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Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, wide receiver Dez Byrant talk about facing the Saints

Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett
Conference Call With New Orleans Media
Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Can you update us on the Morris Claiborne situation?

"Yes, Mo practiced today.  Yesterday we had a meeting to wrap up the game from Sunday and then we do a brief walk through. Yesterday prior to that meeting, we informed Mo that he was going to be in a different role this week and he didn't take it very well and left the building.  Subsequently he and I visited last night in my office and he was back at work today.  He and I addressed it and he addressed it with the team.  (We) Had a full day of meetings and practice today and did a good job.  It is behind us."

I assume he is going to play this weekend?

"Yeah we anticipate him practicing and competing for a role in this game."

How often do you deal with emotional reactions like that at this level of football?

"Let's go back to the initial question, this particular thing has not happened to me very much where a player has left, but certainly players want to play and they are competitive and sometimes they get frustrated in what their role might be and you have to address that.  You made a reference to Dez (Bryant), Dez is one of the best players I have been around.  He is a fantastic football player and is as passionate individual as I've been around.  He is a great team guy and works hard in practice, works hard and loves the play the game and is an awfully good player.  Any correlation between this issue and Dez Bryant, I don't think there is really any connection there."

Do you feel like there is a familiarity with the Saints?

"Yes, we have played them a lot. For an out of division team we've played them, like you said, fairly regularly.  There is a certain familiarity that we have like with any team that you would play.  I do believe teams change, personnel changes and coaching staffs change and teams run different systems of football but there certainly is a familiarity with a lot of what they are doing and I am sure they feel the same way about us."

Did you anticipate the level of success on the ground this year?

"We've been trying to rebuild our offensive line for a few years now.  We've allocated resources in the first round to draft these guys starting with Tyron Smith four years ago, Travis Frederick last year, and now Zack Martin this year.  It was an area that we had to get better at.  We believe as an organization that the best teams are strong on the offensive and defensive lines.  We had to make that commitment and we did that.  This has been something that we have been trying to get right from a personnel standpoint for a few years now and we feel like the byproduct of those decisions is the fact that we can be physical on the line of scrimmage and run the football on a more consistent basis.  It has been a point of emphasis for us for a number of years now and certainly continuing this offseason when we drafted Zack Martin to add to that unit.  We felt like we could be stronger and made a commitment to do that all throughout our preparation leading up to the season."

Is Tony Romo not practicing on Wednesdays just his new routine to help him with his back issues?

"Well Tony had back surgery as you know and he worked very hard in the offseason to rehab and get back from that.  At different times during training camp he was able to practice and sometimes because of the work he put in, he wasn't able to do that.  Last week coming out of the game in Tennessee his back really was stiff on him and we decided it wasn't in his best interest or our best interest to have him practice on Wednesday.  This is not some schedule or formula that we are going to use going forward; we are just going to treat Tony just like we would any other player.  If they are capable of practicing, we believe in practice and he is going to be out there practicing.  We just felt like his body was in a similar shape as it was last week at this time so he was involved in all of the walkthroughs this morning but then didn't take part in the actual physical practice this afternoon.  We will judge that week by week, see what his availability is just like any other player."

Are you surprised to see the Saints defense struggle early on?

"I think they're a really good defense.  We just put the tape on and watched them play.  They do a lot of good things.  They have a lot of really good players, a really good front seven.  They have some back end guys who they've made a commitment to who can really be difference-making players.  We obviously know Rob Ryan well.  He's an outstanding football coach and challenges you a lot of different ways.  We have a real healthy respect for them and really when we watch the tape we are really impressed by them in a lot of different ways."

Would you be at all surprised by Keenan Lewis versus Dez Bryant being a considerable factor in this game?

"We have to be ready for anything with guys like Dez and Jason Witten and some of the other players that we have.  Certainly Rob (Ryan) does a good job of trying to identify what he thinks the other teams do best and tries to take that away.  There are a lot of different ways to do that.  You can do that with personnel.  You can do that with scheme.  We have a lot of respect for their secondary and for Keenan Lewis.  We have to be ready for a variety of things just like we would be any week."

Have you guys worked on DeMarco Murray with his fumbling?

"Oh absolutely, it is certainly a point of emphasis not only for DeMarco but for our entire football team. The correlation between turnover ratio and winning is by far the best statistic in football.  A lot of people believe in different statistics.  There is not one that correlates to winning more than winning that turnover ratio, not only securing the ball but taking the ball away.  It is a huge point of emphasis for everybody on our football team.  DeMarco has been off to a great start so far this year.  He is a really good football player but he has put the ball on the ground.  Each of those fumbles have hurt us, taken away scoring opportunities from us and given the opposing team a chance to go down and score.  Nobody knows the importance of that more than DeMarco does. I think he has responded well in each of those games to come back and play very well.  We certainly have to get that fixed going forward not only with him but everybody on our football team."

Do you agree that what Morris Claiborne did was highly out of character?

"Oh absolutely and sometimes things happen in your life where your reaction at the moment probably isn't the one that you typically do and sometimes you look back on that later and say boy, that wasn't the smartest thing to do.  We all make mistakes.  We don't handle situations the right way all the time and there are consequences to that but then you have to learn from it and move on.  That is certainly what he has done and that is what we have done as a team."

Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Dez Bryant
Conference Call With New Orleans Media
Wednesday, September 24, 2014

You've had success against the Saints in recent years, is that just how you matched up against the Saints or has it been more so just the way you were playing at that point of the season?

"I think it is a little bit of both.  The Saints do have some pretty good cornerbacks.  You have to be on top of your game when you are going against a group of guys like that.  I think on our end, it's the right play-calling and executing the plays."

Is this a game you all look forward to?

"Oh yeah of course, it doesn't get much better than this. It is primetime, Sunday night, last game shown on TV that day, it is just exciting.  I can't wait to get on the field."

Rough outing last year here at the Superdome?

"It was real rough, extremely, extremely double teamed.  It was something we didn't expect going into that game.  We expect it a little bit more coming into this game just trying to work on to beat it."

You didn't expect the double team?

"Not last year, I didn't expect it last year.  I've seen a couple one-on-one matchups before we played them and we went in thinking that we were going to play them man to man and they didn't. They had a nice scheme and it worked well for them."

Where would you rank Keenan Lewis among cornerbacks you've faced?

"He's a great cornerback.  He is one of those guys that you have to be on top of your game.  You are not just going to beat him.  He is a physical corner.  This is a game where you have to be well-prepared because if you are not you are going to get beat."

How did the Saints double team you last year?

"They were jamming me with a guy over the top."

It was a safety?

"Yep."

Was that a game that you and your team look back on what not to do?

"Oh yeah of course, as any team should, if you expect something you should work on it.  I think that is exactly what we are doing.  We will see what happens on Sunday."

Can they handle you without a double team?

"I think if you are in the league it is what we do.  Of course like I said, Keenan (Lewis) is one of those guys if you are not on top of your game he is going to beat you."

What about the fact that the Saints have Jairus Byrd back there?

"That was a great addition to the Saints.  He is one of the best safeties in the league.  You have to keep your eye on him.  Like I said, you have to be well prepared.  These guys aren't in the league for nothing."

What are your thoughts on how Tony Romo has played last week?

"When I look at Tony Romo, Romo is just being Romo.  He is a true competitor, loves to play the game and he's going to do whatever he needs to do to be out there on the field.  He's going to try his best to execute and get his calls in.  I think he has been doing a tremendous job doing that."

How would you react in the situation that Morris Claiborne is in being benched?

"That's a different situation.  He's an emotional player.  Everybody handles that situation differently.  I don't know how anybody would handle that situation.  Mo's an emotional player.  He just wants to get better.  He's doing a tremendous job, like I said, he's an emotional player and wants to get better.  That is all I can say on that."

Do you feel like you are a team still trying to find your identity?

"I think our focus is, of course we're going to have an identity but I think we are more focused on playing together, being together and just having each other's back, respecting one another and let that take over."

Has DeMarco Murray made your job a lot easier?

"Yeah, DeMarco has been straight up beast mode.  He does make our job a lot easier as a team."

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