The Star offered tours this week, held a Football Summit and had employees at work in the administrative offices. But there was no clanging in the weight room, no Ezekiel Elliott pranks in the locker room, no lunch rush in the dining room and no practices at the Ford Center.
Players turned in their Microsoft Surfaces, packed their personal belongings in trash bags and bid their adieus.
“It’s sinking in. It sucks. It stinks,” Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott said Monday. “But it was fun; it was a great year. Great teammates, great coaches. The reality of it, though, is we all won’t be back together. That’s what team meeting was about. We know it’s the business of this league. It’s part of it. But yeah, it sucks.”
Coach Jason Garrett and team owner Jerry Jones addressed the Cowboys in their team meeting Monday afternoon. Their message was to look forward after last week’s disappointing 34-31 loss to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional playoffs.
“The biggest thing you have to do is learn from your experiences and you have to allow the disappointments to fuel the fire for what you want to accomplish in 2017,” Garrett said.
Indeed, the future looks bright with a core that includes rookies Elliott, Prescott, Anthony Brown and Maliek Collins. But the Cowboys have 18 unrestricted free agents, including Terrance Williams, Ron Leary, Brandon Carr, Barry Church and Morris Claiborne.
Next year’s team won’t look like this year’s team.
“It’s tough, because it’s like every season feels like a chapter,” said Cowboys defensive lineman Jack Crawford, who becomes a free agent. “You go through another chapter in your career. The more you go through it, you realize the less time you have left.
“I look at people like [Jason] Witten, who’s put in so much to this game. Just so much. You look at him and think about the way we were going and the chemistry we had in the locker room. It’s like I want to win for people like him, to have the opportunity to play with him and then to get this far. To have it stop like this is heartbreaking. But that’s football. You’ve got to keep grinding. You get a lot more out of the losses than you do the victories. You get an opportunity to learn and grow and keep moving forward.”