With just two weeks left to play in the season, the drama only continues to build in the NFC East, as three teams are tied for the division lead.
Washington Redskins 8-6
Dallas Cowboys 8-6
New York Giants 8-6
Philadelphia Eagles 4-10
On Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys beat the Pittsburgh Steelers to move into a first-place tie in the NFC East.
On Monday, the Cowboys got a special reward for their effort.
Team members made their annual visits to area hospitals — Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth and, in Dallas, Children’s Medical Center, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children and Medical City Children’s Hospital.
"With a win or a loss, it’s going to be great for us," said linebacker Sean Lee, one of 10 players who visited Medical City.
"With a loss, it cheers us up. With a win, we’re excited to come in anyway. It’s really a great perspective for us to come in and see these kids [who] show us that anything we’re dealing with doesn’t compare to what they’re dealing with."
DeMarcus Ware and Morris Claiborne, both fathers of young children, acknowledged that their trip to Cook Children’s had even deeper significance than in previous years in light of Friday’s mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.
"You’ve got to hold them a little tighter," Ware said. "You look at the kids, that’s where the real joy is … it’s the closest to praising God.
"You never know what they’re going through. Just spreading that touch to them and letting them know that someone out there cares for them, that’s what life’s about."
It was rookie Claiborne’s first time to join about 20 teammates in signing autographs, distributing gifts and visiting young patients.
"You never know what people are going through and the impact that you can make on those kids just from them seeing you," Claiborne said. "It’s great."
Quarterback Tony Romo was one of 28 players who visited Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. He met bright-eyed Tia, 7, an Argyle native who was scheduled to have heart surgery later in the day.
"She is adorable," Romo said. "She has personality. We will really be praying for her as she goes through surgery."
Tia’s parents, Nicole and John Hackett, passed out pink "Team Tia" shirts to the players, including Romo.
"It’s phenomenal," Nicole Hackett said of the players’ visit. "This is a great way to relax a little bit, take a deep breath and have some smiles."
Romo acknowledged that being a new father makes him a little more sensitive to the importance of the annual hospital visits.
"As a father, it changes you a little, just a sense of how much you really care," Romo said. "We are blessed to be able to do what we do. We play a game for a living. The thing a lot of us take advantage of is health, to be able to walk. To come here and see kids who can’t do that — it makes you want to make them smile and brighten their day a little bit, especially this time of year."
Running back DeMarco Murray agreed, although he showed no mercy in beating one of the children in a game of Connect 4. Romo lost to the same child.
But Murray is a self-proclaimed Connect 4 expert. He downloaded the app on his phone and plays all the time.
"It’s great to be able to come out here and bless kids," said Murray, who also spent time painting with a girl. "It gives you a spark, not only about football but about life.
"It makes you so thankful."