Brandon Carr was back in his “safe haven,” practicing with the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday as a member of the first-team defense.
But life will never be the same for the 28-year-old cornerback, who spent two weeks by his mother’s side as she lost her fight with breast cancer.
Kathy Robinson Carr died July 30 at the family home in Flint, Mich. She was buried Wednesday.
“It was extremely tough, man,” Carr said. “It’s somebody that you’ve known your whole life, who has raised you, has made you a product of their environment, to see them fight the way they fought in the end and still be selfless. I learned a lot from the situation about myself and just about life.”
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With the blessing of the Cowboys, Carr missed the first 11 days of training-camp practices and the first preseason game. His mother and his family tried to get him to report to camp, but he told them he was right where he was supposed to be. He has returned to work with a smile on his face, he said.
“Yeah, they would always have meetings about me secretly and try to push me along, but this time, I had to be home,” Carr said. “This situation is on my heart. For a person who has given me their all, their whole life and the many sacrifices made, I feel like it was time for me to put things in perspective and prioritize my time and know what is really important.
“At the end of the day, you only get one mother. We had a wonderful week together, did a lot of great things. I can smile about it.”
Carr appreciates the support the Cowboys gave him and his family as well as the daily calls and texts from teammates.
“They’ve done a great job of just making me feel comfortable, letting me know they have our support and my back even though I was absent, sent flowers, food, whatever the case may be,” Carr said. “They took care of [me] and my family. Just a great big thank you to the organization.
“Pretty much every day a teammate would text me asking, how I’m doing or just crack a joke whatever the case may be or whatever was needed for the day.”
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said it was great to have Carr back and promised to ease him back in the camp as best they could.
But Garrett said Carr’s absence to be with his mother was the right thing for Carr and the Cowboys.
“Obviously, he’s been going through a very difficult time with his mom for a long time, and the last couple of weeks particularly have been really challenging,” Garrett said. “Anytime anyone has lost a loved one in their life, they understand what he’s been going through, particularly someone who is as close [as he was] to his mom.
“So it was the right thing for him to be there and to be with his family during this tough time, and now somehow, some way, he has to get his mind right to be able to come back and be a player for our football team, and he’ll be able to do that.”
Two weeks before training camp opened July 24, Carr went London to help the NFL promote the Nov. 9 game between the Cowboys and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
His mother’s situation became dire upon his return.
He acknowledges the situation has been emotionally draining as he balanced his own feelings of empathy for his mother, while also trying to be strong for her and the family.
What he learned most was just how strong a person she was, considering this was her second battle with breast cancer after initially being diagnosed in 2006 and winning that round.
The cancer came back with aggressiveness right before he signed a five-year, $50.2 million free-agent contract with the Cowboys in 2012.
The doctors’ prognosis wasn’t good at the time, but she fought for almost three years and attended his wedding this summer.
Carr just hopes to channel some of the strength, resolve and courage his mother showed and put it to use for the Cowboys this year.
“She fought longer than the prognosis the doctors gave,” Carr said. “She fought for three years, and a whole week of fighting and showing me tremendous strength. I have never seen anything like it. That is how she is. She is a fighter.
“The true strength of a woman, you can’t measure. You kind of take it for granted. But in that situation it showed. She fought and she went out with a smile.”