Three drug suspensions to start the season, the failed experiment with Greg Hardy last year and domestic violence accusations against rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott had the Dallas Cowboys opening training facing questions about the character of the players and the culture of their of locker room.
Coach Jason Garrett has long maintained that great majority of the Cowboys were players were of great quality and high character, the kind of guys you want to marry your sister or your daughter.
He believes that sentiment was on full display during Saturday’s unity tribute with the city of Dallas, the Dallas police department and the families of the slain officers from the recent shooting tragedy.
The idea was spearheaded by tight end Jason Witten and many of the leaders on the team in an effort to do something to show unity and help the city heal from horrific tragedy.
"Our players are really pretty special," Garrett said. "You've heard me talk a lot the last couple of days about the character of our football team. We have some rare guys in our locker room and they're the guys that make up the culture of our team. We're very deliberate in trying to bring those kinds of guys to our team. I think there are so many great examples for us as coaches every day as to why we think it's such a privilege to coach these guys. But I don't know if there is a better example of what happened yesterday. To have Jason Witten and the other leaders of our team initiate this and be so thoughtful in trying to carry it out and make sure these families know that we support them during this very difficult time, I thought it was special. I think everybody responded well to it. I think the families appreciated it."
Garrett said the idea was formed over the last few weeks following conversations with Witten, owner Jerry Jones and vice president Charlotte Jones Anderson.
The Cowboys opened practice Saturday by walking arm in arm with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, police chief David Brown and the families of four of the five slain officers. They walked on the practice field, formed a circle and had a moment of silence in powerful and emotional display of unity.
They also plan to wear an arm in arm decal on their helmet all season.
"We didn't tell our team until after the walk-through (Saturday) and explain what we're going to do and how the schedule for afternoon practice was going to be a little bit different," Garrett said. "And they all embraced. And I know Witten talked to some of the veteran players on the team as they were formulating the idea. And everybody was certainly behind it. I think he and the other guys on our football team understand the privilege that we have to do what we love to do in an unbelievable city. There is a responsibility that we all feel, and to have Jason Witten and some of the other veteran leaders spearhead this thing. It doesn't surprise me because of the kind of guys that we have on our team and the culture we have created because of who these guys are."