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Star-Telegram.com

Jerry Jones ends talk about Dallas Cowboys' window closing

Posted Sunday, Jul. 29, 2012

By Carlos Mendez

cmendez@star-telegram.com

OXNARD, Calif. -- The first thing Jerry Jones did Sunday was shut the window on the window talk.

"That was off-season talk," he said with the familiar smile and playful gleam in his eye as he opened his pre-training camp news conference under sunny skies and 70-degree weather at the River Ridge Sports Complex, where the Cowboys begin practice Monday.

"And we'll leave it right there."

So, no more window talk. But not because it was a bad thing.

In fact, the off-season's window talk pleased the Cowboys owner. Because, after he said in June that he was afraid the Cowboys' window of opportunity to reach the Super Bowl with the current cast was closing, it got the team talking about urgency.

Through the OTAs. Through the minicamps.

Urgency was the word.

Even when the Cowboys landed in California on Saturday, seven-time Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten said the team was arriving for training camp with "unbelievable urgency."

Jones liked it.

"That's good for Claiborne to hear. That's good for Carter to hear," Jones said, using first-round pick Morris Claiborne and second-year linebacker Bruce Carter to symbolize the younger players on the team. "To hear guys who have excelled, been outstanding, but not hit the brass ring, not gotten the brass ring, or grabbed the ring. So I think it's very healthy. I think it's a part of leadership to have some of the guys who have gone before, who have been disappointed, to share it with everybody involved."

Coach Jason Garrett liked it.

"I think Witten's comments, without me speaking for him, stem from the fact that as leader on this football team over the course of the last eight, nine, 10 years, he's a guy who understands we've been close at different times," Garrett said. "We haven't gotten the job done. It's a point we try to make to our team all the time. It's a bottom-line business. It's a get-the-job-done business. I've heard that from many coaches through the years. I understand that as a coach. I understood that as a player. I think our team understands that."

And Garrett understands his team's weaknesses.

The Cowboys moved in the off-season to improve the offensive line. They switched tackles, moving 2011 No. 1 draft choice Tyron Smith to left tackle and veteran Doug Free to the right side, where he is presumably better.

They spent $41 million on two free agent guards, Mackenzy Bernadeau from Carolina and Nate Livings from Cincinnati.

They signed cornerback Brandon Carr to a $50.1 million contract and burned a second-round pick to move up in the first round to draft the top defensive player available, LSU's Claiborne.

They also signed a veteran safety, Brodney Pool, and a veteran linebacker, Dan Connor.

All with the aim of not only improving overall, but improving in the fourth quarter, when mental toughness, a reliable ground game and pass defense help close out games.

"Some of the personnel moves that we made will certainly help us in that area," Garrett said. "We want to be stronger running the football. We want to be able to defend the pass better. When you're ahead in games, if you can run the football and can defend the pass, you have a pretty good opportunity to hold those leads.

"There is a mental toughness you want to continue to develop on this football team.... So many of these games come down to crunch time. We've handled it well over the last few years. Other times, we haven't. We've got to get better in that area."

The window on that effort opens Monday.

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407

Twitter: @calexmendez

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