Watermelons, tragedy, Tuesday recreation: Inside Dallas Cowboys’ previous 18 days

FRISCO, Texas — The previous 18 days have been in contrast to any the Dallas Cowboys have skilled.

The trail to Tuesday’s recreation on the Baltimore Ravens (8:05 p.m. ET, Fox) took dramatic turns going again to Nov. 21. The crew was euphoric after their most complete win of the season on the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 22. The temper turned to devastation with the demise of Cowboys energy and conditioning coordinator Markus Paul three days later.

The Cowboys all the time knew this a part of their schedule can be the trickiest as a result of they have been purported to play three video games in 12 days.

As a substitute, it become essentially the most tough due to the lack of Paul. Then got here the postponement of what was purported to be their Thursday night time recreation final week in opposition to the Ravens.

The Cowboys wanted the break mentally and emotionally, maybe greater than bodily, as coach Mike McCarthy famous: “The time without work will certainly profit our soccer crew.”

On Nov. 21, McCarthy was searching for a approach to catch his crew’s consideration throughout their Saturday night time assembly. In a ballroom on the InterContinental at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, the coach brought out a sledgehammer and watermelons to emphasise how he needed his crew to play. The subsequent day, Dallas beat Minnesota 31-28.

With a 3-7 document and a positive schedule, the Cowboys took a “why not us?” take a look at successful the NFC East with how poorly the New York Giants, Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles had been taking part in.

A win on Thanksgiving in opposition to Washington would give the Cowboys the division lead, at the very least quickly.

Two days later, not one of the crew’s on-field issues appeared to matter. Paul, 54, suffered what the crew referred to as a medical emergency on the facility. The crew’s medical workers tended to him, and emergency medical technicians arrived inside minutes. He was rushed to an area hospital, and the Cowboys canceled observe.

McCarthy despatched everyone dwelling.

“If you are going to inform everyone that you just put household first, and that’s necessary to do in my perception, that was what we did,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Mike Nolan mentioned.

The subsequent day, the Cowboys had a light-weight observe. 5 days after McCarthy had used props to ship a message, the tone of the assembly on Nov. 25 was a lot totally different after the crew introduced Paul’s demise. Participant after participant spoke about Paul’s affect. Tears flowed. As did some laughs.

The Cowboys had a collective feeling of successful for Paul, however a four-point deficit to Washington within the fourth quarter rapidly ballooned into a 41-16 loss.

“We did not accomplish the mission,” Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith mentioned, “so it is powerful.”

From coping with tragedy to going to work

Because the Cowboys grieved Paul’s demise, the NFL was coping with a COVID-19 outbreak within the Ravens’ program. Baltimore’s recreation in opposition to the Pittsburgh Steelers was postponed 3 times earlier than being moved to this previous Thursday. The NFL then shifted the Ravens-Cowboys recreation, initially scheduled for final Thursday, to Tuesday, establishing a novel observe schedule for Dallas.

As a substitute of watching observe movie to organize for the Ravens, the Cowboys as an alternative separated by place teams inside The Star and watched the Baltimore-Pittsburgh game live.

“It was type of like watching a recreation together with your boys,” Cowboys operating again Ezekiel Elliott mentioned. “It is in all probability type of like we have been on the crib, watching the sport.”

The subsequent day, the Paul household held a memorial service on the North Colony Church of Christ in The Colony, Texas. Paul’s former Syracuse teammates, together with ex-Cowboy Tremendous Bowl champ Daryl Johnston, spoke. The present Cowboys watched just about from contained in the Ford Middle.

“I do not wish to make a personal matter public, however I believe for essentially the most half, everybody mentioned the identical factor about Coach Markus, whether or not it’s his school roommate, teammate, folks he met within the church, his household, all of the tributes his household and pals made for him, all of it resonated with us as a result of they knew the identical Coach Markus,” Cowboys cornerback Chidobe Awuzie mentioned. “That is a person we will look as much as and attempt to lead by the instance that he set.”

Not lengthy after, the Cowboys have been on the observe subject for an additional gentle exercise.

“Do not get me fallacious, it is exhausting coping with the tragedy and likewise having to place these blinders on and go to work,” Cowboys defensive finish DeMarcus Lawrence mentioned. “When you do one thing repetitive over time, it will get locked into your psyche so you are able to do it with out even eager about it. That is the way you’re supposed to have the ability to play this recreation of soccer.”

After Thursday’s observe, Cowboys tight finish Dalton Schultz was sitting at dwelling when he needed to observe soccer.

“I needed to remind myself that it was Thursday, after which I remembered, ‘Oh, it is Thursday. There’s ‘Thursday Night time Soccer’ on. Who performs tonight? Oh, we had a recreation on Thursday,'” Schultz mentioned. “My days are all out of whack. I believe the remainder was a lot wanted. It type of gave us an additional little mini-bye week, and I believe we’re able to go coming into this week.”

Lastly, it is recreation day

And on Friday got here the primary sighting of Dak Prescott at a Cowboys observe for the reason that quarterback’s harm. Out for the season after struggling a compound fracture and dislocation of his proper ankle, Prescott has been at The Star for rehab and has attended some periods inside Ford Middle, however on this crisp day, he was sporting a crutch below his left arm.

“He is doing nice, appears good, has an excellent perspective, as all the time,” McCarthy mentioned. “It was nice for everybody to see him on the market.”

The tenor of the Cowboys’ season modified when Prescott was damage on Oct. 11 in opposition to the Giants. Dallas is the one crew to begin 4 totally different quarterbacks, and the Cowboys have gone by 14 totally different line mixtures — they usually may see a fifteenth in opposition to the Ravens.

And but they enter Tuesday’s recreation with an opportunity to win the NFC East, though they’ve carried out little to encourage confidence in that aim.

“Every little thing remains to be out in entrance of us. For us, we’ve to fret about what we will management, and it’s these final 5 video games,” Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton mentioned. “If we deal with our enterprise, we’ll see how this complete factor shakes out. There’s nonetheless a number of soccer to be performed.”

And what stands out past the Cowboys’ Week 13 recreation marking the primary time the franchise has performed on a Tuesday is that the previous 18 days have been a blur.

“Will probably be nice for us to get on the market and play and compete,” McCarthy mentioned. “Anytime you undergo private tragedy like this, it is necessary to maintain stepping ahead as a crew and as people. We’re lucky, particularly throughout these making an attempt instances and on prime of it a pandemic, that we get to exit and compete in a Nationwide Soccer League recreation.”

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