2014-2015 GAME 9 PRIMER: Cardinals vs. Cowboys | Romo rest, Weeden test | Rushman DeMarcus Lawrence activated | Josh Brent signs extension | Keeping Hope Alive | Injury and Practice Report

2014-2015 GAME 9 PRIMER - Cardinals vs. Cowboys - Romo rest, Weeden test - Rushman DeMarcus Lawrence activated - Josh Brent signs extension - Keeping hope alive - Injury and Practice Report

IRVING, Texas – It’s looking more and more likely that Brandon Weeden will start Sunday against Arizona, but the Cowboys aren’t willing to rule Tony Romo out just yet. 

In fact, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said Friday the team likely won’t make a ruling on Romo’s status until Sunday morning, right before kickoff against the Cardinals.

“We have to make that decision at gametime, when it’s day-to-day,” Jones said in an interview with 105.3 The Fan. “We turn that in – obviously you’ve got your 53-man roster, and we have to turn our actives in within an hour before the game. So that’s when you’ll know.”

NFL teams are only allowed to use 46 of their 53 roster members on game day, which means they’ll have to announce Romo’s availability by about an hour before the Cowboys’ noon kickoff on Sunday. Romo did not practice Friday – his third-straight absence of the week – while he continues to recover from a back contusion.

Regardless, Jones said the team intends to monitor him through the weekend.

“Again, we will see as the week goes along. We’ve got about three more days before we make the decision,” Jones said.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett echoed those sentiments at his Friday morning press conference. Typically, coaches would prefer a player be able to participate in practice by the end of the week. For a player as experienced as Romo, though, Garrett said it’s possible to get ready during the team’s Saturday walkthrough.

“Obviously, we have to see him move around at some point before the game starts,” Garrett said. “Hopefully he can do something today, and then we’ll have a walkthrough tomorrow. We’ve still got about 48 hours until the game, so we want to give him every chance.”

Brandon Weeden has typically taken starting reps on Wednesdays this season, as Romo usually rests on the first practice day of the week. Weeden, in his first year with the Cowboys, has worked all three days of the practice week as the team’s starter in case Romo is unavailable.

“Obviously he’s less experienced than Tony is running this offense, but he seems comfortable,” Garrett said. “I think the biggest thing is, we have a next-man-up philosophy … The next guy comes in there, he’s a pro football player – he’s trained, he’s prepared. Brandon’s got a lot of work with our first unit.”

In the meantime, Jones said Romo has been an active participant in the preparation for the Cardinals while he attempts to rehab the injury.

“He’s moving around, and he’s doing stuff in the back there to get the stiffness out – kind of like a bicycle-type thing. He’s moving around, been in the meetings today,” Jones said.

ROSTER UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys rookie DE DeMarcus Lawrence activated

IRVING, Texas – After a nine-week wait, rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence has joined the Dallas Cowboys active roster.

Lawrence was activated to the 53-man roster this morning as part of the Cowboys’ final preparations for Sunday’s game against Arizona. Defensive end Lavar Edwards was waived to open a roster spot.

It’s been a long wait for Lawrence, who the Cowboys selected No. 34 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft last May. Dallas made a Day 2 trade with Washington to acquire the pass rusher, giving up their third-round pick and swapping second-round picks with the Redskins.

After showing some initial promise in training camp, the Boise State product broke his foot going against Tyron Smith during drills. The injury was diagnosed as an eight-to-12 week recovery, which prompted the Cowboys to move Lawrence to short-term injured reserve at the start of the season.

Lawrence was inactive until Week 6. He was eligible to practice with the team starting in Week 7, and he is now finally eligible to play this weekend.

The Cowboys are hoping he can bolster their pass rush. The defense has struggled to reach the quarterback this season, with just nine sacks on the year – and three of those came last week against Washington. Despite that, Lawrence was reluctant to say the defense “needed” his presence.

“I ain’t going to say they need me, because they’ve been doing it and winning games off of me not being there. I’d just say I’ll be a help to them when I get back,” he said.

Lawrence does have high expectations for himself, however. Sunday afternoon, he’ll have the opportunity to start meeting them against the NFC’s hottest team.

ROSTER UPDATE: Cowboys DT Josh Brent signs extension; eligible week 12

IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have secured the services of defensive tackle Josh Brent through the 2015 season.

Brent isn’t eligible to play until after the Cowboys’ Week 11 bye week, as he is still serving a 10-game suspension, but the deal will keep him at Valley Ranch through this season and all of next year.

Brent began practicing this week as the latest step in his odyssey back to the playing field. After serving a 180-day jail sentence and subsequent rehab stint earlier this year, he rejoined the Cowboys at the start of the season.

Since he was technically retired when he was convicted of intoxication manslaughter in the December 2012 drunk driving accident that killed teammate Jerry Brown, Brent was suspended by the NFL upon his return to the organization. He was suspended for the first 10 games, but he has been able to work out and attend meetings at Valley Ranch this season.

This week Brent returned to the practice field, and he will travel to London with the Cowboys for their Week 10 game against Jacksonville. He will be eligible to play Week 12 against New York

COMMENTARY: Dallas Cowboys keeping hope alive with Tony Romo status

IRVING, Texas – Tony Romo did on practice on Wednesday.

Tony Romo did not practice on Thursday.

Tony Romo did not practice on Friday.

Tony Romo on the official NFL injury report for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, noon, AT&T Stadium, is being listed as questionable.

If we should dabble in deductive reasoning, we’d have to come up with a designation somewhere between the 50-percent chance of playing questionable and the 25-percent chance of playing doubtful.

So since we’re not official, and will not officially find out if Romo is playing in Sunday’s game against the 6-1 Cardinals, now officially tied with Denver for the best winning percentage in the NFL, until 10:30 a.m. Sunday when the official list of seven inactives must be turned in to the officials, let’s list his chances of playing as highly questionable, at least keeping hope alive.

“We’ve still got about 48 hours to the game,” Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said yesterday (Friday), “so we’re going to give him every chance.”

So highly questionable sounds about right, doesn’t it? And a tad better than doubtful, unless of course all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, along with Doc Dossett, can do a better job putting Romo back together again than they did following Humpty’s great fall.

That means we must think, just as the in-limbo Cowboys prepared all week long, that Brandon Weeden, this is your game. And this time, for better or worse, until those official 60 minutes have expired.

And understand, this is all new to him. Sure Weeden, with his two-series relief appearance this past Monday in the Cowboys’ 20-17 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins, at least got his feet wet in 2014. That was the 24th time he had played during his now three-year NFL career, with 20 of those appearances having been starts.

Heck, the last time he had actually played in a game until Monday night was on Dec. 1, 2013. Gosh, that was 11 months ago. So that he finished those two series four-of-six for 69 yards, one touchdown (should have been two) and a 145.1 passer rating should give him, the Cowboys and even you some confidence if called upon Sunday that disaster isn’t looming. Especially since he drove the Cowboys to a field goal (should have been a touchdown had Dez Bryant not dropped the slant from the 3-yard line in the end zone) and a touchdown.

He has a baseball strong arm. He’s smart. He has good instincts. You saw all that on his touchdown pass Monday night to Jason Witten, when he was patient enough to wait on Dwayne Harris to clear out the corner and safety on his way deep, allowing Witten to cut underneath the route wide open.

He just needs to read coverage’s accurately, make good decisions and not think this entire game is on his shoulders. Keep the game in perspective, or as he said earlier in the week, “My job is to keep this train on the tracks, keep it rolling along.”

My guess is backup quarterbacks can be their own worst enemies, unless they are salty veterans, sort of like a Jon Kitna, who recognized and was resigned to his station in the NFL at that point in his career. His starting days were over and now just an EQ – emergency quarterback.

Because, and you know it, a lot of upwardly-mobile quarterbacks, young guys, likely go into a fortuitous start with the idea of having to prove themselves. To show the league, hey, I got it. I’m good enough for someone to consider me a starter. Probably put way too much pressure on themselves by thinking, man, this is my big chance.

Especially guys on a short leash, er, contract.

Dallas head coach Jason Garrett understands those dynamics. He rose to backup status with the Cowboys. Got his first start in 1993, Nov. 14 against Phoenix with Troy Aikman sidelined. Started again Thanksgiving Day 1994 against Green Bay. Though the Cowboys won both games, that did not stop them from acquiring Bernie Kosar in 1993, who took over for Garrett in that game and then started the next one, along with signing Rodney Peete as the backup for the 1994 season.

And just because Garrett put a second-half thumping on Green Bay that day in 1994 with Aikman and Peete sidelined with injuries, throwing for 311 yards in the 42-31 victory, the Cowboys still brought in Wade Wilson in 1995 as the veteran backup. Not until 1998 and 1999 did the Cowboys lean on Garrett as their No. 2 quarterback, actually starting five games for the injured Aikman in 1998, the Cowboys going 3-2 in those outings. Garrett finished out his career as a backup with the Giants from 2000-03, with cups of coffee in 2004 with Tampa Bay and Miami.

The reason he lasted so long as a backup? Coaches trusted him.

“I think the biggest thing is to do your job, and you really have to focus on that, and that’s an emphasis for our entire team,” Garrett said of what the backup’s mindset needs to be. “Everybody has a job to do on every play, and what you need to do is focus on doing your job … and do it again and again and again.

“I think when you come in in that kind of situation, the worst thing you can do is say, ‘I’m going to prove to the world my worth, my value.’ You need to go do your job, break the huddle, get to the line of scrimmage. If it’s a handoff, hand the ball off the right way. If it’s a pass, read the coverage the right way and throw to the right guy and get on to the next one, then do that again and again and again.

“You really have to stay focused on the now, stay focused on one play at a time. Typically if you do that you’ll play your best football.”

Weeden seems to understand, pointing out “I’ve been a starter before,” downplaying the possible chance of making his first start for the Cowboys or in 11 months on Sunday. And as backups go, he has to be as prepared as any can be, having taken all the first-team snaps in the offseason with Romo still rehabbing from backup surgery; then taking all the first-teams reps on those training camp days Romo sat out for precautionary reasons; taking all the Wednesday first-team reps on those “Romo Days” during the first eight weeks of this season; and then this week getting all the first-team reps all three days of practice.

“If you put more pressure on yourself you can’t function,” Weeden reasons.

Since Romo became the Dallas Cowboys starter 10 games into the 2006 season he has missed 14 of a possible 130 starts. The Cowboys are 6-8 in those games, and 0-4 in games he did not finish since he actually did manage to finish this past game, but barely.

Nothing against Weeden, but maybe that is why the Cowboys are holding out hope he can arise from the DNP list to start on Sunday. We will officially know if he can pull that off at 10:30 a.m. (CT) Sunday.

Dallas Cowboys Injury and Practice Report | As of 10-31-2014

Brandon Carr CB Hamstring FP FP FP Probable
Bruce Carter OLB Thigh/Finger FP LP LP Probable
Jack Crawford DE Calf LP FP FP Probable
Doug Free T Foot DNP DNP DNP Out
Ronald Leary G Groin DNP DNP DNP Questionable
Rolando McClain MLB Shoulder DNP LP FP Probable
Jermey Parnell T Chest FP FP FP Probable
Tony Romo QB Back DNP DNP DNP Questionable
Anthony Spencer DE Knee/Foot LP LP FP Probable
Jeremy Mincey DE Illness N/A N/A DNP Probable

Arizona Cardinals Injury and Practice Report | As of 10-31-2014

Stepfan Taylor RB Calf Out Out Out Out
Tony Jefferson S Concussion DNP LP FP Questionable
Kenny Demens LB Knee LP FP FP Probable
Andre Ellington RB Foot LP LP FP Probable
Troy Niklas TE Ankle LP LP LP Questionable
Patrick Peterson CB Concussion LP FP FP Probable
Calais Campbell DE Knee FP FP FP Probable
Michael Floyd WR Knee FP FP FP Probable
Rashad Johnson S Knee FP FP FP Probable

In their own words … plus, local analysis shows …

Cowboys Weekend: Injury Report and Rapid Tweets | Listen/Download | 3:26

Roundtable: Time To Step Up Their Game For The Arizona Cardinals | Listen/Download | 5:49

Cowboys Lunch Break: Cardinals Preview & Crazy Predictions | Listen/Download | 46:23

Talkin’ Cowboys: Keys To Victory | Listen/Download | 58:49

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