IRVING — The worst-kept secret in Dallas Cowboys history was finally made official Tuesday when coach Jason Garrett confirmed that he has handed over play-calling duties to offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan.Garrett said the decision was made in January and apologized for his role in stone-walling the issue last week when owner Jerry Jones and Callahan let the cat out the bag before he was ready to do so.“We’ve been working really since the end of January with that in mind, and what that in mind is Bill Callahan has been the acting offensive coordinator, and he’s going to take on the full responsibilities of calling the plays,” Garrett said Tuesday, the first day of the team’s minicamp. “We made that decision months ago. Where we did have a little bit of a miscommunication was when we were going to present that publicly.“It’s something you’ve asked me about a number of different times, and I told you, ‘Well, we’re still working on that,’ and we were. We were working through the mechanics. We’ve been doing that over the last four or five months. The area where we didn’t do a very good job — and I take full responsibility — is just being on the same page with the communication of that publicly. It came out last week and just to clarify it, those are the roles we are going to have.”Callahan is expected to sit in the coaches’ booth this season. He has not called plays in an NFL game since 2003.Dallas finished sixth in total offense last season. It has never finished lower than 13th since Garrett took over as offensive coordinator, and the Cowboys have ranked as high as second ( 2009) with Garrett as the play-caller.“We’re not interested in making change for change sake,” Garrett said. “We’ve rebuilt this roster in two years. Those are all changes we think are positive changes for our team, not change for change sake.“It just finally got to the point this year since Bill Callahan has been here for a year. He was our run-game coordinator last year and getting more and more comfortable with our entire offense over the last couple of years. He’s someone we believe is capable of doing it and doing a really good job for us.”Though Garrett will be a walk-around head coach, his fingerprints still will be all over the offense. He will be in on game-planning and have veto power on game day like many other coaches around the league.“Probably 27 or 28 teams in the league do it that way; that’s the way we’re going to,” Garrett said.“We were a little bit unique. There are a handful of teams that have had the head coach be the acting offensive coordinator and calling plays. They happened to be some of the best offenses, so there was always that argument that we made, ‘Some of the best guys do it this way,’ and so we had that tug and really have had that tug for the last couple of years. We finally decided this was the best way to do it.”Garrett wants it clear that he, owner Jerry Jones and vice president Stephen Jones are all on the same page.The only thing they differed on was announcing the decision at all. Garrett wanted it secret for competitive reasons, which in the end was folly considering that Callahan’s new role was evident to the media watching practice.“Candidly you guys come to practice, you guys watch and see where I am and see where the play callers are,” Garrett said. “It came out. It’s not a big deal and I take full responsibility for that communication not being as clean as it should have been.”Starters on sidelinesDefensive end Anthony Spencer hopes to do more Wednesday as he recovers from a hyperextended left knee. Spencer injured his knee during the team’s organized team activities last week, but an MRI showed only a bone bruise.“It could have been a lot worse,” Spencer said. “... I was running to the ball. I was trying to get out of the way of somebody, and they kneed me and my leg was in the ground, and it just hyperextended.”Spencer was one of several players missing in action Tuesday. Five other starters did not participate in all or part of the drills.Quarterback Tony Romo had surgery in April to remove a cyst from his back. He had hoped to participate in the minicamp, but his absence is a precaution. Defensive end DeMarcus Ware (shoulder) and offensive guard Mackenzy Bernadeau (shoulder) participated in the individual portion of practice. Offensive guard Nate Livings (knee) and cornerback Morris Claiborne (migraine) didn’t practice at all. Alex Albright, who is fighting for a starting linebacker job, also missed with an ankle injury.Receiver Dwayne Harris sprained his right ankle during practice, but he will try to practice Wednesday.Running back Joseph Randle (thumb), fullback Lawrence Vickers (back) and offensive tackle Jermey Parnell (hamstring) still are rehabbing.Roster movesThe Cowboys released cornerback Malik James and signed former Jacksonville defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton.
Clarence E. Hill Jr., 817-390-7760 Twitter: @clarencehilljr