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August 15, 2012

Cowboys have confidence in Witten backup John Phillips because he's 'demonstrated performance'

Nobody has to talk tight ends coach John Garrett into having confidence in John Phillips.

He says he has seen first-hand what Phillips can do when given a chance.

“Confidence comes from demonstrated performance, and he’s demonstrated every time that he’s been in there that he has really played well,” Garrett said Wednesday. “If you go back, when he had to play against the Saints when they were undefeated, our second tight end was out, he went in and he did a great job and we won the game. And everybody said, ‘Who’s this John Phillips? We didn’t think he could do this, we didn’t think he could do that.’ And he just goes out and proves to everybody that he’s capable.”

Phillips will have to do that again now that starter Jason Witten is out for at least two weeks with a cut spleen. Witten was hurt in Monday night’s preseason game against Oakland.

“You can’t replace a guy like that,” Phillips said. “I’m sure he’ll do the things he has to do to get better. And I’m sure he’ll be ready when the season comes around.”

Until then, the Cowboys will rely on Phillips, a fourth-year tight end out of Virginia drafted in the sixth round in 2009. (He is one of only three players left from that 12-player draft).

“You’ve just got to step in,” Phillips said. “Next man up. That’s how we’re going to deal with it. Receivers, tight ends, fullbacks – whatever we’re going to do to make up for it. Obviously, him and Tony have a good feel for each other and do a lot of things that can’t be taught. But we’ll adjust and keep moving forward.”

Phillips has a fraction of the experience and catches of the seven-time Pro Bowler.

Phillips has caught 22 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown in his career. He missed 2010 because of a knee ligament injury. But he played all 16 games last year, catching 15 passes for 101 yards. As a rookie in 2009, he had three catches for 40 yards in the Cowboys’ 24-17 victory at New Orleans.

Phillips has not practiced in the past week at training camp, however. He suffered an ankle injury on Aug. 4.

“The ankle’s good. All the trainers and everybody that’s involved with it, the guys that push in there and get the swelling out, they do a great job,” he said. “It’s good to go.”

-- Carlos Mendez

Twitter @calexmendez

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