IRVING, Texas – As he sat on the Cowboys bench in the second half of Sunday’s win over the Buccaneers, his right shoe and sock taken off, Barry Church had a look of sheer disappointment.
He had just learned his season was over far too early following a Achilles tendon tear – either full or partial – that will require surgery on Tuesday. Teammates came around to try to console him, but what could they say to make it better? Called too slow, Church had gone undrafted following four years as an all-conference star at Toledo, only to make the Cowboys in 2010, slowly work his way up the ranks and easily beat out veteran Brodney Pool for a starting job this offseason.
As disappointed as Church was on the sideline, his mood had turned less than an hour later. Speaking to reporters in the Cowboys locker room, he supported himself not only with a pair of crutches, but with his familiar smile.
“On the sidelines it was kind of just shock, like, wow, this really happened. But once I sat down I just kind of had a little talk with myself and figured, you know, you can’t be negative about everything. If you keep on the negative, you’re just going to become a negative person, so I’ve got to keep upbeat and keep positive, and see what happens.”
What will happen is a months-long recovery that will determine the direction of Church’s career.
Some players returning from Achilles injuries are never quite the same – longtime Cowboys fans will remember former first-round pick Kevin Smith, who was hurt in the season opener in 1995 and came back the next year, only a half a step slower. But outside linebacker Greg Ellis suffered the same injury in 2006 and then won NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2007 after posting a career-high 12.5 sacks.
With the final year of Church’s contract coming in 2013, a lot is riding on his recovery. It will only help to remain optimistic.
“I’ve just got to keep my mind straight,” Church said. “I’ve got to keep my head up. I can’t let this injury get the best of me. I’ll be at the house for a while just relaxing with the cast, but I just can’t let it get the best of me. I’ve got to go out there and continue to get better.”
Though the injury certainly has career path implications, the thing that bothered Church the most in the aftermath of Sunday’s game was that he won’t be able to help this year. Over the preseason and his three starts in September, he had appeared to solidify the safety position of a much improved defense.
“It’s pretty tough,” Church said. “I came out this year looking to make improvements on my game. I feel like I did that the first couple games I played, but this happened. It’s a freak accident. Things happen. But I’ve just got to battle back and try to come back stronger.”
EDITORS COMMENT: Barry Church was a favorite here on The Boys Are Back blog. It looked like he was coming into his own this year. Hopefully, Church will be able to come back from this injury and pursue his dream of playing football in the NFL.
A group of Santa’s get ready for a halftime performance.
Here are notes compiled by the Dallas Cowboys’ staff:
The Dallas Cowboys did not throw an interception today, and it marked Dallas’ fourth straight game without throwing an interception. It is the longest streak for the Cowboys since 2009 (four straight, 11/26-12/19).
The Dallas Cowboys avoided a shutout today with a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The last time Dallas was held scoreless was at New England (11/16/03). It also extended their streak of home games without a shutout to 166. The last time Dallas was shutout at home was against Philadelphia (9/15/91).
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Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) and inside linebacker Sean Lee (50) sack Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb (4) on his own two yard line
Here are the notes compiled by the Dallas Cowboys’ staff:
The Dallas Cowboys had four first-half sacks today. It was the 11th time in team history the team had four-or-more first half sacks and the first since racking up five against Baltimore (12/20/08).
Dan Bailey missed his first field goal attempt today from 53 yards out. It ended his streak of consecutive field goals made at 26 to tie Chris Boniol (1995) for the second-longest in club history:
Player FGM Season
Chris Boniol 27 1996
Chris Boniol 26 1995
Dan Bailey* 26 2011
Richie Cunningham* 18 1997
Nick Folk 16 2008-09
Through 12 games of his rookie season, Bailey has been true on 29 field goals. His 29 field goals made in 12 games is second in team history over that span:
Player (Year) FGM FGA Pct
Richie Cunningham (1997) 31 33 93.9
Dan Bailey (2011) 29 32 90.6
Chris Boniol (1996) 26 30 86.7
Richie Cunningham (1998) 22 26 84.6
Dez Bryant caught his seventh touchdown pass of the season today to pass his total (six) from his rookie season last year.
Shaun Chapas made his NFL debut today on special teams and offense. He finished the game with his first career reception for nine yards.
Felix Jones had a 69-yard kickoff return in the first quarter of today’s game. It was the longest kickoff return of the season for the team.
Sean Lissemore logged his first career full sack with a second quarter takedown of Kevin Kolb. He registered a half sack as a rookie in 2010.
Mat McBriar came into today’s game tied with Mike Saxon for the club record with 166 punts downed inside the 20-yard line. He finished today’s game with four to establish the club record at 170.
DeMarcus Ware’s sack today was his 95th career sack to pass Jim Jeffcoat (94.5) for the official club record
Career sacks since 1982
Player (Years) Sacks
DeMarcus Ware (2005-11)…. 95.0
Jim Jeffcoat (1983-94)………. 94.5
Greg Ellis (1998-2008)………. 77.0
Tony Tolbert (1989-97)……… 59.0
Ed Too Tall Jones (1982-89). 57.5
Ware now has 15.0 sacks in 2011 which are the third-most in his career (20.0 in 2008 and 15.5 in 2010) and third in a season in club history:
Player (Year) Sacks
DeMarcus Ware (2008)……. 20.0
DeMarcus Ware (2010)……. 15.5
DeMarcus Ware (2011)…… 15.0
Jim Jeffcoat (1986)………… 14.0
DeMarcus Ware (2007)……. 14.0
Ware’s has now reached 15.0 sacks in a season for the third time in his career. His three 15.0-plus sack seasons tie for second in league history:
Career 15-plus sack seasons
Reggie White……………….. 5
Lawrence Taylor…………… 3
Kevin Greene………………. 3
Simeon Rice……………….. 3
Michael Strahan…………… 3
DeMarcus Ware…………… 3
Jason Witten’s five catches today gave him 61 for the season – his eighth straight 60-plus catch season. His eight consecutive are the second-most in league history among tight ends while his eight overall are third:
60-plus catch seasons (Tight End)
Player Total Consecutive
Tony Gonzalez………. 12 12
Shannon Sharpe……. 10 6
Jason Witten…………… 8 8
Antonio Gates………….. 6 6
Thanksgiving Day is about tradition. Inside linebacker Bradie James smiled as he reminded reporters about another one.
“We got to break out the Turkey Dance,” he said.
That’s the elbow-flapping, high-knee stepping move the Cowboys defenders started doing three years ago if they made a good play in the Thanksgiving Day game.
“We motivate each other,” James said with a smile. “It makes us go out there and play a little harder.”
It all started in 2008, when defensive ends Jason Hatcher and Marcus Spears were playing catch, and Hatcher made a nice grab along the sideline. He started dancing.
“I did the Billy ‘White Shoes’ first,” Hatcher said that year. “I said, ‘You know what? We need to break it into The Turkey. And pretty much all of the guys bought into it.”
Everyone was required to break out a Turkey Dance in that ’08 game, or face a fine from their teammates. The game had no lack of opportunities – the Cowboys sacked Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck seven times in a 34-9 victory.
DeMarcus Ware had three sacks. Bradie James had two. Tank Johnson and Greg Ellis each had one.
But does anybody actually look good doing the Turkey Dance?
“No, not at all,” James said and smiled. “But that’s why you can get away with it on Thursday.”
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys Turkey Dance (Thanksgiving football sack dance)
The Dallas Cowboys traditionally play a home football game on Thanksgiving (“Turkey Day”). On November 27, 2008, the Cowboys defense recorded seven quarterback sacks. After each sack, the player who sacked the quarterback went into a “turkey dance,” flapping his arms like they were wings.