Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Hatcher certainly had plenty to play for Sunday.
In the week leading up to the win-or-go home matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles, he was passed up on a Pro Bowl selection and was given the weight of defensive leadership by the Cowboys’ defensive coaching staff, he said.
He responded byputting the team on his back, he said, and lifted one of the league’s worst defenses to a level that could have certainly won the game for the Cowboys.
“He made a statement tonight,” defensive line coach Rod Marinelli said.
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Hatcher forced Eagles quarterback Nick Foles all around and out of the pocket throughout the night, recording two sacks, four tackles and a forced fumble.
However, Hatcher said after the game, while he believes he was a Pro Bowl-caliber player this season, a snub had no bearing on his standout game.
“It’s just one of those things where politics takes it’s role. I’m not big on Hawaii, man. It would have been nice to take my family but it’s not one of those things I’m crying over. I’ll take my family anyway,” Hatcher said somewhat jovially.
Hatcher said Sunday he was playing for those defensive teammates around him, those that depended on him to be one of the few veteran leaders on a bumped and bruised unit which relied on inexperienced players to be successful.
That defense reached the pinnacle of its success late in the third quarter when cornerback Orlando Scandick threw down Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson on the 1-yard line, saving a touchdown, followed by a defensive stop on fourth-and-1 that kept the Cowboys in the game trailing by one point.
It was moments like that which endeared this team and his teammates to him, Hatcher said.
“I think we did a great job,” Hatcher said. “I wouldn’t trade those 60 minutes for no other team, no other guys. We rose to the occasion, we played our butt off tonight but we came up short.”
However, what Hatcher was really playing for Sunday was a paycheck over this off-season in which he becomes a free agent.
Hatcher said he is certainly open to the idea of staying in Dallas and finishing his career as a Cowboy, but he is also open to moving his family wherever he might land next season.
“I’m numb right now and whatever happens, happens,” he said. “If I have to move my family out of here I’m good with that. It’s up in the air and I really don’t’ care if I go or if I stay. It would be awesome to stay here and finish my career here, but if not I can move on. It’s a business. You know how it goes. You can’t get any emotions involved or else you’ll find yourself in a bad situation.”
After the game, owner and general manager Jerry Jones wouldn’t comment on his feelings about re-signing Hatcher, but gave him the praise he felt he was due for his efforts this season.
“I wish Jason the very best,” he said. “I thought Jason had an outstanding year for us. I thought he played lights out tonight here too.”