IRVING, Texas (AP) — Jason Garrett stood with his arms crossed watching the special teamers work on punting, then he wandered over to defensive players walking onto the field and greeted them with fist bumps and handshakes.
Offense, defense and special teams — they all work for him now.
Two days after being promoted from offensive coordinator to interim head coach, Garrett ran the Dallas Cowboys for the first time Wednesday and immediately began doing things his way.
The workday started 45 minutes earlier than under his predecessor, Wade Phillips. The workout was in full pads, something Phillips rarely did, even in training camp. Everyone ran from drill to drill, which only Garrett’s offense used to do.
“Nobody sitting on the coolers, stuff like that,” defensive end Stephen Bowen said. “Just everybody alert, paying attention.”
There were no card games or dominoes being played in the locker room during lunch. Asked whether it was a coincidence that this club’s favorite midday diversion had ceased on the new boss’ first day, receiver Roy Williams smiled and said, “The locker room is clean, too, ain’t it?”
It remains to be seen — starting Sunday in the Meadowlands against the Giants — whether any of this will matter in a 1-7 season many consider lost. But Garrett has clearly begun the “culture change” owner Jerry Jones demanded when he shook things up Monday. Even Phillips’ staunchest supporters said they like the new routine.
“I believe in Jason Garrett,” said defensive captain Keith Brooking, who signed with Dallas before the 2009 season specifically to play for Phillips, his defensive coordinator in Atlanta.
“There is zero gray area there. It is black and white, very direct and to the point. No misunderstanding. I’ve been hit in the head a lot, but I could understand what he is saying when he stood up there and communicated to our football team. I believe in anybody like that.”
Garrett’s message also was received by cornerback Mike Jenkins, who’s been pointed to all week as the poster child for the lackadaisical attitude that festered under Phillips. In the third quarter of the team’s latest blowout loss, Jenkins didn’t bother trying to tackle a Green Bay running back inside the 5-yard line even though he had a shot at him.
“The thing I got from Jason today is if you don’t do it, we got somebody to replace you, no matter who you are,” Jenkins said. “If you don’t learn it, you on the bench. … It’s a new day for me. It’s a new day for everybody. It’s a new coach, a new start. That is what we are focused on right now. We are going to run with it.”
Garrett declined to reveal any lineup changes or even whether any might be coming. Through two news conferences, he’s made it pretty clear that he will not be very forthcoming with information.
“We’re going to do everything we can to play the best people,” he said. “That’ll be a thing we constantly evaluate. We’ll make those changes available to you if and when they do happen.”
Some changes are coming because of injuries.
Defensive end Marcus Spears and kick returner Akwasi Owusu-Ansah were placed on season-ending injured reserve Wednesday. Their roster spots went to defensive linemen Jeremy Clark and Jimmy Saddler-McQueen. Dallas needs depth on defense because ends Sean Lissemore (ankle) and Jason Hatcher (groin) are expected to be out.
Linebackers Bradie James (knee) and Anthony Spencer (neck) also missed practice. Garrett was vague about whether they will be ready.
Garrett wore a gray shirt, royal blue sweat pants and his usual, sweat-stained Cowboys hat commemorating the 50th anniversary of the franchise’s founding in 1960. He had cards tucked into his front and back waistband, likely trying to keep track of more scripts and schedules than ever before.
His greetings for the defensive players were important. Although he’s been offensive coordinator for 3 1/2 years, he’d never had more than a few words in passing with some of them. They’d never seen him in charge, either.
“He was active with everybody,” Jenkins said. “He was showing leadership he was supposed to bring to this team. I think everybody liked it.”
Garrett knew everyone was watching everything he did Wednesday and was conscious of trying to set the right tone. If it was businesslike, then so be it.
At 44, he is a head coach for the first time, but he’s only guaranteed eight games to show Jones he deserves the job beyond this season. And he must do it with a club that’s lost seven of eight and has a 38-year-old, fill-in quarterback.
“We have to learn from the things that didn’t go well, have to build on the things that did go well and go forward,” Garrett said. “The challenges are ahead. So we needed to have a great day at practice and meetings today, have a great one tomorrow and get ready for the Giants on Sunday.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.