“Here we go again.”
That’s something Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones doesn’t want to hear Sunday afternoon in San Francisco.
To help dispel fears of a possible replay of last year when the Cowboys (0-1) dropped a gut-wrenching 13-7 decision at Washington in the opener and went on to start 1-7, they’ve got to beat the 49ers (1-0) in a 3:05 p.m. game at Candlestick Park.
Dallas blew a 14-point, fourth quarter lead last week in losing 27-24 to the New York Jets.
“We had a chance to get a prize in New York,” Jones told reporters Thursday in Irving. “We want to get by that and get it off our minds, and I’m probably the last one to get by it.
“Consequently, we all know that based on what happened last year, we need to get a better start, to be trite. That means we have to win a game, so it’s important.”
Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten described a sense of urgency in the locker room. In Week 2 last season, the Cowboys lost at home to Chicago.
“Obviously, we want to get off to a good start, especially after last year when we learned firsthand what that’s about,” Witten said. “This team is sticking together, and we seem like we’ve bounced back good.
“Like Tony (Romo) said yesterday, I don’t think the story is written yet. We can control it, and we have to do something about it.”
Not everybody at Valley Ranch is looking back to last season, which saw Dallas finish 6-10. Coach Jason Garrett, who was named interim coach at midseason after Jones fired Wade Phillips, is loath to talk about 2010 because it would go against his stay-in-the-moment philosophy.
“Last year is last year, and really last week is last week, and yesterday is yesterday,” Garrett said. “You’ve heard me say this before, and I just believe it from the bottom of my heart, it’s what the players hear from me and our coaching staff over and over again: Control what you can control.
“That’s your practice today, your meeting today, your walkthrough today. Learn from it when you come off the practice field, put it to bed and let’s go have a good day tomorrow. That’s the process we go through.
“If you spend too much time concerning yourself with what happened last year or yesterday or last week, you are going to prevent yourself from being your best with the upcoming challenges, and we certainly have one this week.”
While the Cowboys took a kick in the gut last week from losing a game they should have won, they know it doesn’t have to be viewed as a sign that a 2010-like slide is looming. Since realignment in 2002, 62 of the 108 playoff teams (57.4 percent) began the season either 1-1 or 0-2.
“The ideal situation is you win every game, right?” Garrett said. “But it’s unrealistic in this league. You are going to be challenged in this league. Every time you break the huddle, it’s a challenge — for players, for coaches, for everybody. What we are going to keep trying to do is put the last one to rest – good or bad — and go on to the next one.”
The Dallas Cowboys’ DeMarcus Ware has sacked 37 quarterbacks in his prodigious career. Alex Smith is not one of them, nor has Smith ever faced Dallas.
Those worlds could collide Sunday if the 49ers can’t contain Ware, who’s blossomed into one of the best pass-rushers in NFL history since being drafted 10 spots below Smith, whom the 49ers took first overall in 2005.
To help prepare for Ware, the 49ers have enlisted this year’s top draft pick, outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who’s lined up as Ware on the scout team in practice this week.
“Me and him both have long arms, so that’s a look I can give the offense,” said Aldon Smith, whose frame (6-foot-4, 258 pounds) also is similar to Ware’s (6-4, 260).
“You really want to, every week, try to match up your scout team as best you can to what you’re about to face,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “So, Aldon, when he’s not taking reps, he can give us some looks. That just helps us out.”
Ware had two sacks in the Cowboys’ 27-24, season-opening loss to the host New York Jets. He has 82 career sacks, including a league-high 151/2 last season and a franchise-record 20 in 2008.
“He’s probably the best pass rusher in football,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Plus he can also play like a defensive end. (He’s) so strong with his strong hands, powerful lower (body), explosive, and now a technician in terms of technique and all of his assignments, et cetera. The guy is the best in the game.”
The 49ers, who did not allow a sack in Sunday’s 33-17 win over Seattle, are anticipating Ware to line up on either the right or left side, or whichever side doesn’t feature tight-end protection.
In the 49ers’ two games against Dallas since 2005, Tim Rattay played instead of Alex Smith in a 34-31 loss in 2005, and Smith sat out the 2008 season in which Dallas posted a 35-22 home win.
- Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has passed for at least 300 yards in 27 of his 88 career games. The 49ers’ Smith has done so only twice in 55 games, but wide receiver Braylon Edwards is confident the 49ers could keep up with Romo, if
needed. “I believe we have what it takes to be in a shootout,” Edwards said. “Luckily we haven’t had to be in that situation yet. We will, and that will show you if we can or can’t.”
- Roman said Ted Ginn will remain a viable option as a wide receiver rather than reserve him for special-teams duty. Ginn scored touchdowns on a 102-yard kickoff return and 55-yard punt return Sunday. “Teddy is a weapon on offense, too,” Roman said. “A lot of guys play special teams and offense. We’re not going to limit what he does on offense because of teams. He’s a valuable player across the board, really.”
- Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said cornerback Shawntae Spencer is medically cleared to practice but still not in “game shape” after missing almost all of training camp and the exhibition season with a hamstring strain.
- Safety Madieu Williams’ shoulder-to-shoulder hit that drew a 15-yard penalty Sunday was ruled legal by the league, Fangio said.
- The Cowboys may be 0-1, but Fangio believes they’re a “loaded up” contender. “The Cowboys will definitely be, when it’s all said and done, one of the better teams in the league, recordwise, this year,” Fangio said.
- Wide receiver Michael Crabtree (foot) and safety Dashon Goldson (knee) looked OK in warm-ups after being limited Wednesday.
SOURCE: Cam Inman of Mercury News – Bay Area newsgroup
SOURCE: Marc Narducci Inquirer Columnist (Costa’s high school town – Moorestown, PA)
Phil Costa was in no mood to reflect on his remarkable rise to the NFL, and who could blame him?
The former offensive lineman from Holy Cross was still digesting the bitter defeat that he and his Dallas Cowboys teammates had just suffered in what wasn’t a happy homecoming for the Moorestown resident.
He was cordial, but this loss hurt. Costa, the starting center, clearly felt the pain.
“We went here to win,” he said softly. “We battled hard.”
Battling hard is a constant theme for the 6-foot-3, 314-pound Costa. After high school, nothing has come easy in football.
He wanted to play Division I college football, and according to his high school coach, Jerry McConnell, only after a player had de-committed from the University of Maryland did the school offer him a late scholarship.
After redshirting his first year, 2005, Costa wound up starting 30 games for Maryland over four seasons, first at guard before moving to center in his senior year.
“He willed himself to be a great player,” McConnell said. “Nobody was going to outwork him.”
Costa earned a degree in criminology and criminal justice from Maryland and began working toward a graduate certificate in real estate development in the fall of 2009.
Yet Costa wanted first and foremost to continue his football career. He signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent and appeared in four games last season, making one start at guard.
Few could have forecast that Costa would earn a single paycheck from the NFL, let alone start.
In the quiet Cowboys locker room, Costa forced a smile when it was suggested that if he were given a dollar for everybody who said he wouldn’t make it, he would have accumulated a nice sum.
“I would have a little money in my pocket,” he said.
This preseason, Dallas cut five-time Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode and awarded Costa the starting job.
In high school, Costa and teammate Dennis Landolt formed one of the more devastating offensive-line combinations in recent area history. Landolt went on to star at Penn State and now is with the New Orleans Saints practice squad. Costa remains tight with his former linemate.
“Dennis and I played next to each other, and he is in New Orleans and it’s pretty cool that two guys playing together are in the league right now,” he said.
That was the most reflective Costa would get about being in the NFL. As McConnell said, his work ethic is legendary, and to those who know him, so is his character.
Paul VI assistant coach Tony Lorine, who was an assistant at Holy Cross when Costa played there, has maintained a close relationship. Lorine, who works as a counselor at an elementary school, recently received a call that a youngster was in need of clothes.
He called Costa, who sent sneakers and shorts to the youngster the next day. McConnell and Lorine talk of stories of Costa calling young football players, encouraging them to hang in there. Imagine the impact of receiving an encouraging call from an NFL player.
“He is one of the nastiest people on the field and a true gentleman off it,” Lorine said. “He is a Hall of Famer when it comes to heart.”
Costa won’t allow himself time to reflect on what he has gained.
“Coach [Lorine] always told me one day at a time, and that is what I have tried to do in my career so far,” Costa said.
It has worked to this point, and while nothing has come easy, Costa continues to defy the odds, one day at a time.
Dwight Clark made his name against the Cowboys with “The Catch,” one of the most famous plays in NFL history. Clark, now the team’s business-operations consultant, was asked by San Francisco reporters this week about the rivalry with the Cowboys and said: “The America’s Team thing rubs the other 31 teams a little raw. Not that they’re as much of an America’s Team now, and not that they have the arrogance now, but why are they America’s Team? They probably named themselves that.”
Clark could use a history lesson: It was Bob Ryan of NFL Films who coined the phrase while editing the Cowboys’ 1978 highlight film. Cowboys coach Tom Landry initially did not approve of the nickname, feeling it gave opponents added motivation when they played Dallas.
The Cowboys are wearing the “C” on their jerseys to denote captains, joining much of the league. The Cowboys hadn’t worn the patch since the NFL started using it in 2007.
“It reminds you when you’re out there on the field that’s what you represent,” tight end Jason Witten said. “Not only with your play, but how you lead. Obviously, it’s a good symbol. It represents that. Obviously, you’re appreciative of that.”
The Cowboys elected captains last week. They are Witten, quarterback Tony Romo, linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Bradie James and punter Mat McBriar.
RELATED: Cowboys’ captains get a ‘C’
For the first time, the Cowboys’ team captains are wearing a “C” on their jerseys.
Since 2007, the league has allowed teams to put the “C” — designating “team captain” — on jerseys. The Cowboys chose not to add the designation, and at times, they rotated captains. But this year, Jason Garrett had the team vote on its captains, and those five players — two on offense, two on defense and one on special teams — each will wear the “C”.
Jason Witten, Tony Romo, Mat McBriar, Bradie James and DeMarcus Ware were elected by their teammates last week before the Jets game.
“We feel like those are our guys; those are our captains,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We’re fortunate that we have a number of other leaders, veteran leaders, who are really good football players who have been around here for a while, who understand what kind of football team we want to be. Those guys are leaders as well. But those five guys were voted captains and will wear that seal all year long.”
If Dez Bryant can’t play Sunday against the 49ers because of his thigh contusion, Miles Austin said the Cowboys have confidence in third-year receiver Kevin Ogletree.
“Kevin’s ready,” Austin said. “He knows all the positions. Inside. Outside. I feel like that’s one of the things a bunch of the receivers know, is all the positions. He’s definitely going to be ready if someone can’t.”
Austin caught five passes for 90 yards last week against the Jets, including a 36-yard touchdown catch in which he outwrestled Antonio Cromartie for the ball.
But he didn’t take anything from the performance.
“We lost. So we’ve just got to be ready for this week and be ready to get things going,” he said.
Austin said the team’s mood has been good this week.
“It’s positive. Guys were coming in ready to work all week,” he said.
Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee knows he had a good game last week against the Jets, making 11 tackles and an interception.
But he put no stock in it.
“It doesn’t mean anything. We lost,” he said. “For me, you look at it, it was a game I think we should have won, and we didn’t. So personally, it doesn’t mean much. You want to have a good game and win at the same time.”
Still, it was one of the most impressive games by a young player for the Cowboys. Lee is in his second year after being taken in the second round out of Penn State. The Cowboys think they got a steal even that high because Lee had a knee injury going into the draft.
Now he wants to build on the performance.
“I’m trying to build consistency, and we’re trying to win games,” he said. “I thought I did some good things, but there are areas I can improve.”
Wide receiver Dez Bryant did not appear for Thursday’s practice during the portion open to the media, and owner Jerry Jones said cornerback Terence Newman will not play this week.
Bryant is recovering from a thigh contusion apparently suffered in last week’s game. Jones said Bryant should be fine for the game Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
With Newman, who has been out with a groin injury suffered Aug. 3, the Cowboys are being extra cautious because he suffered a similar injury three years ago. He suffered a slight tear in his groin at the start of training camp in 2008 and missed the preseason plus the regular-season opener. He had surgery to repair a hernia in October that year.
“We thought we got him back out there a little quick (then), so we’re being ultra sensitive,” Jones said. “If this were the Super Bowl this weekend, he’d be playing. We would take the risk if it were at that juncture of the season. But with the full season and where we are, then we’re giving him extra time.”