Tanner’s playing time Saturday was limited to special teams because the coaches wanted to give fifth-round pick Joseph Randle a long look. Tanner never got an explanation for why he didn’t play an offense and didn’t feel the need to ask for one.
“I wasn’t really all into, ‘Why didn’t I play?’” Tanner said. “It was a coach’s decision. They tell me J-Ran is going in and I say, ‘Yessir, coach.’ I’m a company guy.
Asked if he was confused by the lack of playing time, Tanner said he can’t get caught up in that sort of thinking.
“That’s not my job,” Tanner said. “My job is, when they say, ’34, go in,’ go in and do it to the best of my ability.”
That’s exactly the kind of attitude head coach Jason Garrett expects from Tanner, who has carved out an NFL career after being an undrafted afterthought in his rookie training camp.
“Phillip always responds the right way to stuff,” Garrett said. “Whether he gets an opportunity or doesn’t get an opportunity, he always seems to make the most out of it. Those are the kind of guys you want on your team.”
Tanner, who dropped about 10 pounds this offseason to improve his burst, rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries in the first two preseason games. He takes pride in his ability to run the ball, but he recognizes that his primary role could be on special teams again.
As far as Tanner is concerned, it’s on him to figure out how he fits on the Cowboys and make the best of that opportunity.
“I always tell my kids about the dinosaurs all the time,” Tanner said. “People say they were the biggest and baddest, but they couldn’t adapt. If you can’t adapt to change, you see what happened to the dinosaurs. So that’s just my mindset, being able to adapt to whatever the situation is.
“It’s always disappointing not being able to go out there and do what you love to do, but it’s the coaches’ decision, so I’m just adapting to the situation. Whatever they need me to do, whatever role they need me to fill in, I’m going to do it and I’m going to do it well.”