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Garrett preaches 'next man up' theory

9/20/2011 - NFL Dallas Cowboys

IRVING, Texas -- After what happened Sunday at Candlestick Park you could forgive Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett for steering clear of head athletic trainer Jim Maurer on Monday.

Maurer and associate athletic trainer Britt Brown must have wore out a path to Garrett on the sidelines Sunday to give the coach injury updates during the game.

One minute Garrett is told Felix Jones has a shoulder injury. The next minute it's Tony Romo with a fractured rib, which, according to sources, led to a punctured lung. Then, there's Jason Witten suffering a rib injury. Phil Costa with a knee injury. Oh, and Miles Austin aggravated a hamstring injury.

"Well, there were a lot of things going on, certainly throughout the game and I'm calling the plays on offense and I'm locked into that at the same time," Garrett said. "Guys are tapping me on the shoulder updating me and we really emphasize the importance of communication throughout the game.

"Coaches communicating with each other, coaches communicating with players, players communicating with coaches, and certainly with the trainers and doctors are part of that whole process because you have to know who is up and who is available. It affects substitutions certainly. It will affect play calling certainly. It affects special teams and there's a trickle-down effect in that area. You have to communicate well and you have to make good decisions in a shorter period of time."

That did not include players such as Dez Bryant (bruised thigh), Orlando Scandrick (ankle), Terence Newman (groin) and Bill Nagy (neck) who were ruled out before Sunday's game. That did not include guys such as Mike Jenkins, who is playing with a sprained shoulder, and the other guys that are playing with nicks and bumps that have not been reported.

Bill Parcells said he often felt like a fireman because he had to put out so many brush fires during the week and on game day.

The good news for the Cowboys is that they will have an extra day to prepare for their next foe, the Washington Redskins, for the home opener at Cowboys Stadium on Monday.

As a result, Garrett adjusted the practice schedule. Players will be off Tuesday and Wednesday and will pick up with a regular work week Thursday to get ready for the Redskins.

The switch is to "try to catch up a little bit on the rehab and try to get some guys healthy and the players will be in here lifting and doing their rehab and doing some work on their own for the Redskins game," Garrett said.

Garrett graduated from Princeton. He did not study medicine, but he needs to know the players' health as he calls plays.

"Well, you try to be mindful of that before you put them out on the field and what spot you put them in on the field," Garrett said. "And we tried to do that as best we could prior to the game. You're not going to be perfect, but once the play gets called, you have to go play football. But we're trying to manage those situations in terms of reps the guys were having and have good conversation and communication between series as to how we wanted to use guys the next series. But I thought our guys just hung in there well and played well regardless of what we called and what circumstance we put them in."

Despite the injuries and rehabs, Garrett projected a calm demeanor Monday. He has preached the "next man up" theory to his players.

"Coach Garrett says it's the next starter is up," said running back Tashard Choice, who could get more work if Jones cannot play. "He don't call it a backup. That's how he sees it. He understands the NFL and how people are hurt all the time. Next man up. No matter that you didn't get reps or if you didn't practice. You better know what you've got to do."

The Cowboys have already made more moves to the 53-man roster in the first two weeks of the season than they made in the first eight games of last season before Wade Phillips was fired.

"What's impressive to me is the way Jason is keeping this team together with Band-Aids both during the week and during the game," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said in the locker room after the game. "For him to keep hope alive, this is so impressive. We ought to be encouraged. Our fans ought to be encouraged. I give Jason Garrett all the credit for being the spirit of how this team is making adjustments and responding to adversity."

Todd Archer covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.