Dallas Cowboys: Bart Starr

Storied pasts loom over Cowboys, Packers

December, 13, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- As the Cowboys walk to the team meeting room every day, they are met with pictures of Dallas' five Super Bowl winners. Each collage has a team photo and pictures of smiling players, coaches and executives from winning NFL championships.

At Lambeau Field, the photos from the great moments in Packers history line the wall from the tunnel to the locker room. When the stadium was renovated years ago, they took a row of old bricks and moved it to the new tunnel so players can say they walk over the same ground as the greats who played at Lambeau Field.

With a loss Sunday, though, either team will need even more help to just make the postseason.

[+] EnlargeTony Romo and Aaron Rodgers
AP Photo/David StlukaCowboys QB Tony Romo, right, and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers know the burden that comes with playing for franchises trying to recapture past glory.
Like the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers, the Cowboys are constantly chasing ghosts from past teams.

The Packers and Cowboys have combined for 18 NFL championships (Green Bay 13, Dallas five) and nine Super Bowls (Green Bay four, Dallas five). They produced one of the NFL’s iconic games -- the Ice Bowl -- in the 1967 NFC Championship. They were coached by legends in Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi. They rekindled the rivalry in the 1990s, meeting in the playoffs from 1993 to 1995.

The current teams carry something of a burden with them because of the successful pasts.

“We always look at it as a sense of pride and energy to tap into,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. “We think it’s very important to have that and recognize it and honor it, so I always refer to it as there’s pride in the bricks of Lambeau Field and it’s something we need to tap into. We talk to our current team about it and how important it is to win and represent the Green Bay Packers the right way.”

Jason Garrett does not talk about the expectations laid out from the likes of Roger Staubach, Bob Lilly, Tony Dorsett, Randy White, Mel Renfro, Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith. He talks about the standard those players and teams set.

“You want to be in a place where there’s a high standard for achievement,” Garrett said. “I think that’s a good thing. That brings the best out in people. What we try to do each and every day is be our best. Come to work as players and coaches and put our best foot forward and get ready for our challenges each week and again, embrace the past. That’s a good thing. ... That drives us. That’s part of what drives us to achieve, really, each and every day, and certainly each season.”

Tony Romo is constantly measured against Staubach and Aikman. Aaron Rodgers is measured against Bart Starr and Brett Favre, but he has the Super Bowl ring that Romo is still looking for, having beaten the Steelers at AT&T Stadium in Super Bowl XLV.

Rodgers has 23 teammates on the roster with a Super Bowl ring.

Romo hopes one day to have his own, so he and his teammates can have their pictures on the wall holding the Lombardi Trophy.

“You want to be a part of a storied franchise,” Romo said. “It just makes it important. You want a challenge. You want it to matter, and you want it to be important. That’s what’s great about this organization and great about our fans.”

Jason Witten humbled by Payton nomination

January, 31, 2013
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IRVING, Texas – After 10 years with the Dallas Cowboys, Jason Witten continues to wait for the most important on-field success a player can have -- winning a Super Bowl. On Saturday he could take home one of the NFL’s most important off-field awards.

[+] EnlargeJason Witten
Kyle Terada/US PresswireEight-time Pro Bowler Jason Witten is a finalist for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which honors a player's community activism, as well as on-field success.
Witten is a finalist for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which honors a player’s community activism, as well as on-field success. Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald and Cleveland’s Joe Thomas are the other finalists.

On Friday Witten will collect the Bart Starr Award, which is given by Athletes in Action to the player who best exemplifies the same commitment to family, teammates and community as Starr, a Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame quarterback.

Witten just played in his eighth Pro Bowl after catching 110 passes in 2012, a single-season NFL record for a tight end, in addition to becoming the Cowboys’ all-time leading receiver. Off the field, Witten and his wife, Michelle, run the SCORE Foundation and he is active in the NFL’s Play 60 campaign, as well as the team’s partnership with the Salvation Army.

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“When you think about what Walter Payton represented as a player on and off the field, it means a lot,” said Witten, who was a finalist for the award in 2007. “There are a lot of great players in this league doing great things, so you’re just humbled to be a part of that.”

Growing up, Witten saw the effects of domestic violence first hand and his foundation focuses on the recovery of victims of abuse and breaking the cycle of violence through education and mentoring.

The SCOREkeepers program places full-time, trained male mentors in six women's shelters across Texas for children to see positive male behavior. Three years ago he launched the “Coaching Boys Into Men” program, which trains coaches to educate players on the dangers of dating violence.

The Wittens also funded an emergency waiting room at The Children’s Hospital at Johnson City Medical Center not far from his hometown, Elizabethton, Tenn. He also runs football camps locally and back in his hometown that attract more than 1,200 youngsters.

“You never do it (for publicity), you do it to try to make a small influence in young people’s lives,” Witten said. “Obviously my story is unique and people came into my life and helped pave the way for me and gave me the opportunity to chase my dream. That’s what we want to do with young kids’ lives. I’ve read all about what Walter Payton did, and what he represented is what the NFL shield is all about. To be up for this type of award with his name on it, it’s up there.”

The Cowboys have had three Man of the Year Award winners: Roger Staubach (1978), Tom Landry (1981) and Troy Aikman (1997).

Final Word: NFC East

October, 20, 2012
10/20/12
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 7:

Blasts from the past: Yes, it's a passing league, as you hear all the time. But the Washington Redskins haven't got the memo. Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III (379) and rookie running back Alfred Morris (538) have combined for 917 rushing yards in Washington's first six games. That's the highest combined rushing yardage total by two rookie teammates through six games in the Super Bowl era, according to ESPN Stats & Information. And it goes back further than this for the Redskins. Washington as a team has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of its last 12 games. The second-longest such streak in the league is two games, by the New York Giants and the St. Louis Rams. In conclusion, the Redskins like to run the ball, and for many reasons pose a different game-planning challenge than any other team the Giants have faced or will face this season.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Paul Frederiksen/US PresswireWashington QB Robert Griffin III has a chance to earn a rare achievement with a win over the Giants on Sunday.
Upstart vs. champ: If the Redskins win, Griffin would be the fourth rookie quarterback to defeat a defending Super Bowl MVP quarterback head-to-head. Really interesting list. Colt McCoy of the Browns beat Drew Brees and the Saints in 2010. Dieter Brock of the Rams beat Joe Montana and the 49ers in 1985. And of course, Kent Nix of the Steelers beat Bart Starr and the Packers in 1967. But seriously, no way you clicked on this blog today expecting a Dieter Brock note. Guy was 34 in 1985, but it was his only year in the league.

Burgundy kryptonite: In two games against the Redskins last year (both losses), Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw four interceptions and no touchdowns. ESPN Stats & Information tells us that Washington is one of six teams against which Manning has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in his career. The others are Tennessee, Minnesota, Chicago, Baltimore and Buffalo.

Giants can run, too: Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw is the only player in the league who has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of his last two games. The last Giant to rush for 100 or more in at least three games in a row was Tiki Barber in 2006. Bradshaw has 16 rushes of at least 10 yards so far this year, in 92 attempts. Last year, he had 16 such rushes in 171 attempts. The Giants' offensive line is a much better run-blocking unit than it was a year ago. Their average yards per rush before first contact is 2.75, which is the fifth-best figure in the league. Last year, the Giants' average yards per rush before first contact was 1.89, which was second-worst in the league.

Got to go deep: Last year, on throws that traveled 20 or more yards downfield, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo posted a 53.2 completion percentage, 21.6 yards per attempt, 10 touchdowns and only one interception. This year on such deep throws, Romo is 4-for-18 (22.2 percent) for 8.5 yards per attempt, one touchdown and one interception. The two bits of good news on this are that the Cowboys' offensive line looked much better last week in Baltimore and could start to give Romo more time to throw, and that Carolina's pass defense is allowing a 54.5 completion percentage on throws 20 or more yards downfield -- the second-worst such mark in the NFL.

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