Tight end Jason Witten called the Dallas Cowboys united within the locker room. Center Travis Frederick echoed those thoughts, saying it’s the closest group since the Cowboys drafted him in 2013.
Those statements were made in response to former wide receiver Dez Bryant blaming “Garrett guys,” and players who wear the “C,” as captains, as part of the reason for his release. But the Cowboys made it clear that the locker is not splintered like Bryant alluded to.
“Absolutely not,” Witten said on Tuesday night at the Albertsons Companies All Star Gala at The Star. “My job and everybody else's is to go play and try to lead the best we can by example. There’s nothing to that.
“Look, being a captain is a huge honor for me and the other guys, and I know what those guys' character is all about. There's really nothing there."
Witten served as one of six captains on the Cowboys last season along with Dak Prescott, Sean Lee, Tyrone Crawford, Orlando Scandrick and Dan Bailey.
"For me, I mean being a quarterback, being a captain, I take the blame," Prescott said. "I take all the blame. When you lose, things like this happen. So Dez knows how I feel. We've shared messages and he knows my stance on everything, so I wish him well."
As they dismissed the “Garrett guys” comments, Witten and the rest of the Cowboys on hand had nothing but good things to say about their playing days with Bryant.
Witten described Friday as “an emotional day” when the Cowboys parted ways with Bryant after eight seasons.
“To see Dez’s time here come to an end – one of the most prolific receivers in this franchise’s history, I was fortunate to see it and live it every day in the way he played and the way he practiced,” Witten said. “Personally, I took a lot of pride in seeing him come in as a young rookie and overcoming all the things he did and developing into one of the best, if not the best, wide receivers in football.
"So many great plays, so many great memories. So many days and evenings spent talking about routes and technique and the passion he showed. It was an emotional day for all of us, myself included, to see him.
“Fortunately, I’ve been around long enough that it’s happened to a lot of friends of mine – Miles (Austin) and DeMarco (Murray) and DeMarcus (Ware) and Tony (Romo) and Doug Free and Marc Colombo. So many, on and on that I can go. I understand that it doesn’t last forever. It’ll happen to me, as well.”
Added linebacker Sean Lee: “Me and Dez came in together (in 2010). He’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with, a guy that I fed off his passion. … It’s going to be really hard to replace.”
Bryant, 29, left as the franchise’s all-time leader in receiving touchdowns, with 73, but saw his production decline the last three seasons. The Cowboys simply couldn’t justify paying him a $12.5 million base salary and having him count $16.5 million against the cap in 2018.
Coach Jason Garrett made his first public comments on the breakup Friday, too.
"It's a challenging situation,” Garrett said. “A lot of different factors go into these kinds of decisions and again the guide post for all of this is: What's in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys? And that's why we made this decision. Wish Dez nothing but the best going forward. He's a special guy. I love him. I will always love him, and the impact that he's made on this franchise has been significant.”
Garrett said he’s spoken with Bryant a couple times since news broke of his release, calling it a “good, honest discussion.”
“Again, I wish him nothing but the best going forward,” Garrett said. “I don’t want to get into the details of our conversation, but I appreciated the time that he took and how we talked through a lot of different things. He’s a special guy. I love him to death.
"He’s been really important to me, to our coaching staff, to his teammates and to this organization throughout his career here. It’s not an easy time for him, it’s not an easy decision for us. But again, we thought we were doing what was in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys and wish Dez nothing but the best going forward."