Coach Jason Garrett
How has your team worked around injuries to the defense?
You just battle. There seems to be a lot of new faces on our defense. But like a lot of teams around the league, you just have to battle through the injuries. I think our team has done a good job of that. Our pro personnel department does a good job bringing guys in. Some of our younger guys have had to step up and play more than we anticipated them playing. Hopefully at the end of the day, you try to put them in positions where they can be successful. That’s what we try to do as a coaching staff. Coach Rob Ryan has done a great job of that. It hasn’t been perfect by any means but we are battling like a lot of teams are around the league.
Are you doing things significantly different than you would if you were healthy?
I don’t know if it is significantly different. I think we are playing the same base defenses. You just try to figure out what your guys do well and what they have experience with and what they can take from the practice field to the game field. You try to implement that stuff. It’s been different every week for us to be honest with you, because we’ve had so many new faces. That’s just part of the situation we are in. It’s not unique to us, because so many teams are going through it. Our guys have handled it well though.
Re: Game preparation in the wake of last weekend’s events:
It’s been a really challenging time for our team, because of the tragic events of this past weekend. I thought our team handled the situation real well. We found out about it on Saturday, and we had to get on a plane to go to Cincinnati. I think our guys just somehow and someway processed it well and found a way to go play a football game and figure out how to win it. The story doesn’t end there. We had a memorial service yesterday for Jerry Brown. Josh Brent was there. Brown’s mom was absolutely incredible. It really was a really important day. I thought it was done really well, honoring Brown and being supportive of everyone after this loss. Our players are really invested in it. He was close to so many of the guys. He was a teammate. I think our guys handled that really well. That healing process will continue but at the same time, so will the rest of our lives. It’s a delicate balance that we all have to try to strike. We have to get ready to play a football game this week. I thought our guys responded well this morning to the information we gave them in our meetings, then they went out and practiced well. Somehow and someway you have to concentrate and focus on the task at hand but at the same time remembering, honoring and supporting those in need after the tragedy.
How optimistic are you that Dez Bryant will play?
He didn’t practice today. He is going to see a doctor again this afternoon. We will see what the doctor says and what medical information comes from that. I do know that he is a really tough guy that loves to play football. If there is a chance that he can play and play football for us going forward, he is going to give himself every chance to do that. I thought he did a good job handling the injury during the game. He actually caught the touchdown pass after he hurt his finger. I think you just attribute that to what he is all about, in terms of his toughness and love for the game. We will see what the doctors say today. We will make some more judgments on what the situation is now and going forward, and we will make our best decision.
Re: Miles Austin getting open in the same ways Jason Witten does:
It’s probably a little bit of both of them. Both of them certainly have a knack for getting away from people and giving the quarterback a place to throw it. I do think they do it in different ways. Austin is a more explosive guy, being a receiver, but he has a good feel for releasing off the line of scrimmage. When healthy, they are explosive. They go and get the football. Austin has been dealing with some injuries throughout the course of the year. He has done a real good job finding a way to be productive in games. He has done that throughout the year. It’s a tribute to his mental toughness and his desire to get it right and get the job done. Witten has been a guy – I think he’s as good as any tight end that has played, certainly of his generation. He is such a reliable football player, in every way, shape and form, certainly as a receiver. The quarterbacks love to throw to him. He finds a way to get open. I am sure he’s tough down the field. He is a big target but he is also very quarterback-friendly. The quarterbacks always seem to have a place to throw the football when they are working with number-82. He gets a lot of attention, like a lot of good receivers do, but somehow and someway he seems to find a way to get open and for the quarterback to throw to him.
We are just focused on practicing well today and getting ready for the Steelers. We know they are an awfully good football team. They are really well coached and have a lot of good players. They certainly play well on defense. They have a real good offense, and they play well in the kicking game also. It’s a great challenge for us to play these guys this week. We are excited about the opportunity.
Do you like the structure in Tony Romo’s game or do you like when he is moving around?
I think you always want a guy at that position to play well within the system. I think Romo has done that, just with his ability as a drop-back passer. He has really improved in that area over the course of his career. He is very comfortable throwing in the pocket, all kinds of different throws, from different drops. I think he is just very good at it. But at the same time, when things break down, he has shown the ability throughout his career to make plays out in space. He buys time on plays. He can use his feet to run with the football but to also extend the play and make some plays down the field. He has great vision, instincts and a feel for the game. You never want to take that away from him.
Re: Steelers’ inconsistent play:
We are watching them on tape. They are a darn good football team. You see the players they have, and they are well coached in all three phases. We see a lot of good players. We know that we have to be prepared and ready to go. They do a lot of good things from a scheme standpoint. Their players seem to play with really good technique. They play the right way. It’s a long season. Every week isn’t going to be perfect but when we watch them on tape, they are a very impressive football team.
Re: The Steelers are probably saying the same things about your team:
I don’t know what their thoughts are about us but we’ve been battling all year long. We’ve had some real good games and have had some games that were disappointing to us as well. That’s the nature of the NFL. The biggest thing is you have to keep trying to get better week-to-week and day-by-day, and take advantage of opportunities. We are excited about the one we have this week.
What is Jay Ratliff’s status this week?
He didn’t practice today. He hasn’t practiced really in a couple weeks, since he reinjured his groin. We will see how he feels when he comes in tomorrow. It’s a day-by-day situation with him. On a couple of different occasions he has tried to get out there but he didn’t feel right over the last couple of weeks. We will see how he is when he comes in tomorrow morning based on the some of the work he’s been doing. We will take it day-by-day leading up to the game.
What about Morris Claiborne?
He did not practice today either. He has a big, fat lip, that’s kind of reduced over the last couple of days. He looks more normal. Again, we will see how he feels in the morning and hopefully he can get some work in tomorrow.
Was that Coach Ryan’s first penalty last week?
That was his first penalty with us, yes.
Any reaction to that?
No one felt worse about that then he did. He knows he has to keep his emotions in check. It was a sequence where we felt there was a holding penalty on one of their guys when their quarterback moved out of the pocket. Everybody on our sideline kind of hollered about it. The guy we thought committed the penalty came over to our bench and started hollering at Coach Ryan. He hollered back and got himself on the field. It’s not how we want to conduct ourselves on the sidelines. Nobody knows that more than he does, and he was flagged for it.
Re: DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer:
They really are good football players. I am really proud of both those guys. They’ve been dealing with some injuries all throughout the season. They keep bringing it every week. They are guys that both can rush the passer and affect the game that way but they are also very good run defenders. They take pride in being complete outside linebackers. I think they are very comfortable in Coach Ryan’s scheme. Each of those guys has had really good years for us.
Quarterback Tony Romo
Do you feel like your team has turned the corner the last couple weeks?
I think we’re just putting our heads down and going to work. By no means have we played our best football, and I know we have a lot of guys out at a lot of different positions. We’re playing with a different team than we started the season with. Guys have continued to get better and figure out how to improve. We’re getting some new guys in and trying to get them up to date with the offense and defense.
Re: Teams building like each other so they can play well against their divisional foes:
Yeah, there is some truth in that. I think you find systems and schemes geared a little bit toward what gives teams trouble. I think you look at Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and Baltimore and these teams, they just kind of build their teams, whether it’s schematically or with their systems, to do things that they know give them trouble over the years. A lot of times what you find is that the best team or two in your division that consistently gives you trouble, you want to emulate that. I think you’ll find the systems from each division have a little bit in common, and I think I do see that a little bit, if that’s what you were asking.
Do you find that Philadelphia tries to do the same things to you that you try to do to Washington or New York?
You just get so much tape on your division opponent. Literally, each week we’re watching games where we have Philly and New York in our cut-ups every single week. Washington, schematically, does their own thing on offense and defense, but the others are somewhat similar. So, you get to watch them and see what other teams do against them. There’s a lot that goes into it, as systems are being put in place.
When you look at the tape of the Steelers games do you take the time to look at their good games and their bad games, or just their most recent games?
I’ll look at all of them. What I’ll try and do is, in some ways you’ll want to look at the recent games for sure, but at the same time you look at their road games. You look at what they did when they were very successful and what they didn’t do when they’re weren’t successful, and try to figure out what it is. At the end of the day you still have to be your own team. You still have to do what you do. We may not do things as well as another team that gave them trouble, so we can’t try and expect to do the similar things and vice versa for them. You look at everything you do and you try and attack them in different ways. We’re going against an outstanding ball club. I think they’re number-one in the league against the pass. We’ve been throwing the ball at different times with a lot of success this year and at other times we need to do some little things better. We know we’re in for a great challenge here against these guys and it will be a tough game for us.
How different do the Steelers look from the last time you played them?
I don’t think I’ve played them for a while. Am I right in saying it’s 2009-ish, or somewhere around there? It’s different. They have a couple of the same guys but they have some new faces. They have some different guys, and schematically they’re a little bit different. They still run their same system but you can see they have evolved with a couple of new schemes. They’re just going to be very difficult with the stuff they provide and the pressure they get. We just have to have a lot of stuff up to handle a lot of their pressures. We’re coming up with some different things.
Do you remember that game being a trash-talking type of game?
No, I don’t remember that. I just remember it was a tough game, and they ended up getting us. It was two good ball clubs.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger said that the Cowboys are “America’s Team” and the Steelers are the “World’s Team.” How do you view that?
[Laughs] I don’t view it in any capacity. I think Ben knows how to have fun with you guys. He’s probably talked to you guys enough. He plays for a franchise that has had great success over the years and for a long time in the NFL. We have had success over the last 50 years as well. I think you look at a couple of very strong franchises that have been around for a long time and it’s just great to play for organizations like this. I think that’s all he’s telling you.