Cowboys refreshed, urgent in return from bye week

When the Dallas Cowboys returned to work Monday following their

bye week, they had the same number of losses as the two teams ahead

of them in the NFC East.

More important than the standings was how the Cowboys (2-2) felt

about themselves after an extended break.

”We had a week to recoup, refresh, regroup,” cornerback

Brandon Carr said after their first practice in five days. ”I felt

like we were refreshed, guys had a sense of urgency. We just erased

the last four weeks out of our memory. … Guys are just eager to

get out there and to have fun, just get out there and mix it up a

little bit.”

Asked about the New York Giants and Philadelphia both being 3-2,

only a half-game ahead of Dallas, Carr said he didn’t even know the

records of the other teams in the division.

The Cowboys have enough to think about with their upcoming

stretch of four of five games on the road. The first is Sunday at

AFC North-leading Baltimore (4-1).

”You know they’re going to be physical. They play that way.

That’s their style,” defensive lineman Marcus Spears said.

”Obviously they’ve been playing great ball for a while. But we’ve

got to go up there and handle our business. It’s not about them,

it’s about us.”

After the Ravens, the Cowboys are at Carolina before their only

home game in a six-week stretch, against the defending Super Bowl

champion Giants. Dallas beat New York on the road in the season

opener in its only division game so far.

Then the Cowboys travel to Atlanta (5-0) and Philadelphia.

Two starters in the middle could be back after the bye week.

Center Phil Costa and Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff both

practiced Monday.

Costa was hampered throughout much of training camp by back

issues. He returned in time to play the final preseason game, then

started the opener and lasted only one series before being

sidelined again.

Costa’s return comes with Ryan Cook bothered by a hamstring

injury. The Cowboys got Cook from Miami in a trade at the end of

the preseason, and he had been the center since the second series

against the Giants.

Ratliff hasn’t played yet this season because of a high ankle

sprain.

”Getting Jay back is like getting three guys back. In the

nickel packages, in the base packages and then teams actually game

plan for Jay Ratliff,” Spears said. ”It’ll give other guys the

opportunity to probably make more plays and have more success

because he’s in the game.”

Linebacker Anthony Spencer also was at practice after missing

the Cowboys’ 34-18 loss to Chicago because of a strained

pectoral.

”It feels good to essentially have all your guys back out

there,” Carr said.

Before practice Monday, the Cowboys added running back Lance

Dunbar to their 53-man roster from the practice squad. He ran for

105 yards with a 58-yard touchdown in the preseason finale against

Miami.

But the speedy Dunbar, an undrafted rookie from North Texas,

will be used primarily on special teams. He could have an immediate

impact.

”He’s very aggressive and active,” coach Jason Garrett said.

”So we want to give him a chance to do that. He’s also done some

returning for us as well. So just wherever he’s needed. We’ll give

him some work in practice at the different spots and see how he

responds.”

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