sensation you get when someone won’t agree with you over money. I understand that as well as anybody breathing.”

The Cowboys have the option of using the franchise tag on Bryant the next three offseasons if a long-term deal isn’t reached. But that’d be expensive, starting at more than $12 million next year, rising to 120 percent of that figure the following year and skyrocketing to the quarterback’s franchise-tag number in the third year.

Jones would much prefer to sign Bryant to an extension, perhaps as soon as before the regular season begins. However, Jones said he couldn’t measure how far apart the sides are in the talks.

“You can’t because it takes two to tango,” Jones said. “So you just don’t have any measure of how far you are away from the other person’s expectation or where they will arrive at. You know we’re having good visits, but why wouldn’t we? We do. We’ve had good visits when all of these guys we’re talking about, one of the reasons we have good visits is because we’ve had them in good times and bad times.”

For one night at least, Tanner a Cowboy again

August, 29, 2014
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Phillip Tanner was officially a member of the Dallas Cowboys for only a couple of hours before playing in Thursday’s game against the Denver Broncos.

Signed in the afternoon, Tanner led the Cowboys with 26 rushing yards on eight carries in the 27-3 loss.

“It was fun,” said Tanner, who was cut by the Indianapolis Colts recently after playing the last three seasons in Dallas. “I just took it with the mindset this is the game I’ve played since I was 8 years old and to have the opportunity to come back out here and fight for a roster spot. I was excited about that.”

The Cowboys needed Tanner because they were not going use DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar in the final preseason game and Joseph Randle (oblique) and Ryan Williams (cramping) were battling injuries. The only other back the Cowboys had was D.J. Adams.

Tanner actually started the game.

“He’s an impressive kid,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He really is. It’s easy to see why he was a big part of the team the last few years. He’s a real pro. He has some skill as a runner. He’s a reliable football player. He shows up on special teams.”

He’s not likely to make the final 53-man roster, but for a night Tanner, a Kimball High School grad, was playing for his hometown team again.

“My mindset is whenever I lace it up, this is the shot to make this team, if not somebody else’s team, Tanner said. “My mindset was to give these guys a good impression to bring me back on the 53.”

Cowboys opt for more rest for Henry Melton

August, 29, 2014
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ARLINGTON, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys' Henry Melton and Morris Claiborne will go into the regular season without having played a preseason snap.

Melton
For Claiborne, that wasn’t a surprise because he of a shoulder injury suffered Aug. 13 in practice against the Oakland Raiders. Melton, however, was expected to see at least a few snaps in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Denver Broncos but worked only in warmups.

“We wanted to get those guys an opportunity if we could to just come out and have a little game action,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We’ve had this situation a number of times in the past where you just make a decision that says, ‘Let’s not play them this situation. Let’s give him 10 more days before he’s in a game and hopefully that will help him.’”

Melton missed the last three preseason games with a groin injury but has always said he would be ready for the Sept. 7 regular-season opener against the San Francisco 49ers. But he has not played since Week 3 last season with the Chicago Bears when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament.

The knee has not given him any issues in the summer.

Claiborne is used to not playing in the preseason. He has missed every game in the past two preseasons.

“Nothing like the game,” cornerback Brandon Carr said when asked what Claiborne missed by sitting. “Just for him, it’s conditioning and those things, but he’s done a great job this year of just taking care of his body and things he can control as far as that and making sure his footwork is right. I’m confident he’s going to be ready to play. You get to this level it’s more so of a mindset. It’s the mental part of the game that gets people but I think he’s turned that corner as well.”

Observation deck: Dallas Cowboys

August, 28, 2014
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Mercifully, the Dallas Cowboys’ preseason came to an end on Thursday with their 27-3 loss to the Denver Broncos.

For the first time since 2000 -- and fifth time overall -- the Cowboys did not win a preseason game. Of the four previous winless preseasons, the Cowboys finished above .500 just once, making the playoffs in 1998 with a 10-6 record.

The Cowboys enter the Sept. 7 regular-season opener with low outside expectations in part because of their three straight 8-8 finishes and due to a defense that lacks playmakers and will be counting on role players to play in big-time positions.

The Cowboys were outscored 116-60 in the preseason.

Here are some other thoughts on the Cowboys' fourth preseason game:
  • The Cowboys will go into the San Francisco game with starting defensive tackle Henry Melton and cornerback Morris Claiborne not taking a preseason snap. Melton went through pregame warmups Thursday and was expected to at least see a handful of plays after missing the last two preseason games with a groin injury. Claiborne, who will start with Orlando Scandrick missing the first four games because of a suspension, has not played in a preseason game the last two seasons. A shoulder injury limited his work the last two-plus weeks of the preseason. Cornerback Brandon Carr saw less than 30 snaps in the preseason, including only 12 Thursday, after missing the first two exhibition games following the death of his mother.
  • Justin Durant did not start, so the Cowboys used Rolando McClain at middle linebacker for the first two series. McClain was active in his short time on the field, making three tackles. The Cowboys have attempted to speed up McClain’s learning curve with this defense and his conditioning but both times they gave him first-team work he was unable to finish practice. Has he done enough in the preseason to be a starter? The Cowboys might have to make a projection here with a linebacker who has not played since Nov. 2012 and retired twice since then.
  • The Cowboys will go into the season with their most inexperienced backup quarterback since Tony Romo in 2006 in Brandon Weeden. Starting his second preseason game, Weeden completed seven of 13 passes for 83 yards and an interception. His turnover was the result of a forced throw to Devin Street on a roll out that cornerback Tony Carter was able to pick off, and the Broncos scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive. Weeden was able to respond with a field goal drive the next time he had the ball, completing two third-down throws and hitting LaRon Byrd with a 26-yard completion while taking a big hit. On third-and-goal he wisely chose to run the ball instead of forcing a pass, making sure the Cowboys got points.
  • Ronald Leary started every game at left guard in 2013 and appears to be the frontrunner to hold the job again this season, but he played the first half Thursday. Mackenzy Bernadeau, who was splitting time with Leary in camp, did not play, getting the same treatment as starting linemen Doug Free, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. Leary missed the early part of training camp with a hamstring injury suffered in a conditioning test.

Brandon Carr feels good after final tuneup

August, 28, 2014
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ARLINGTON, Texas – It’s unusual to see an established starter on the field in the preseason finale, but the Dallas Cowboys coaches thought Brandon Carr could benefit from a little more work before the games started mattering.

Carr
Carr, who missed most of training camp and the first two preseason games due to his mother’s death, played the first series Thursday night against the Denver Broncos.

"I felt good to get a couple of plays under my belt,” Carr said. “I feel good going into next week's home opener. Now it's time to polish up the finished product and get ready for next Sunday."

Carr actually played eight snaps against the Broncos, including a penalty called on linebacker Kyle Wilber. He played 17 snaps on Aug. 23 against the Miami Dolphins.

There was a tentative plan for defensive tackle Henry Melton to play a series or two after missing the first three preseason games, but he wore a cap and watched from the sideline. He’ll suit up for the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers after not getting any game action since tearing his ACL last September.

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