ARLINGTON, Texas – Whatever might have been spoken behind closed doors, there was nothing but love in the Dallas Cowboys’ open locker room Sunday afternoon.
Reports surfaced during the weekend of an altercation between Jason Hatcher and Tony Romo, in which the veteran defensive tackle took the $100 million quarterback to task.
To hear it from Hatcher, it’s really quite the opposite.
“Where is Romo at? Tell him to come over here. I’m going to hug his neck,” Hatcher said. “We ain’t got no issues. Where’d you all get that from? I love Romo – Romo loves me. We are teammates, we are brothers – brotherhood.”
Hatcher’s own words are the most telling, as it was he who had reportedly called out the Cowboys’ quarterback this week for audibling too much and not committing to the run.
Plenty of other voices within the organization begged to differ, however. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Hatcher certainly spoke during the Cowboys’ preparation for St. Louis, but it wasn’t merely directed at Romo so much as the whole team.
“I think those reports are inaccurate,” Garrett said. “One of the things we try to do as a football team is empower the people – get everybody invested. Get players invested, get coaches invested and guys to take leadership roles. This is their football team, and leadership manifests itself a lot of different ways. It’s best when it’s just by performance – by what you do, by example. But sometimes you need to step up and say something. I thought Hatcher’s words after practice were directed at our entire football team.”
That message was one of consistency, to hear it from the players. The Cowboys have had a recent inability to string together positive results, highlighted by last week’s ugly loss to Kansas City – something Hatcher said needs to change.
“The main thing I got from Hatcher’s speech was being consistent, being consistent, not being a roller coaster team, not being up and down, winning a big game then going a losing a game,” said DeMarcus Ware. “That’s what we did last week, losing a game that we should have won — not to talk about the past. Now, how consistent can we be playing week in and week out, that’s one thing that Hatch talked about. Let’s be a consistent team. We can be a great team, but the consistent teams are the ones that are going to win.”
Romo himself agreed with that assessment. Asked about it following his postgame press conference, the Cowboys’ quarterback said he hadn’t heard about the report. He did say Hatcher’s words were good for the team and the team’s younger players to hear.
“He wants the guys – young guys – to understand how important this is,” Romo said. “I thought it was a great talk … Guys who have been around – when Witten talks, guys listen. When I talk, when Hatch talks, they listen.”
It remains to be seen how the message resonates going forward. This is the eighth time in 11 years the Cowboys have managed a 2-1 record through three weeks. They failed to improve to 3-1, instead falling to 2-2, on six of those seven previous occasions.
Next week’s game against San Diego will be telling in that regard.
“I love Romo to death, man. I wasn’t getting on Romo – I love Romo to death,” Hatcher said. “He came out and balled out tonight. Did you see that? He balled out. They ran the ball, he threw the ball great – he’s the best quarterback in the league. So I love Romo to death. That’s my brother.”
Editors comment: A lot is said about the ‘start’ of the season with the Dallas Cowboys in the past decade. Some of that ebb and flow is the result of NFL scheduling, some of that is NFL parity … and yes, some of that is finishing 8-8 in consecutive years. I think the emphasis should be on how they finish, not necessarily as much about how they start. It’s an interesting thing to watch, based on this recent history of on-again and off-again peaks and valleys. At this point, we should all hope to see a team mentally balanced … and confident enough to put together some nice long winning streaks. Jimmy Johnson was a master at keeping the players psych up, even during tough stings of games. It’s Jason Garrett’s job to build on the confidence gained during these big wins, not to let it slip away with the next opponent. It’s the players responsibility as well. Kudos to Jason Hatcher and the other leaders on this roster. The St. Louis (and New York Giants) games show the potential of this years’ Dallas Cowboys. If this is the ‘slow start’ … I can’t wait to see how they develop as the year progresses.