With players healing, Dallas Cowboys shift focus to Giants

IRVING -- As soon as the final seconds ticked off the clock in the final preseason game Wednesday, Jason Garrett began thinking about the New York Giants. The 21 players who didn't play against the Miami Dolphins already had their minds on the season opener.

"We have to shift gears quickly," the Cowboys coach said Thursday. "It was an important night for a lot of guys to make their final impression on us as a coaching staff and on this organization to state their case to make this team or have a role on this team.

"But, then, quickly after the ballgame we spoke to the team about putting that game behind us, putting training camp behind us and getting ready for the Giants. This game is going to happen quickly."

Cowboys coaches spent Thursday making roster moves while game-planning at the same time. After an off day today, Cowboys players return to Valley Ranch on Saturday to begin practicing for the defending Super Bowl champions.

They will welcome back Mike Jenkins, along with Miles Austin (hamstring) and Dez Bryant (patella tendinitis).

Jenkins has been out since having his right shoulder surgically repaired by Dr. James Andrews in January. He passed his physical Wednesday night, and Andrews cleared Jenkins without Jenkins having to fly to Florida. Team doctors sent Andrews the reports electronically.

"We just need to see him practice, and he's been cleared to practice, so we just want to make sure he goes out there and practices the way that he's capable of practicing," Garrett said. "He hasn't practiced a whole lot of football in a while, so conditioning is certainly a factor, getting himself re-acclimated to just playing football is a factor, so we'll evaluate him day by day. It's good to see that he is cleared. It's going to be good to have him out on the practice field on Saturday."

The Cowboys will determine Jenkins' role, which has changed from starting cornerback since they signed free agent Brandon Carr and drafted Morris Claiborne. They also have yet to determine if Jenkins can play in the season opener.

It is more likely that Jenkins and tight end Jason Witten will make their debuts in Week 2 against Seattle, which is 11 days after the season opener.

Witten still has not been cleared for contact. He had a scan of his injured spleen Tuesday, and the laceration is healing.

Witten, who was injured Aug. 13 in the preseason opener against Oakland, has been running routes and catching passes this week as he waits for good news. Witten has missed only one game in his career.

"Ultimately, it's a medical decision, and we are going to follow what the doctors say," Garrett said. "I'm going to follow it as the head coach of the team. Jason's going to follow it as a player on the team. He certainly has a say in it. ... There are a lot of times throughout his career where you would say, 'Wow, he can't play this week.' And sure enough he plays a full game, 70 plays on offense; he's involved in the kicking game.

"He's a unique guy. There are a handful of those guys around the league, and they tend to come back from injuries quicker than everybody else. But ultimately this is a medical decision."

Charean Williams


Twitter: @NFLCharean

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