OXNARD, Calif. —
Kiffin might not have helped things when he said his first phone calls were from the owner and his son, executive vice president Stephen Jones.
Garrett had a stock answer for the “hot seat” issue all offseason: Everyone in the NFL is on it. The question for him Saturday was getting out of his personal .500 rut — and the team’s. The Cowboys are 128-128 going back to the start of the 1997 season.
“We are what we are to this point,” Garrett said. “But at some point in your life, you have to let the past go, whether it’s been great, good, mediocre or not so good. And you focus on learning from those experiences and getting better and take advantage of the opportunity in front of you.”
Garrett and Jones think the Cowboys are better because they’re healthier than they were after a 28-18 loss to Washington that kept them out of the playoffs.
The optimism has mostly to do with a defense that was missing six key players by the end of the season: linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, linemen Jay Ratliff and Kenyon Coleman, safety Barry Church and cornerback Orlando Scandrick.
DeMarcus Ware didn’t miss any games but had offseason surgery on a shoulder that limited him late in the year.
Tony Romo has been cleared for Sunday’s opening practice after missing offseason workouts to have a cyst removed from his back.
“That was a pretty tough hand,” Jones said of last season’s injury issues on defense. “I said the other day that we are a better team. I probably should have said the better team now than when we finished up last year. We had a healthy Romo, but apart from that, we were pretty banged up.”