Thanksgiving makes everyone tired. But because of a schedule that has them playing just two games in a 28-day span ahead of Monday night’s contest against the Chicago Bears, the Dallas Cowboys should feel plenty rested.
At their first practice since Dallas’ Thanksgiving win over the Oakland Raiders, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett told reporters yesterday that the team will have a break from on-field work until Thursday.
“On days like this in the past, sometimes we've gone out and had a light practice, but we just felt like it was better to come in and get in and get them to lift and run and get the blood flowing again,” said Garrett. “Got to get them thinking about Chicago and then get into a normal work week and today is really Monday for us, so we treated it as such and tomorrow’s Tuesday and come back to work on Thursday as if it is a regular Wednesday.”
The long break between their Thanksgiving game and the Monday-nighter against Chicago gives Dallas a chance to rest their healthy players and rehab those who have been hurt. The Cowboys have suffered injuries to several key players over the course of the season, many of whom are expected to return to the lineup against the Bears.
“Certainly, we’re getting healthier and healthier,” Garrett said. “We anticipate getting a couple of guys back who have been out the last few weeks, and hopefully that will happen as the week progresses and we’ll be closer to full strength come Monday night.”
Among those expected to return is middle linebacker Sean Lee, one of the most important players on defense.
“He’s got more ointments, chambers, whatever the heck he takes, than anybody I’ve ever been around,” Garrett said of Lee. “I always kid him about just put a little tiger balm on there. That’s from back in the old days.
“But he’s doing that and more, whatever he needs to do to get himself back. And again I think it goes back to his love for the game, his passion for playing.”
Kick returner Dwayne Harris may also be able to play. Dallas missed his presence immediately against Oakland, as the opening kickoff was fumbled by his backup, Terrance Williams, and returned for a touchdown by the Raiders. Strongside linebacker Justin Durant could also return to the lineup. Cornerback Morris Claiborne may play as well, although it’s more likely he comes back the following week against the Green Bay Packers.
Dallas could use all the help they can get as they attempt to hold on to their slim lead over the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East. The past two seasons have seen the Cowboys in control of their division through much of December, only to lose the division title on the last game of the year. But their friendly schedule leading up to the most important month of the season has many Cowboys players feeling confident as they chase their first division crown since 2009.
“Everybody is refreshed and ready to go,” defensive tackle Jason Hatcher said. “It feels like a new season.”