For some, no choice but to keep swinging

December, 31, 2013
12/31/13
3:25
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Jason Garrett said on Monday the Dallas Cowboys have to keep “banging away,” when attempting to break out of this 8-8 rut.

It falls under the, “What else could he say?" category the day after the Cowboys’ season ended, but what if you’re just tired of swinging and swinging and swinging and nothing changes?

Tony Romo and Jason Witten are the longest tenured Cowboys, showing up in 2003; DeMarcus Ware and L.P. LaDouceur, showing up in 2005. Romo and Witten have been on four playoff teams. Ware and LaDouceur have been on three.

Witten
Ware
They have one playoff victory.

That closing window that was mentioned a few years ago is closer to being shut.

Watching Witten limp out of AT&T Stadium on as Sunday night turned into Monday morning, he looked older than 31. He was beat up from the game but more beat up from another season that ended in Week 17.

“Yeah, I try to take the emotion out of it of just where you’re at in your career,” Witten said Monday afternoon. “I felt like I was playing at a high level and [with] that opportunity, you live in the moment, just try to grab it and make a run. You really don’t have time to look back and think about how hard it is to get to the position where you’re playing for NFC East division titles. You don’t worry about that at this point.”

Bill Parcells walked away after the 2006 playoff loss to Seattle because he did not believe he had the energy for another grind of an offseason, training camp and 16 regular-season games without knowing the Cowboys would be better in 2007.

The players are much younger than Parcells, but the lengths of their playing careers are certainly winding down.

“It is a disappointing season, ending 8-8,” Ware said. “I mean, you get tired of it. After a while, each year, you feel like you lose something. It’s something that you lose from each one of the years, so it’s like, how do you come back from that? It’s been three times there has been an NFC East [title] game, and not being able to follow through with it. So, it’s like now what do you do in the offseason to make sure that doesn’t happen? I know that we are going to do everything we can to do that. But are you for sure that you are doing the right things?”

The ending of the season is cruel and sudden. Most of them had been going at this since March. They played hard. They played hurt. And then it’s over.

They showed up on Monday for exit interviews with the coaches and medical staff. They said goodbye to teammates they might not see again. They poured their belongings into a trash bag and headed to the players’ parking lot. The sign on the door read: Champions Finish.

“I think you have to gain more fight,” Witten said. “Obviously you can tell, today takes a toll on you. I tell myself, ‘Nobody feels sorry for you. You have to find a way to get through it.' But it doesn’t make it easier today. We’ll gain fight. We’ll be better because of it. Leaders on this team have to rise up and ultimately just play better, put the team on your back and find ways to get through ‘em. I think that’s the thing that hurt the most, is knowing that you can play at a high level, but you if ultimately don’t achieve those goals, you blame yourself.”

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

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