I've got a good feeling about Sunday. After weeks of doom-and-gloom at the Ranch, there's really no logical reason for me to feel good about our upcoming game against the Tampa Bay Bucs, but I do anyway. Maybe it's because all the distractions, all the expectations, all the extraneous junk that has been in play over the last few weeks feels stripped away. It now seems like the Dallas Cowboys are concentrating on the one thing they should have been the whole time - playing the games on Sunday.
I'm not delusional, I know that injuries to key personnel are hurting us and that as a team we haven't been playing anything that resembles good football. But at least this week we aren't talking about Pacman being suspended, the Roy Williams trade, whether this team believed its own press clippings, the uncertainty of Tony Romo's status - at least we aren't talking about them in a meaningful way. This week, the talk has shifted solely to performance on the field by the players and coaches. Wade Phillips "taking over" the play-calling on defense and the stripping down of the defensive playbook represents, to me at least, a symbolic stripping down of all the craziness that surrounds the Dallas Cowboys and a return to football, pure and simple football.
Maybe I'm grasping at straws here to keep my sanity. But just maybe, the players and coaches are grasping at symbolic straws too, and that would be a good thing. A sense of urgency, the idea that we aren't going to win games just because we're the Dallas Cowboys, might be the prescription to cure some lackluster football. If this team plays like they have the proverbial "back against the wall," maybe they will come out with some real fight. Not manufactured emotion, but a true sense of desperation that comes with the realization that everything you've been working for over the past months is really on the line.
I expect to see a very fired-up team playing on its home-turf on Sunday. I just hope I'm not disappointed.
Kevin Burnett discusses the changes on defense.
Cowboys nickel linebacker Kevin Burnett says the defense will be shaved down this week and there are no excuses if it doesn't help the performance.
"We've probably got five or 10 plays that we're going to call," Burnett said. "If you lose (the game) then, you need to look at yourself as an individual. Because it's not the coaches' fault."
Nose tackle Tank Johnson said he would like to see the Cowboys rush outside linebackers Greg Ellis and DeMarcus Ware on every play to help eliminate assignment confusion.
Mike Jenkins is going up against his hometown team and says he's ready.
"I feel like they know my strengths and weakness," Jenkins said. "I don't know if they will come right after me. I feel like I'm not a rookie any more. I got that game [last week's first start] out of the way, and I'm very hyped for this game."
The Cowboys have had their share of injuries this year and haven't been able to overcome them yet. The Bucs, on the other hand, have done a good job of replacing their many injured players.
"We have a theme around here," [Jon] Gruden said. "If you replace somebody, you've got to outperform the guy you're replacing. That's easier said that done, but our assistant coaches have done a really good job of preparing people to play."
Here are some of the key personnel injuries for Tampa this week.
The status of several injured players, including WR Joey Galloway (foot), WR Ike Hilliard (concussion) and RB Warrick Dunn (back), won't be decided until just before kickoff at Dallas, coach Jon Gruden said Friday.
FB B.J. Askew (hamstring) and WR Maurice Stovall (hamstring) are unlikely to play.
A take on Brad Johnson from the Tampa Bay view.