Dallas Cowboys: Oakland Raiders

Live blog: Raiders at Cowboys

November, 28, 2013
11/28/13
2:30
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Join our ESPN.com NFL experts as they break down the Oakland Raiders' visit to the Dallas Cowboys. Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET. See you there.

Double Coverage: Raiders at Cowboys

November, 27, 2013
11/27/13
7:00
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Romo-RoachAP PhotoTony Romo's Cowboys host Nick Roach and the Raiders in a Thanksgiving Day duel.
IRVING, Texas -- For the second time in five years, the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders meet on Thanksgiving at AT&T Stadium.

The Cowboys won the 2009 matchup 24-7 with Tony Romo throwing for 309 yards and two touchdowns and Miles Austin catching seven passes for 145 yards. Since that game Austin has had more yards in a game just twice.

ESPN.com's Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez and Cowboys reporter Todd Archer bring you this week's holiday version of Double Coverage.

Todd Archer: The Cowboys are bad in most areas defensively, but they have given up 200 yards rushing in three games this season. The Raiders' strength, from afar, seems to be their running game. What makes it so good and how has it differed with Terrelle Pryor out?

Paul Gutierrez: Hey, Todd, it's not just Pryor being out, but also Darren McFadden, who has missed three straight games and four overall with a strained right hamstring. He said Monday night he hopes to play after practicing (limited) for the first time since Nov. 1. The run game, though, has not missed a beat with underrated Rashad Jennings picking up the slack. In the past four games, he has run for 413 yards while averaging 5.7 yards per carry. In fact, the running game has been so surprisingly solid without McFadden and Pryor that the play-action pass game has picked up with undrafted rookie Matt McGloin under center.

Speaking of passing games ... no doubt Tony Romo can rack up stats, but has he decided to assume more of a leadership role yet as the QB of America's Team, or is that just not in his makeup?

Archer: He has developed over the years as a leader, but there's no question that this has been "his" team the past three seasons. He is the veteran. He is the guy the Cowboys look to. The guys on this team now don't know of the Romo who burst on the scene in 2006 or had to deal with the Terrell Owens stuff. He's the guy who led the lockout practices and has been the big voice in the room. This year he has been given the added responsibility of being more involved in the game plan. The Cowboys' past two wins have come on last-minute drives led by Romo to beat Minnesota and the New York Giants. I don't think there's anybody questioning his leadership anymore. And if they did, well, the $106 million extension Jerry Jones gave him in the offseason should be more than enough proof to those guys that this is Romo's team.

Let's stick with the quarterback theme. Before the Cowboys lucked into Romo, they ran through a ton of guys after Troy Aikman's departure. Is there any reason to believe McGloin or Pryor can be a solution or do the Raiders need to go after one of these guys in next April's draft?

Gutierrez: Well, the way I put it earlier in the season, before Pryor hit his purported ceiling and sprained his right knee, robbing him of his greatest strength (running) while accentuating his biggest weakness (passing), if Pryor was not the Raiders' Mr. Right, he was their Mr. Right Now. McGloin is a pure quarterback, a pocket passer whom Dennis Allen prefers for what he wants to accomplish offensively. It's hard to give Allen and GM Reggie McKenzie much credit for their evaluation of QBs, though, what with their misses on Matt Flynn and Tyler Wilson, not caring much for Pryor early on and then, similar to the Cowboys with Romo, stumbling upon McGloin. But it's hard to see them going all in with the undrafted rookie from Penn State, too. At least hard at the moment. Unless McGloin continues to improve and wins a few games, it would behoove the Raiders to draft another QB if they see one as a can't-miss prospect. I know, I know, they really wanted USC's Matt Barkley but Philadelphia traded in front of them so they traded back and selected Wilson. Oops. There is no doubt, though, that this Raiders regime prefers McGloin as a prototypical QB over the more electric Pryor.

No matter who is under center for Oakland, though, the Raiders' QB is going to have to keep an eye on DeMarcus Ware. Is he rounding back into shape as a dominant pass-rusher, or is he more decoy as he rehabs from his quad strain?

Archer: I think he's still feeling his way through it. The fact that he made it through the Giants game healthy was a plus. He has been dinged up in just about every game with stinger and back strains earlier in the season before the quadriceps injury. We'll see how he fares on a short week, but the defense is a lot better with even the threat of Ware on the field. Jason Hatcher had two sacks against the Giants at least in part because of the attention Ware received. Ware has talked about wanting to make up for lost time. He has five sacks so far, his fewest this late in a season since his rookie year in 2005. Thursday would be a good time to look like the DeMarcus Ware of old.

This game is a homecoming of sorts for guys like Mike Jenkins, Andre Gurode, Kevin Burnett and Tony Sparano, but it's a real homecoming for Dennis Allen. How is he perceived in Oakland and will McKenzie be more patient with him than, say, Al Davis would have been?

Gutierrez: The jury, so to speak, is still out on Allen in the streets of Silver and Blackdom. Of course, when the Raiders win a game, he's the man. When he loses, the fans turn on him and start pining for Jon Gruden ... again. But isn't that the nature of the beast? Even Allen himself said this was a results-oriented business. Of course, he was referring to the quarterback position at the time, but it still applies. Make no mistake about it, Allen is McKenzie's "guy" and he's going to roll with him and have patience with him. The plan coming in was to give Allen at least three years to right this ship and really, the only thing that could damage Allen's chances of lasting another year would be if the team quit on him, like it did last November before playing hard again at the end. Then again, it might not be McKenzie's choice. Owner Mark Davis is a more patient owner than his father and wants McKenzie to handle all football-related decisions. But a year after stating he was fine with just about anything but regression, Davis wants progress. Stagnancy won't cut it, either. So, stay tuned.

Sticking with the coaching theme, is Jason Garrett in Jerry World for the long haul, or was Jerry Jones' support merely the dreaded vote of confidence?

Archer: Jerry has publicly backed Garrett, but he's also been a guy who's said, "Just because I say something, doesn't mean it's true." I do know this: He wants Garrett to be the guy. He desperately wants it to work. I really believe that. He believes in Garrett's approach and how he builds a team. Garrett will provide some blow-back to Jerry but not as much as, say, a Bill Parcells. Garrett knows what makes Jerry work and knows how to work around it to a degree or push Jerry in a certain direction. Honestly, Cowboys fans should want the Garrett deal to work out because it might be the best combination to mitigate the bad parts of Jerry and keep the good parts of Jerry.

Durant, Sims competing for a starting job

August, 12, 2013
8/12/13
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OXNARD, Calif. -- One thing emerged after the Cowboys' second preseason game: There is a competition for one of the outside linebacker spots between projected starter Justin Durant and veteran backup Ernie Sims.

Both players received snaps with the first-team defense in Sunday's practice until Sims suffered a groin injury.

"We're trying to find exactly what we're going to do with a pair and a spare," Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus said. "That's what we're doing. There's always going to be competition. I got four good guys that I feel really good about. Then I got some younger guys that are still competing and working hard on special teams and all that. It's important we find the right balance and the right mix for our depth through the entire season."

If you're wondering what's a pair and a spare, Eberflus is seeking the best combination of players to "pair" with starters Sean Lee and Bruce Carter at the strongside linebacker position. The "spare" would be the backup at that position.

When camp started, Durant got the most snaps with the first-team, and he was the lone starter to play in the Hall of Fame Game. He also started the Raiders game, but Sims received significant snaps, too. Sims has played in the Tampa 2 scheme before, so his comfort level helps him.

The competition at strongside linebacker is a surprise given the team signed Durant this offseason and Sims was expected to battle for a roster spot and contribute on special teams to get it.

"You got to do it as a coach," Eberflus said. "You got to make sure you're getting the right combination of players practicing at the right positions."

Tony Romo's health is 'good'

August, 11, 2013
8/11/13
1:30
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OXNARD, Calif. -- There was the minor back surgery, then the conditioning where Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said there was some running along the mountains of the West Coast.

We had the head coach, Jason Garrett, say the quarterback was a pound over his prescribed playing weight.

After playing in his first preseason game on Friday night, Tony Romo said he felt good.

Romo completed six of eight passes for 88 yards with no interceptions or touchdowns in two series of work against the Oakland Raiders. He displayed movement in the pocket and made a nifty play by pump faking a defender in the air to complete a pass to Dez Bryant. Romo, with plenty of time, didn't see a wide-open Miles Austin in the back of the end zone, but the receiver was the last read on that play. Romo was also sacked for a five-yard loss.

"It was good," Romo said of how he felt. "It was good to take a hit. It was good to move around, throw and just know that it felt like training camp. I put that same tempo, that same kind of mindset each day I go out for practice. It carries over to the game. So that was a good feeling."

Asked about his back, Romo said, "Everything is good."

W2W4: Cowboys training camp: Day 14

August, 11, 2013
8/11/13
11:00
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OXNARD, Calif. -- The Cowboys begin their final week of training camp Sunday with a 7 p.m. CT practice, 5 p.m. PT.

The undated injury report: There's always something right? Well, wide receiver Cole Beasley hurt his left foot in the Oakland loss on Friday night and his status for this week is in question. There is some good news, rookie wide receiver Terrance Williams is expected to return after missing the game with a concussion. Cornerback Morris Claiborne could also return Sunday after missing the Raiders game with a sore knee. Linebacker Alex Albright (back) is also expected on the practices fields.

Brian Waters update: The Cowboys are interested in obtaining the veteran guard to improve the offensive line. The Cowboys were spurned in their attempts to sign Brandon Moore, who elected to retire instead of playing in 2013. Waters hasn't played since 2011 when he was with the New England Patriots. If Waters is signed he'll get a chance to compete for the starting right guard position with Mackenzy Bernadeau.

Who needs a good week: Let's start with safety J.J. Wilcox, who led the team with six tackles and one interception against the Raiders. We're not picking on Wilcox, because he's still learning how to play safety, but he needs better ball awareness. Same can be said of cornerback B.W. Webb who missed a few tackles and allowed a receiver to get behind him. Webb also muffed a punt. Gavin Escobar has to improve his blocking and route running. The rookie, a second-round pick, is behind James Hanna on the depth chart. Special teams had a rough night in Oakland. A muffed punt, a 51-yard kick return was allowed, a blocked field goal and some mental mistakes. George Selvie played well in the first preseason game against the third teamers. Faced with the starters and second-teamers in Oakland, he struggled.

Moving up: Joseph Randle, the rookie running back, is still behind DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner, but you can tell he's got the skills. He displays good vision and isn't afraid of contact. Left guard Ronald Leary is making the Cowboys forget Nate Livings. Leary had a solid night in Oakland playing the first half. The more snaps he gets the better he's becoming. Defensive tackle Ben Bass had only one tackle but he was a force along the defensive line.

Tony Romo and Dez Bryant in a good groove

August, 10, 2013
8/10/13
3:00
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OAKLAND -- It's early, very early, but the Dallas Cowboys were pleased with how quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant connected in the 19-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

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Like in training camp practices, Romo and Bryant were on the same page, which was more evident in the first-team offense's second possession.

Romo pump faked a defender in the air, and Bryant adjusted his route and ran a slant, turning it into a 26-yard reception. Romo later found Bryant for a 15-yard pass down the middle of the field.

"That was real good by Tony," Bryant said. "The guy was off and he gave him a little pump and I just slipped in the hole and he just delivered (it) right there. That was just great instincts by him and I never make that play without him having those great instincts."

Bryant finished with three catches for 55 yards. He took advantage of a couple of things on Friday night.

The Raiders played some tight man coverage, something Bryant sees on a daily basis in Cowboys' practices. Bryant also loves to play physical because he uses his upper body to push defenders away.

"Dez did great," said Romo after completing six of eight passes for 88 yards. "Dez has had a great camp all the way around. I don’t want to get away from here without talking about the offensive line. There were a couple of times I had all day, and we had a sack, an incompletion on those two plays, so that’s going to help us a lot if we’re able to do that. That’s different. I know what it’s like to play behind that, and having that ability like they did tonight would be a huge bonus for us."
OAKLAND -- The aftermath of the Cowboys' 19-17 loss to the Raiders here on Friday night means it's time for another Stock Report.

Stock Up

Tony Romo He made his preseason debut and completed six of eight passes for 88 yards. Romo was sacked once, but did a nice job moving out of the pocket. He pumped faked a defender in the air and completed a slant to Dez Bryant in the second quarter. While Romo has a good chemistry with Bryant, he's also finding a nice groove with Miles Austin as well.

Monte Kiffin The man knows turnovers. In the first two preseason games, the Cowboys defense has forced four turnovers, including two Friday night. Sean Lee forced one with a sack leading to Jason Hatcher's recovery. J.J. Wilcox also has a turnover, getting an interception.

Offensive line It was only one sack, and that's OK, but the Cowboys offensive line gave Romo time to find receivers down field and displayed the run lanes needed for the running game. There was plenty of concern about this line, but the interior, Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick and Mackenzy Bernadeau, did a good job of sealing blocks.

Stock Down

B.W. Webb A long night for the rookie cornerback. He looked lost on pass coverage, muffed a punt and was called out by his coach Jason Garrett who said he can't afford to have bad nights. We believe the rookie will make the team, but he needs to pick it up.

Special teams Where do you want to start? Blocked field goal, 51 kick return allowed, a muffed punt and a few mental mistakes. The Cowboys special teams units took a step back Friday night. Garrett said he like the effort from the younger players but not the execution.

Jared Green It appears the Cowboys will keep five receivers on the 53-man roster. However, if the Cowboys keep more, Green was moving up the depth chart along with Anthony Armstrong. Green suffered two fourth quarter drops as the Cowboys were rallying. Not going to help his cause.

Cowboys' special teams units struggle

August, 10, 2013
8/10/13
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OAKLAND -- It wasn't a good night Friday for the Cowboys' special teams units.

There was a blocked field goal, a muffed punt, a 51-yard kickoff return allowed and a penalty on a punt return against the Cowboys in the 19-17 loss to the Raiders.

"We had a field goal blocked and we had a turnover in the red zone, fumbled a punt. Obvviously we didn’t play very well," special team coach Rich Bisaccia said. "It’s just players. I did a poor job, obviously. We did a poor job. We didn’t cover very good. Turned the ball over and had a field goal blocked. So we’ve got a lot of work to do."

The special teams woes started in the second quarter when kicker Dan Bailey had a 26-yard field goal attempt blocked. The block came from the right side of the line where Tyvon Branch slipped through a gap to block the kick.

In the third quarter, veteran safety Eric Frampton was flagged for 15 yards when he hit returner Phillip Adams after he signaled for a fair catch.

After the Cowboys took a 17-16 lead in the fourth quarter, Greg Jenkins took the ensuing kickoff and returned it 51 yards. The Raiders didn't score on their offensive possession but got the ball right back when rookie B.W. Webb muffed the punt, which led a field goal and gave the Raiders a 19-17 lead.

"Special teams is really important to our football team," coach Jason Garrett said. "It wins and loses games every week. The big yardage plays, potential turnover, the takeaway-type plays, the potential run plays, and in each of those categories we didn’t do as well as we needed to. I thought we ran better on special teams than we did last week, particularly the young guys, (and) that was a point of emphasis last week."
OAKLAND -- While the Cowboys' offensive line was being praised for a solid job in the 19-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders, there still could be some pending moves.

Multiple sources indicate the Cowboys have an interest in guard Brian Waters, who hasn't played since 2011. The Cowboys have turned to Waters after guard Brandon Moore backed out of a verbal agreement and decided to retire.

Injuries and ineffective play have forced the Cowboys to search for some help.

"Again, it's just an overall look see on what we are doing in the interior, and he is an outstanding player," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said Friday night about Waters. "That's about all I can say about that."

Jones said he's not concerned about trying to sign a player who is retired, especially after missing out on a player who elected to retire instead of playing.

"Well, I would just say that the quality of the people we are talking to, if they decide to come play, they will play," Jones said. "That's not a concern of mine at all. Fact that they are considering not playing, knowing the quality of the people we are talking to, I respect that. I also respect the fact that if they decide to come, they will come and be a good player for us."

If Waters signs, he could move into the right guard spot, currently held by Mackenzy Bernadeau, who made his preseason debut against the Raiders after missing the first game last week against the Miami Dolphins.

"I'm just going to continue to work hard and be the best player that I can be no matter who they bring in or who they don’t bring in," Bernadeau said. "I'm going to work hard and of course they have to do what they have to do. We're short on the offensive line so, I can only worry about what I can control."


OAKLAND, Calif. -- Jerry Jones doesn’t want to get too giddy about a handful of preseason plays, but he saw a glimpse of greatness in Dallas' starting defense’s first live work under Monte Kiffin’s watch.

“We’ve got a chance to be a really top-flight defense if we can have those guys that we didn’t have at the end of last year,” Jones said after Friday night’s 19-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders. “If we have those guys right there along with philosophically what we’re doing, we’re going to be better.”

Middle linebacker Sean Lee is the headliner of several key defensive players whose 2012 season ended prematurely due to injuries. His performance in his first preseason action was a reminder of just how much of a dynamic playmaker the Cowboys missed in the final 10 games last season.

Lee made plays to end Oakland’s first two series. He came clean on a blitz to unload on Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn on the fourth snap of the game, with defensive tackle Jason Hatcher recovering the loose ball. After Oakland picked up a few first downs with DeMarcus Ware and Hatcher watching from the sideline, Lee broke up a third-down pass to receiver Rod Streater with the kind of hit that causes opponents to think twice before crossing the middle against the Cowboys.

“It was a great start for us tonight,” said Hatcher, who notes that he should have been credited for the forced fumble after blowing by an offensive guard and hitting the ball just as Lee arrived with bad intentions. “I’m looking forward to next week, getting this preseason out [of] the way and getting ready for the big one.”

Added Lee: “We have room to improve, but for our first time out there, I thought we did pretty well.”

The defense is far from a finished product, and it was missing three guys the Cowboys are counting on to be impact players: defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee), defensive tackle Jay Ratliff (hamstring) and cornerback Morris Claiborne (knee). Spencer and Ratliff probably won’t play a preseason down.

The injury bug has already taken a couple of nibbles but nothing that should impact the games that matter. And the Cowboys’ luck pretty much has to be better than it was last season.

All due respect to Kiffin and his lieutenant Rod Marinelli, but their defensive genius would go to waste if Lee, Ratliff, outside linebacker Bruce Carter, safety Barry Church and slot cornerback Orlando Scandrick end up on injured reserve again, not to mention DeMarcus Ware being limited to using one arm.

With the exception of Ratliff, all of those players are healthy right now and enjoying productive camps. That’s especially an understatement for Ware, who might be an even bigger monster as a 4-3 defensive end than he was as a perennial Pro Bowl 3-4 outside linebacker.

Case in point: On the first snap of the game, Ware looked like he was shot out of a cannon en route to hitting Darren McFadden on an off-tackle run play on the other side of the field.

“Even though it was a short period of time, that Ware is something with his hand down,” Jones said. “Kiffin is right. They start those 100-meter dashes with the hand down, not standing straight up. He’s quick back there.”

As far as starts go, Kiffin’s starting defense came flying out of the blocks Friday night.

Rapid Reaction: Raiders 19, Cowboys 17

August, 9, 2013
8/09/13
11:58
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OAKLAND -- The Dallas Cowboys suffered their first loss of the preseason, 19-17, to the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum on Friday night.

It was the debut of several key players, including Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, DeMarcus Ware, Sean Lee and Dez Bryant, among others. The first-team offense produced just three points and had a field goal attempt blocked. The second-team offense picked up a touchdown and the special teams units struggled with a muffed punt, penalties and a long kickoff return.

Romo makes debut: After sitting out the preseason opener, Romo completed 6 of 8 passes for 88 yards with no touchdowns, no interceptions and one sack. On the first possession of the game, Romo, with plenty of time, missed a wide open Miles Austin in the middle of the end zone and took a sack. But overall, Romo played well with the offensive line giving him time. He completed some good passes to Bryant, who caught three passes for 55 yards.

Red zone woes: The Cowboys' first-team offense had the ball at the Raiders' 16 after a turnover but failed to score, continuing a problem they had last season. Jason Witten was called for holding, Romo had a screen pass knocked down and he was sacked for a 5-yard loss and Dallas settled for a 38-yard field goal. The Cowboys got back in the red zone on their second possession, but Romo's dump-off pass to Murray on third-and-12 came up a yard short of a first down. Instead of going for it, coach Jason Garrett elected to attempt a 26-yard field goal, which was blocked.

"It was good," Romo said of the drives overall. "We had couple penalties that put us in a hole that cost us some points, I think. That is something that we are going to correct real fast. You just can't overcome that stuff in the red zone.

"Other than that, I thought the guys did a really good job and it's been going just how it was in training camp. It's been good.”

The second-team offense was able to convert in the red zone as backup quarterback Kyle Orton found Cole Beasley down the seam for a 15-yard touchdown reception.

Kiffin’s defense making plays: The Cowboys have forced four turnovers in the first two games of the preseason. Lee forced a fumble when he hit Matt Flynn on the blitz and Jason Hatcher recovered the ball. Safety J.J. Wilcox recorded an interception midway through the first half when Terrelle Pryor made a terrible throw on the run.

Ware plays defensive end: For the first time as a pro, Ware lined up exclusively at defensive end. Ware moved from outside linebacker to defensive end this season when the team moved to a 4-3 defensive alignment.

"Lining up at defensive end is easier,” Ware said. “You are down in the trenches. There is no difference than playing outside linebacker, you are out wide. But when you are in the six technique, there are a lot more techniques you have to work on. But I felt like I did really well for the first game."

Webb struggles: Fourth-round pick B.W. Webb had a long night. The rookie cornerback muffed a punt in the fourth quarter, leading to a field goal, missed two tackles and looked like he didn’t have much awareness on pass coverage. It’s only two preseason games, but Webb is off to a slow start.

Injuries: Cole Beasley suffered a left foot injury in the third quarter and underwent X-rays. The results weren't available as the game came to a close.

Who didn’t play: Wide receiver Terrance Williams (concussion), guard Nate Livings (knee), guard Demetress Bell (conditioning test), guard Kevin Kowalski (knee), guard/center Ryan Cook (back), guard Ray Dominguez (shoulder), defensive tackle Jay Ratliff (hamstring), defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee), cornerback Morris Claiborne (knee), linebacker Alex Albright (back) and safety Matt Johnson (foot) didn’t participate. The Cowboys expect Albright, Williams and Claiborne to return next week at Arizona.

What’s next?: The Cowboys will have Saturday off and will practice Sunday afternoon in Oxnard, Calif. The final preseason road game will be next Saturday night at Arizona.

Cole Beasley leaves game with foot injury

August, 9, 2013
8/09/13
11:28
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OAKLAND -- Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley left Friday's preseason game against Oakland with a left foot injury.

Beasley was hurt after catching a 23-yard reception with seven minutes to play in the third quarter. He underwent X-rays at the stadium.

Beasley finished the game with three catches for 49 yards and one touchdown. He caught a 15-yard pass from Kyle Orton to give the Cowboys a 10-3 lead in the second quarter.

Also, wide receiver Terrance Williams (concussion), guard Nate Livings (knee), guard Demetress Bell (conditioning test), guard Kevin Kowalski (knee), guard/center Ryan Cook (back), guard Ray Dominguez (shoulder), defensive tackle Jay Ratliff (hamstring), defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee), cornerback Morris Claiborne (knee), linebacker Alex Albright (back) and safety Matt Johnson (foot) did not play.

The Cowboys expect Claiborne, Williams and Albright to return next week at Arizona.

Update: X-rays on Beasley were negative and it's not considered serious.

For Cowboys, shoes matter tonight

August, 9, 2013
8/09/13
12:00
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OXNARD, Calif. – Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is a dinosaur in many ways, and it is the only stadium in the NFL that features a baseball infield.

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Cowboys coach Jason Garret said field condition will not play into the game plans for the offense or kickers. But he will have a message for the players.

“Well, the approach is to remind them to get out there early and get your shoes right; don’t let equipment beat you,” Garrett said. “That’s an important thing.

"Having played there, it’s different when you’re on the grass and then get on the dirt. It’s different, so you have to make sure you’re wearing the right stuff to keep your feet and function the way you want to function. As for as substitution, I don’t think it’s going to impact our substitution pattern at all.”

Witten hopes for better outcome in Oakland

August, 8, 2013
8/08/13
11:30
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OXNARD, Calif. -- Before Wes Phillips showed last year’s preseason game at Oakland to the rest of the Cowboys’ tight ends in preparation for tonight’s game against the Raiders, he sought out Jason Witten.

“Hey, are you superstitious or any of that stuff?" Phillips asked. "Because we’re going to be watching the film.”

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At first, Witten wasn't sure what Phillips was talking about. Then, it clicked.

“Oh,” he said, “the play.”

Yes, the play in which Witten nearly had his 2012 season end after six preseason snaps. Turning as he made a catch of a Tony Romo throw, Witten was slammed by Oakland linebacker Rolando McClain. He was slow to get up, but it was not one of the biggest hits the eight-time Pro Bowler had taken in his career.

He was sore but actually returned to the game and caught another pass before his night was over.

It wasn’t until the plane ride back to Oxnard, Calif., where he realized he did not just get the wind knocked out of him.

“On the plane, it was, ‘Man, this is more than a shot in the gut. This is something a little bit more,’” Witten said. “It wasn’t til the next day we got back and I had a CT scan and the trainers and doctors said, ‘Hey, we need to get another one. This time we’ve got to get the IV going to light you up.’ They must not have liked what they saw if they’re sending me back in there. That’s when I began to get a little concerned.”

Witten suffered a lacerated spleen, though the benign “slightly” was used as an adjective, which is easy to say when it’s not your spleen. Witten came within whiskers of having his season end. If the spleen needed to be removed, he would not have played in 2012.

“The toughest thing, other than it being an organ and not a sprained ankle, was just the uncertainty of not knowing and nobody being able to tell me, ‘Here’s the date where you can be back,’” Witten said.

While he hoped to play in the season opener against the New York Giants, he was wondering if he would miss the first month of the season. For two weeks he had to lie in his hotel room bed while his teammates practiced.

“You hear the horn go off and practice starts and I can’t even get out of bed,” Witten said. “I think you appreciate being able to play through a tough injury.”

Even Witten might not have truly believed it at the time, but he told coach Jason Garrett not long after hearing the diagnosis that he would play against the Giants in the regular-season opener.

“I just looked at him and said, ‘What are you going to do the next couple of weeks?’” Garrett said. “He said, ‘I have to be motionless in my bed for two weeks.’ I was like, ‘Huh, this will be interesting timing.’ But he’s an amazing guy.”

Witten was cleared by a New York doctor the night before the opener and caught two passes for 10 yards in the Dallas win.

Witten had a slow start to the season with a number of uncharacteristic drops, not because he was hurt, but because he could not practice. He finished the year with 110 catches, an NFL record for a tight end in a season, and was named to the Pro Bowl for the eighth time.

“Forget all that stuff,” Garrett said. “When you tell the Witten story, I start with (the Giants game) because I think he showed what he’s all about and what he’s been doing for a long time in this league. I think it’s a great example for the rest of our football team and really for the rest of humanity in the whole NFL. That’s how you do it. He’s really a tough guy, an amazing guy and we’re lucky to have him.”

Because of his status on the team and his desire to win, Witten said he felt obligated to get back so quickly.

“It was a long three weeks, I know that,” Witten said, “but I’m a better person and player because of that.”

With the return to Oakland tonight, Witten said he “hopes and prays for a different outcome, that’s for sure.”

And that brings us back to Phillips showing the play on Tuesday.

“He went fast on it,” Witten said. “We watched it, but there wasn’t much rewind to it. He fast-forwarded it pretty quick.”

Injury report: No Claiborne, Williams

August, 8, 2013
8/08/13
1:59
PM ET
OXNARD, Calif. -- Cowboys starting cornerback Morris Claiborne didn't participate in the walkthrough practice Thursday morning because of a sore left knee, raising concerns about his availability for Friday night's preseason game at Oakland.

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Claiborne jammed his knee in Tuesday's practice and tried to get some work in Wednesday. But he said the knee felt tight and the training staff didn't want him to risk further injury. It's doubtful Claiborne will play.

Also, rookie wide receiver Terrance Williams missed practice as he recovers from a concussion. Williams ran sprints with some other injured players during the Wednesday walkthrough. Williams most likely will miss the Raiders game.

Kevin Kowalski (knee), Jeff Olson (concussion), Ray Dominguez (shoulder), Nate Livings (knee), Demetress Bell (conditioning), Matt Johnson (foot), Alex Albright (back), Ryan Cook (back), Jay Ratliff (hamstring) and Anthony Spencer (knee) did not practice and won't play against the Raiders.

Update: The Cowboys released Olson after the walkthrough practice. He did some work in the rehab session Thursday morning.

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