Jason Garrett Talks About Tony Romo, Jason Hatcher & Travis Frederick

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Garrett is at the combine along with many in the Cowboys front-office. On Thursday afternoon he gave a press conference.

Earlier today we looked at the transcript of Jason Garrett's press conference at the scouting combine. In that article we concentrated on the coaching staff, mainly the top guys like Garrett, Scott Linehan, Bill Callahan and Rod Marinelli. Now, we turn to the questions that had to do with the players more than coaches, although there's a good piece at the end about new tight ends coach Mike Pope. (Rough transcriptions courtesy of this link, with limited corrections.)

On his evaluation of the 2013 rookie class

Yeah, I think it's challenging for people in your business to have to evaluate a draft right after it happens. What we try to do is have a philosophy as to what we want to do with our football team, the kinds of guys we want to bring in and stick to that philosophy. And one of the great challenges of the draft is that other people make decisions before you pick and you have to be sharp when you are on the clock and pick guys that fit into your philosophy and help your football team, and we felt we did that. We drafted Travis Frederick in the first round and moved back from 18 to 31 and got a third-round pick, and then we picked guys we felt could help us. And a number of those guys did. Travis was a minute-one starter for us, first day of rookie minicamp and first day of OTAs he was in the lineup for us and did an outstanding job as a rookie and played a very difficult position in the NFL. He helped our football team. We were stronger in the NFL than we have been in a number of years and he had a lot to do with that. Other guys, some helped us more than others, but we feel like each of those guys has a bright future for us.

On if they can keep Hatcher given the cap situation

Well, we'll just have to see how that plays out. We love Jason Hatcher. We felt like he had an outstanding year for us this year. Really took to this 4-3 style of defense we are playing and just did a great job. He emerged as a leader on our football team both in his actions on and off the field and his production was outstanding. He was as consistently as productive a player as we have on our football team, a guy on our team that everyone really rallied around. We feel like his is an awfully good football player, and once the business of the NFL starts with free agency, we certainly want to be there. We think he can help our team.

On Romo/Linehan relationship

Well, you know, this time of year players and coaches can't have formal meetings. Tony does have something he's focused on in trying to get his back rehabbed as quickly as he can. So a lot of his time, energy and attention have been on that. Scott is going through the process with our offensive staff of evaluating the things we were good at last year and things we need to improve upon. They have certainly met and they have had conversations, and Scott is spending more of his time with our coaches, and Tony is spending more of his time rehabbing that back.

On how Tony's rehab is going

Tony had the surgery four or five days after the Washington game and we feel like the surgery went well, and he's really spending a lot of his time rehabbing his back and getting himself right. We are anticipating him to be able to be back for the spring and to be able to be involved in a lot of the stuff we do in the spring with OTAs and our on the field work. In order for him to do that, he has to spend a lot of time getting that back right. So he's spent a lot of time with Drew Dossett and his staff down there at The Carrell Clinic. He's getting it right. He looks good and his mindset is really good and he's just trying to get himself healthy.

On if Romo needs to be in better condition than he was last offseason coming off surgery

Well, I don't know if I can speak to that. Tony is somebody who is very, very active, obviously. And he's somebody we think is an awfully good football player. So the biggest thing for him is to just get himself healthy. He plays very hard. He's got great mental and physical toughness, and I think that was demonstrated in that Washington game and we are just excited to see him on the road to recovery.

On Gavin Escobar challenging Jason Witten for playing time (ed. note: what a weird question)

Well, I don't know about that. Witt's a great football player and has been for a long time, a Pro Bowler again last year. In my opinion, our opinion, the best tight end in football and has been for decades. Witt's certainly going to be a big part of what we do with our offensive football team. But that doesn't mean Gavin can't be more involved. I think we saw more of him as the year went on and on, as he got more and more acclimated to our style of offense and playing the game at this level. And he made some great strides for us. If you look back at his tape and the opportunities he was given, he was very productive with the challenges he got. So we gave him more and more as the season went on and he responded well. We expect a big jump from Gavin this offseason.

On Mike Pope

Mike Pope is a great football coach. I had the good fortune of being around him for four years with the Giants and he's really as good a coach as I've been around in my career. I saw him up close and personal with a lot of different guys, established players and young players and he's a great friend, he's a great addition to our staff and Witt's the kind of guy who's always trying to get better. Each and every day he comes in he's always looking for ways we can help him, how he can help himself become a better football player. That's why he is the player he is. To add Mike Pope to the mix and having a different perspective on how he gets coaches, I think Witt's really excited and I know Mike Pop is as well.

More on Pope

We always want to bring the right coaches in. Wes had the opportunity to go to Washington, we feel really good about the job Wes Phillips did, but we had to find the next best tight end coach and it just so happened to be that Mike Pope was no longer going to be with the Giants. He and I have had a long relationship. I think the world of him. I can go in my office right now and pull out his Saturday night tip sheet for the tight ends for four years with the Giants that I would fall asleep with in my bed that was 25 pages long and in Pope's handwriting. He and I have known each other a long time. He's a great coach. His track record speaks for itself. He's worked with different kinds of tight ends, veteran tight ends, he's worked with young guys, he's developed guys who were college free agents. The fact that we have an investment in Escobar and have a young guy in James Hanna, we feel those guys will benefit but Witt's going to benefit as well.

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