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Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: October 11, 4:16 PM ET
Leadership isn't issue for Cowboys

By Calvin Watkins
ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- The poster boy, or poster man, for leadership in the NFL is Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.

In the offseason, Dallas Cowboys defensive end Jason Hatcher said his team needed some Ray Lewis-type leaders.

Ray Lewis
Ray Lewis provides leadership for the Ravens while continuing to produce at a high level.

The fact is there is only one Ray Lewis. Just like there's only one Adrian Peterson, one Tom Brady, one Peyton Manning, one Jason Witten, one Reggie Wayne and one DeMarcus Ware.

"It's unfair to compare anybody to Ray Lewis," coach Jason Garrett said.

But if you have players with leadership skills who contribute at an elite level, it might help your football team win games.

Might.

A criticism of the Cowboys in recent years has been the lack of leadership. And with the Cowboys getting ready to face the Ravens on Sunday, leadership was again a topic around Valley Ranch.

On a conference call with reporters, Lewis talked about what makes him such a strong leader.

"I think a lot of my situation really kind of catapulted me into it," Lewis said. "Things like me being the oldest of five kids and Dad not being around and Mom ushering me, basically saying 'I don't have time for you to be a child. I need you to pick up your responsibility. I need you to help take care of your brothers and sisters.' So naturally, I was already leading from the household itself, so when I got into sports I just had a natural instinct to not just encourage myself but to encourage my teammates, encourage whoever it was."

But leadership doesn't necessarily equate to victories.

In Lewis' 17 NFL seasons, he's won one Super Bowl, missed the playoffs eight times and lost in the conference title game twice. Lewis is still a good leader regardless of how well his team does, but it doesn't guarantee victories or championships are forthcoming.

There are plenty of leaders on the Cowboys these days. Some are not as vocal as others, but you do have them. And it appears that, more than any other time at Valley Ranch, the players are holding each other accountable.

"It's critical," Garrett said of leadership. "[Lewis is] unique though. This is one of the great players ever to play in this league, certainly one of the best players of his generation at any position. Again, he does so much on the field, so much off the field. His leadership is outstanding and he plays with an infectious spirit, and there's no question it permeates throughout the entire football team."

It doesn't matter if the Cowboys players get along (they do), the bottom line is winning games -- and plenty of them. Because if the players don't, management will replace them.

That fear alone should drive players to produce.

You could say leadership is overrated because if a team is winning, then sure, everything seems fine. But if you're losing, does it mean things are bad in the locker room?

Lewis said it best about leadership.

"Honestly, it's something that you have or you don't," he said. "I think it's something that experiences sometimes can take you through things and can develop that, but I believe truthfully that it's something that you have or you don't."

Leadership isn't a problem for the Cowboys. Tony Romo, Marcus Spears, Sean Lee, Brandon Carr, Witten and Ware are strong locker room leaders.

The pulse of the team runs through them, and even if the Cowboys lose games it doesn't diminish the message.

"There's a lot of other leaders around this league who are good football players, and he's one of them," Witten said of Lewis. "He's not the only guy who leads a good football team, and ultimately he's got good players around him. You talk about that defense, [Ed Reed] sticks out real quick when you watch that tape, too. You've got good players around you who know what they're doing and are smart and they have that same accountability, and I think that helps leadership too when you've got two or three other guys who play at a high level."