Earlier in the week, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett paid Lions receiver Calvin Johnson the highest compliment by saying he was probably the best player in the NFL.
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan agreed that Johnson is a great receiver and player the Cowboys must contain in Sunday's matchup against the Lions.
But he took a page out of former Vikings' receiver Chris Carter's book when he said Johnson was not as good as Cowboys receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant.
"You know, he’s a great receiver," Ryan said. "We work against better receivers with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. They’re probably the premier receivers in football, but this guy’s right there. He’s excellent. We’re going to get after it. I know he’s on this touchdown thing."
Carter has received a lot of criticism for leaving Johnson off his list of top five receivers in the NFL.
But at least he didn't say, Johnson would be the third best guy in Dallas.
The Cowboys released their official injury report on Friday afternoon and Dez Bryant (thigh), quarterback Tony Romo (ribs) and fullback Tony Fiammetta (hamstring) are listed as questionable for the game.
It's clearly an administrative distinction for Romo who has practiced all week, albeit on a limited basis. He played with the fractured rib against the Redskins last Monday and admittedly feels better now.
There is no question he will play Sunday against the Lions.
The Cowboys are extremely hopeful that Bryant and Fiammetta will be able to go. Neither practiced all week.
The final decision will likely come at game time but players are pointing towards playing.
Bryant was able to play with the injury albeit sparingly against the Redskins and will likely do the same on Sunday against the Lions.
The NFL has sent a memo to all 32 teams this week reminding them that simulating the snap count is illegal. The penalty is 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Cowboys accused the Redskins of mimicking their cadence Monday night, causing center Phil Costa to prematurely snap the ball four times.
“That notice came out from the league this week, so I know that the league is looking at it,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on his weekly radio show on KRLD-FM. “…We’ve just got to make it work. We’ve got to get in here and have our count and have our snaps and not make it a point of concern for our quarterback and certainly not make it a point of concern for the game, because those are like turnovers and can be turnovers and do stop drives.”
Under terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, every center in the league is required to wear field audio microphones during every game. (The league changed the policy this week, allowing for teams to choose to mic their guards instead of their centers.)
Sources say many defenses around the league are using broadcast copies of games to figure out opposing teams offensive play calls and cadences.
Laurent Robinson hopes he’ll get an increased workload at receiver if the Cowboys have gained confidence in him.
It sounds like they have.
“Yeah, he did a good job,” quarterback Tony Romo said. “Made a great run after catch twice. That’s what we thought when we got him. He’s showing he’s got some ability.”
Robinson is no rookie. He’s a five-year veteran who came to the Cowboys with 89 career catches. The Cowboys signed him after he was released by the San Diego Chargers in the final cut of the summer.
Robinson said the Cowboys and Chargers use similar passing systems, so he wasn’t too far behind. Plus, he’s always been a quick study, he said.
“The plays kind of come natural to me, so if I look at it once, I’ve pretty much got it down,” he said. “But I do do some extra studying at home, just trying to make sure I’m on top of things so people can rely on me to be in the right spot.”
Romo is optimistic, too. He was asked if Robinson is a good route runner.
“It’s still early to tell, but yeah, from what I’ve seen so far, he’s done a real good job,” Romo said after Wednesday’s practice. “I’ve got to work more with him. This is literally our – I don’t know? – fifth practice together.”
Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey said even though he made a lot of field goals Monday night, he’s got to forget about them and move on to the next game.
“Dwelling on success is just as detrimental to you as beating yourself up over something bad,” he said. “So you just kind of find a happy medium in there and not get too high or too low and just get out there and do what you do, just like practice.”
Bailey made six field goals in the Cowboys 18-16 victory against the Redskins. He’s 9-for-10 on the season, having missed only the 21-yarder in San Francisco. That count includes a 4-for-4 performance from 40-plus. He's hit from 48, 41, 41 and 40. The game-winner Monday night was a 40-yarder.
Asked if he welcomes pressure kicks, Bailey said, “To an extent, yeah. I think you have to. It’s just the nature of the position. There’s going to be pressure situations you’re going to be put in. How you handle them affects how your career goes and how you’re viewed as a kicker. You can’t really approach those situations any differently than say an extra point or something like that. Just go out there and try to make it.”
The Detroit Lions aren’t going to pull a DeAngelo Hall. They’re not going to say they’re going after Tony Romo’s ribs.
But then, they’re not going to not go after his ribs. What else is there to hit, after all?
“Let's think about this,” Lions defensive end Willie Young told Detroit reporters. “There's only one place you can hit a quarterback without coming back to the locker room and having a FedEx package sitting in your locker just waiting on you to open it, telling you how much is about to come out of your check.
“You hit him below the waist – what is that? Let's say you hit him above the head. What will you be looking to see in your locker? That FedEx package. Now let's say you were to go just below the head to avoid that fine, and you stay just above the waist line, what does that leave you with?
“There's only one place that the league allows us to hit him.”
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said he doesn’t mind if Romo is thinking about the pain that comes if he’s hit in the ribs.
“You want to obviously still have him uncomfortable and attack him any way we can to affect his game,” he said. “Whether I'm going to pinpoint his ribs? No. That's not my style. I'm going to attack him, hit him and disrupt any quarterback like I want to in any normal game.”
After center Phil Costa had four bad snaps in the home opener against the Redskins, the Cowboys had artificial noise piped in at practice to try and simulate game conditions.
"Anything close to game [conditions], the more realistic it is," said Costa, who declined to answer questions about the snaps, whether the Redskins were simulating the snap count or former teammate's Stephen Bowen declaration that Costa is a "liar."
In previous seasons, the Cowboys have prepared for road games by using music or artificial crowd noise during practice. But until Thursday, they had never done that for a home game.
"This is probably the first year I’ve seen it [for a home game]," Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said. "...What we’re trying to do is simulate a game-like atmosphere as much as we can during practice. However that’s going to happen. If you can’t talk on game day, if you can talk, if you signal, whatever we’re going to do, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to put ourselves in that situation as many times as we can."
After the game Monday night, the Cowboys accused the Redskins of calling out the snap count, getting Costa to snap the ball early. The Redskins have denied the allegations.
Costa heard from Ravens center/guard Andre Gurode, his mentor last year with the Cowboys, who told Costa to keep his head up. And Romo defended Costa on Thursday, saying his second-year center will be "fine."
"He did real good today [at practice]," Romo said. "Costa will be fine. He’s a smart guy; he gets it; he’s had a good camp. He’s been doing a lot of good things for us. Obviously, everyone is going to want to talk about the snaps, but we’re moving forward past that. I think going forward he’s going to be just fine."
Cowboys kickoff specialist David Buehler said he is out until after the bye with a groin injury. He missed the Redskins game and will miss the Lions game this weekend. He is expected to return for the New England game Oct. 16 after the bye. Rookie Dan Bailey will continue the handle his kickoff chores as well as field goals and extra points.
Cowboys cornerback Alan Ball felt he was unfairly flagged in the fourth quarter of Monday’s game against the Redskins when he was hit with an unnecessary roughness penalty for a helmet-to-helmet hit on receiver Santana Moss.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett agrees with Ball, and so apparently does the league. Ball said he was not fined by the league.
“I’m in the clear,” Ball said. “I don’t think when I’m out there about how to tackle. I guess that’s what the NFL wants you to do. I guess that’s how it works. I don’t officiate.”
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said it was a textbook hit on how to tackle.
“I would argue that they could use that hit on some kind of a film about how you’re supposed to hit somebody,” Garrett said. “I think he did a really good job striking first with his shoulder and then hitting the receiver in the chest area rather than launching and using his helmet or hitting that guy in the helmet. Those are bang-bang plays. We’re not going to tell him that that was the wrong thing to do. We want him to play that way. Certainly, those are areas where it can be just a few inches that separate whether it’s an unnecessary roughness penalty or a good hit, so we have to respect that. But he was trying to do the right thing, and we think he did the right thing.”
The Cowboys have had one fine this season. Kevin Ogletree was hit with a $7,500 fine last week for grabbing the facemask of 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown.