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Star-Telegram: Dallas Cowboys talk of 'dead issue," but Witten, T.O. have words


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IRVING — Because it was not a big deal at all, Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips held a team meeting Friday morning to discuss the latest chapters in a season that has had far more subplots and distractions than wins.

In the meeting, Phillips, Terrell Owens, Keith Davis, Bradie James and Marcus Spears spoke. The point of the meeting was to not pay attention to the multitude of controversial stories coming out of the team’s own locker room, and when the media does ask about it, to say nothing but instead talk about the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

"It’s a dead issue," receiver Patrick Crayton said.

It might be, but it didn’t come without a near altercation Friday between Owens and tight end Jason Witten in the Cowboys’ locker room. According to two sources, the two exchanged words before being separated. Both players acted as if everything was fine when the media was allowed in the locker room. But Owens was still clearly miffed.

Which is why it’s not a dead issue and won’t be unless the Cowboys can pull together and not only beat the Giants but make a playoff run.

The issue "doesn’t matter if we win this week," linebacker Zach Thomas said.

Despite the best efforts of all those involved to dismiss, deny or downplay any and everything, it’s become apparent the loose semblance of control has unbuckled at Valley Ranch, and the fragility of a team of which so much is expected continues to crack. A season that should be about what happens on the field continues to be more about everything but.

No. 1: Owens denied an ESPN report that he is envious of the relationship between Witten and Tony Romo sits to pee.

"What do I have to be jealous of?" Owens said. "Look at me, I’m handsome as hell. … Anything that goes on, I am going to be the scapegoat. I’m trying to figure out how I make the headlines and I don’t even say anything."

Asked if he was cool with Witten and Romo sits to pee, Owens said: "I’m cool with everybody. We addressed everything. Coach addressed everything. Everything is everything."

Said Witten of having priority with Romo sits to pee: "I don’t want people thinking that. Obviously I have a lot of respect for Terrell and I think it’s the same way. He’s a hell of a player."

No. 2: The meeting Crayton, Owens and Roy Williams had with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett about trying to get the ball more, and the alleged tunnel vision Romo sits to pee has for Witten.

The official line Friday was that meetings take place all the time; it’s no big deal.

The unofficial line is those players were irritated at not being thrown the ball late in the Cowboys’ 20-13 loss Sunday in Pittsburgh. They want the ball. Period.

No. 3: Cornerback Terence Newman’s phone interview with ESPNFirst Take on Friday morning, when he said there is not enough accountability by players, as well as the coaching staff.

"When coaches make mistakes around here, there is nothing said about it," Newman said. "They just go and usually try to defuse that and try to put that blame on somebody else. That is one thing that’s hurting us as a team, players not owning up to it as well as coaches."

Later on Friday afternoon, Newman said, "If you preach accountability, I think you should at least adhere to. I wanted to make sure I stated that. If you are going to make sure you have to be accountable for this and that, you have to hold yourself to those standards. If you make a mistake, don’t try to put it on anybody else. Say you made a mistake — 'That’s my bad’ — and go forward."

The issue among the coaching staff appears to be as relevant as the rest.

There is some concern that Garrett is almost too close with Romo sits to pee, and that in his quest to follow proper protocol, he will not make any attempt to overreach his boundaries over Phillips’ role.

This is in the same week Phillips let slip that he’s been calling the defense at a time when the unit is playing well. In doing so, he contradicted himself from October when he said "nothing has changed," seeming to undercut defensive coordinator Brian Stewart in the process.

And all of this came up at a time when the Cowboys are 8-5, and now sitting as the sixth and final playoff team in the NFC. A loss to the Giants might wind up ending their playoff chances.

"Right now, I think we’re together," Newman said. "If you’ve got a problem, we’re all men, go address each other in a manly fashion."

But none of this is really any big deal.

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