IRVING, Texas – While the Dallas Cowboys will be playing in cold weather on Monday night, they were forced indoors yesterday because of heavy frozen rain and sleet in the Dallas area that left a blanket of ice on the Cowboys’ practice fields at Valley Ranch.
The Cowboys attempted to get the ice removed before practice but instead opted to bus the team to Highland Park High School in Dallas, where the Cowboys practiced in the school’s indoor facility.
While some of the coaches stayed overnight at Valley Ranch, a few of the players had to be picked up by staff members and team officials to get them in the facility for practice and meetings.
The practice, which was closed to the media, was like a normal Thursday practice on a normal week. With the Cowboys playing on Monday night, head coach Jason Garrett has tried to simulate a regular routine, even moving the normal Tuesday day off to Wednesday. The Cowboys are leaving on Sunday afternoon for the Monday night game.
“Ideally you’d like to be out today and simulate the elements we’re going to play in Monday night,” Garrett said. “But we couldn’t get that done. The field is ice. You have to get the ice off the field. Rather than wait 3-4 hours to get that done, we thought we should go to Plan B. This was a good alternative for us. We’re hopeful to be out there (Saturday).”
As for yesterday’s practice, offensive coordinator Bill Callahan said the change of venue didn’t have a negative effect.
“I thought practice was great. When you get into an environment where it’s enclosed and you’re on a Field Turf, it lends itself to a fast practice. Because of the travel, we cut down on the number of reps we had today. I thought the players did a great job of executing. More than that, the tempo of practice compared to (Thursday), coming off the long break, we came up a few notches. It was encouraging to see.”
The expected temperatures for kickoff Monday night in Chicago have actually gone up, but will still be treacherous. The low on Monday is 13 degrees with a high of only 27. With the winds gusting around 20 mph, the wind chill could be around zero or below-zero by kickoff.
When asked about the double-edged sword of wanting to practice in the elements of the game, but also having a practice environment that isn’t distracting to the flow of practice, Callahan said coaches can’t always have it both ways.
“We’ve had some good outside work done in the last few weeks,” said Callahan, who coached in Oakland and Nebraska in his career. “I remember being with the Raiders, we’d practice in the 85 degree weather and then fly from sunny California to the cold northeast and you’d have to play the elements or even in Denver. Players adapt pretty quickly.”
Whether they practice in the elements or not, some players don’t think the preparation matters much on game day.
“I’m not a believer that it helps at all,” cornerback Orlando Scandrick said. “Whether you practice in it or you play in it, you’re going to be cold. You’ve got to have the mental toughness and the focus and the will to go out and do it. I don’t like being cold, period.”
The weather doesn’t seem to bother tight end Jason Witten, who said he won’t be wearing any sleeves come Monday night.
“Football ain’t meant to be played like that,” Witten said with a smile. “But I do bundle up there on the bench. But no, I don’t allow that to get in the way. When you’re out there playing, you can’t worry about the elements. It’s always tough. Both teams have to play in it.”
As for the guy throwing the ball to Witten, he doesn’t seem too concerned about cold-weather games either.
Tony Romo, who grew up in Burlington, Wisconsin and played at Eastern Illinois said if he sticks to his mechanics, the cold air and high winds will have no factor in his performance.
“I’ve played a lot of our games in cold weather. I think you become comfortable with it over time. The more technically sound and fundamental you are with your throwing motion, you can neutralize that stuff and take advantage of it.”
Overall, Garrett said there won’t be a lot of discussions about the weather come Monday night, other than making sure the players are prepared.
“Certainly we’ll try to make sure we’re wearing the right gear and making sure our cleats are right so we can be most effective,” Garrett said. “I don’t think you want to overdo that, but you certainly want to make sure what you’re wearing on your feet is right for those conditions.”
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