Cowboys make quick leap into regular season mode

Now the Dallas Cowboys can completely focus all their attention

on to what they’ve already been thinking about for a long time.

For the Cowboys this Thursday became essentially the Monday of a

game week at Valley Ranch.

With a three-win preseason completed, the Cowboys quickly made

the transition to regular season mode, and preparing for their

midweek season opener at the defending Super Bowl champion New York

Giants.

”It’s one of those games you really think about,” defensive

end Jason Hatcher said. ”They are the Super Bowl champs. When it

comes to us and New York, you know how it is. It’s a bad taste in

your mouth. It’s a rivalry. It’s on a Wednesday night, strange

night to be playing.”

Only hours after wrapping up the preseason with a 30-13 win over

the Miami Dolphins, in a game that quarterback Tony Romo and 20

expected starters sat out, the Cowboys had a walkthrough session

Thursday focused on the Giants.

”They had been pointing toward the Giants game since we came

out of the St. Louis game (on Saturday night),” coach Jason

Garrett said. ”Get their bodies right, get their minds right,

start the preparation. So it’s not like they came off a game last

night and now we’re practicing for a new team. … They have been

kind of working this way mentally for the last few days.”

They have been thinking about it much longer.

Dallas and New York both went into the regular-season finale

last season with 8-7 records. The Giants won, clinched the NFC East

title and league’s last playoff spot and went on to win their

second Super Bowl in five years. Dallas went home for another long

offseason.

The Cowboys have to go back to the same stadium to play in the

NFL’s kickoff game.

”That’s the great thing about playing for the Cowboys. You play

in games like this. You play against teams like the Giants,”

linebacker Sean Lee said. ”You are going to have these intense

night games that you have to prepare for. Mentally, I think we are

preparing the right way.”

Even Romo talked during the offseason about having the opener at

the Giants to keep the team focused.

For Brandon Carr, the $50 million free-agent cornerback the

Cowboys added during the offseason, it will be his first game in

the NFC East rivalry.

”I’m going to try to keep my emotions bottled up. It’s a big

game for us” Carr said. ”Going into a hostile environment,

prime-time game, we’re the only teams playing. No pressure. Just

have fun, and let it all go.”

The only expected starter who played against the Dolphins was

center Phil Costa, who got 12 snaps after missing the rest of the

preseason games because of back stiffness. Garrett said it appeared

that Costa had no issues coming out of the game.

Seven-time Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten is still recovering

from a lacerated spleen sustained in the preseason opener Aug. 13.

The only game he missed was because of a broken jaw as a rookie in

2003.

Garrett said Witten is healing and getting better, and has

already been moving around, catching the ball and running. The

coach said Witten is still day to day and would need medical

clearance to practice and play.

”Ultimately, it’s a medical decision and we are going to follow

what the doctors say,” Garrett said. ”He’s a unique guy. There

are a lot of times throughout his career where you would say, `Wow,

he can’t play this week.’ And sure enough he plays a full

game.”

Cornerback Mike Jenkins, who missed the entire offseason and

training camp recovering from shoulder surgery, passed his physical

Wednesday and can practice Saturday. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff is

still questionable because of an ankle injury.

The Cowboys were also working Thursday to trim their roster by

22 players to get to the NFL-mandated 53 by Friday’s deadline.

Garrett acknowledged some moves had already been made, but said

the team wouldn’t announce them until Friday.

”It’s a difficult day, one of the worst days we have as players

and coaches in this league,” Garrett said. ”We try to the best of

our ability to explain why the decision was made, give them any

constructive coaching we can give them going forward. Maybe more

than anything else, we thank them for their effort.”

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