Yes, the sun has a chance to become a storyline again at AT&T Stadium. The $1.2 billion stadium was built the wrong direction — east-west instead of north-south — and the sun setting during afternoon games has caused headaches for receivers ever since.
The sun beams through the west windows every afternoon game.
“It’s hard. I’m not going to lie,” Cowboys wide receiver Brice Butler said. “There’s been times where I’ve run routes into the sun and I’m like, ‘I hope he doesn’t throw me the ball cause I won’t be able to see it.’ I mean, Jason Witten hates it the most. He doesn’t say anything about it, but he’s the one that gets a lot of those balls across the middle, those hooks and options or whatever.”
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Butler and receiver Dez Bryant each complained about the sun causing drops earlier this month during the Kansas City Chiefs game.
In last year’s season-opening loss to the New York Giants, Witten had a drop in the fourth quarter. But Witten isn’t about to blame the sun for any mishaps.
“I think it’s came up a number of times here in the last couple of years and you’ve got to handle it,” Witten said. “I think coach [Jason Garrett] has made it clear -- no excuses. You’ve got to find ways and I don’t think that’ll get in the way of us executing or doing our game plan. So I don’t see any issues with it.”
Butler agreed that the sun shouldn’t be an excuse for dropping passes.
There is not much receivers can do about it, either. It’d violate the league’s uniform policy if they had deeply tinted visors or did something of that nature.
“You just have to deal with it,” Butler said. “You can’t really talk about it. it’s one of those things like, ‘Man, it’s just something we have to deal with.’ We deal with it anytime we play a 3 o’clock game, so you just got to make it happen.”
Cowboys cornerback Jourdan Lewis views the sun differently, of course, saying it’s an advantage to the secondary. After all, opposing receivers are dealing with the same issues as the Cowboys receivers.
“If anything it helps us,” Lewis said. “It makes our job a little bit easier. And I actually think it’s more difficult to see the ball when you have the lights on and it’s dark. You see the glare from those big lights, so I think the sun will be a little easier for us.”
The sun issue, though, would seemingly be an easy fix if Cowboys brass wanted to address it. Simply hanging curtains over the windows would seem to eliminate the problem.
But owner Jerry Jones has been adamant that it isn’t an issue and he has no intentions of addressing the problem.
In fact, Jones thinks it could become an advantage for the Cowboys if the receivers become accustomed to it enough.
“I don’t see curtains at all,” Jones said on his 105.3 The Fan radio show earlier this month. “We’re good at knowing where that sun is during these games. So, I don’t see that in the future.
“We played with an 18-inch dropoff at each corner of the end zones at Texas Stadium. And that was quite an advantage. We knew where it was and our opponents didn’t. So we want, rather than having the sun when it’s in there, we want it in the quarterback’s eyes.
“We want to keep it out of the receivers’ eyes. They’ll get good. They’ll know what part of the field and they’ll know when and we’ll get real good at it. We became really good at playing that 18-inch dropoff on each corner of those end zones.”
Jones said the organization took the stadium direction into account when designing and constructing it. Even though most venues around the league are built north-south, the Cowboys opted for east-west.
“We thought about that all the time,” Jones said. “You’ve also got to think about the land and you’ve got to think about the best way to set the stadium. So, there’s nothing that doesn’t have many things to think about as opposed to it.
“But the sun has not been a factor at all in any win or loss we’ve had in that stadium.”
The Cowboys hope the first time isn’t Thursday, or their only other home afternoon game left this season, on Dec. 24 against the Seattle Seahawks. That could spoil the holidays.