**Cowboys QB Tony Romo
Q: How have you dealt with so many different injures?**A: I think my job is to just keep everyone focused and keep getting better. We've had some injuries, but guys are coming back. These last few weeks someone gets banged up, someone comes back. You just have to keep getting better and trying to improve as a football team and individually.
Q: What are your thoughts on people saying this is your last chance to win a Super Bowl?A: I think as a quarterback in the National Football League you are always trying to get better and improve and win the ultimate goal, which is the Super Bowl. Until you do that, you're always going to deal with questions and things like that. I just think it's part of it. That's what's great about this game, we're judged on things like that. That's what makes it fun; you put forth all the time and commitment to see if you can obtain that one day.
Q: You and Eli have been division rivals for a while now. How have you seen his game evolve?A: I think he's continued to get better as he's been in the league. He has constantly improved the little things. Without knowing him in great detail, you'd have to ask him, but each year he gets a little bit better, and that's what we're all trying to do, continue to improve and get better.
Q: What would it mean to get to the playoffs and win a Super Bowl?A: It's really just about going out to practice today and tomorrow. Going from there. We're not even looking at anything past that. We're not even thinking about the game yet, it's about how we can get our 21 personnel, 12, 11, all the ones we have in, and how we can get them all going, and go work and try and get better for the Giants.
Q: What are your thoughts on Amani Toomer saying you were statistically the best quarterback in the NFC East?A: There's always going to be opinions about quarterbacks in general. That's what makes the game fun. For us to talk about who's what, I do it in other sports, we all want to evaluate. I think that's what makes it fun watching games.
Q: How do you deal with such a high profile role, being quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, America's team?A: I think your job is to go out and win football games. When you're winning, a lot of things are going well for an organization. When you're not, it's a position where you need to figure out how to turn it around. Playing quarterback in the National Football League is the same for everybody. I don't think it's any different for me or anybody else. We're all in a position where we're put here to help the organization and the team win, and that's why we enjoy playing that game.
Q: How unfulfilling would it be for you to not reach your goal of winning a Super Bowl?A: I think for me, it's literally not…a lot of these questions are about long term things, and I'm just worried about getting through practice for the Giants this week. My complete and utter focus is about going back and watching tape here, and figuring out what they're going to do against certain looks and certain things, and get ready for that. I'm not thinking about other stuff.
Q: You are conscious of the fact that you can change your legacy by winning a championship right?A: It's an understanding that this game is not about tomorrow, it's about today. For me, you could talk about it till we're blue in the face, but it comes down to figuring out how to get better right now. All of that other stuff long term will take care of itself. You don't give yourself a chance to do any of that stuff unless you prepare today and get better.
Q: How are you different from the quarterback that Bill Parcells described as Pancho Villa?A: I don't even know. Not sure.
Q: How have you evolved as a quarterback from your younger days?A: As you play the game, you learn through experiences, and through playing on the field. You have to figure out how to get better technically and fundamentally, and all those things as far as aesthetics, like throwing the ball, getting out there and doing that. At the same time, you learn so much stuff on the mental side of the game, that's though experiences. That's the part that you're always getting better at, no question, because things that didn't come out when you were younger come out when you're older. Just experience in a lot of ways.
Q: How did you feel walking off the field after your Week 17 defeat last year. Were you frustrated?A: Yeah, absolutely. That was a tough loss. It still sits there, where you want to go out. That feeling that you have, you want to bottle it up and use that every day in the offseason. I think that you can use that as motivation to know that as a football team we need to get better and improve. I think we took steps to do that this offseason, and I'm excited to be moving forward.
Q: Is there anything that you saw that you could've done better?A: I think you're always looking at games and evaluating yourself and trying to improve. I think we can all do that collectively, and we all need to look at ourselves and figure out how we can be better the next time out.
Q: Did the Giants surprise you with their Super Bowl run?A: No, the Giants are a good team. The NFC East is as strong a division as there is. I think that in some ways we beat each other up in the regular season and the team that can survive that has a great shot at going on and competing for a championship. That's kind of what they ended up doing.
Q: Were you always able to avoid looking long-term, or is that something that you have gotten better at as you've gotten older?A: There's probably always a slow evolution in everything, because you learn things, and traits, and how to compete, and how to get better, and how to win, and how to improve, and how to think, and everything. Not just football, a lot of people do that. At the same time, you have your certain approach, and the mentality it takes, otherwise you wouldn't have gotten to the position you're at.
Q: Thoughts on Demarco Murray's role for Wednesday:A: I think it's going to help having anybody and everybody we've got, who's going to play. For me, I'm excited about some of the steps we took, and some of the strides that guys have made this offseason, and the team we're going to have this year.
Q: Do you enjoy games against an elite quarterback?A: I think it's great. Eli is a great quarterback; he's proven it time and again. I think that it's a great challenge for our football team to go up in a tough environment against a great football team. That's going to be a great challenge. They're the world champs, we have to go in there and play good football.
Q: If you could some up the most valuable lesson from Bill Parcells, what would it be?A: I would need more time to think about that. There's a lot of stuff. Bill taught you a lot of things in a lot of different areas. There's not just one thing you take away.
Q: Is Martellus Bennett capable of being a number-one tight end?A: Martellus did a good job with us. He cares about the game, he wants to be good. I thought they (Giants) did a good job getting a good player.
Q: Was Martellus always a media favorite?A: Yeah, he won't be going away anytime soon there. You'll get plenty of quotes from Martellus, he's a fun guy. He likes to have fun and enjoy the game.
Q: Any specific high/low moments with him?A: No, nothing specific.
**Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett
Q: If Miles Austin and Tony Romo would've hooked up on that pass, you probably would've beaten the Giants, buried their chances, and won the division. Have you thought about that missed opportunity at all during this offseason?**Garrett: Oh, that feels like a lifetime ago. Last season was last season. The games against the Giants and everybody else are way, way, way, way, way behind us. We're focused on this team, this group of players, and getting ready for the challenge of this year. The big one we obviously have is against the Giants on Wednesday night, the defending World Champions, at their place. We're working very hard to be ready to be our best.
Q: Thoughts on Eli Manning and stopping a quarterback of his caliber?Garrett: I just think he's a great player and he has been for a long time. He's won two Super Bowls, climbed the mountaintop twice. He plays for a great organization, for great teams, for great coaches. He's been an outstanding quarterback. He's been a huge contributor to their success throughout his career there in New York. He's an outstanding pocket passer; he can move around and make plays on the move. He's a very smart player. He can make any throw that you need to make on the football field. He clearly makes his teammates better, makes his team better. He's clearly an outstanding player and we have a tremendous amount of respect for him.
Q: Update on Jason Witten's health:Garrett: Well, he's just been trying to work his way back into it. As you know, he hurt his spleen about three weeks back now, so he's been trying to get back. It's a very serious injury, and he had to be idle soon after the injury happened, and he's tried to get himself moving around again in the last week or so. He's been running and catching passes and was out there for a portion of our practice today, trying to get himself acclimated to playing football again.
Q: Why is it so difficult to repeat in this league, even as division champions?Garrett: I think what makes the NFL great is that it's competitive at every level. Competitive to get in the NFL as a player and a coach, and it's certainly competitive once you are here practicing against other guys, and certainly playing on Sunday afternoons playing against other teams around the league. There's great competition in this league, people work really, really hard to do their job well. Organizations work tirelessly to put the best group of people they know together, to make the best teams possible. Certainly when you reach the mountaintop, people are going to be gunning for you, and that's with all professions. When you add that to how competitive the league is, just by its very nature, it's hard to do. The Giants have had a great program, and certainly they'll be a great challenge for us going to their place on Wednesday night.
Q: Do coaches use it for motivation, the last-to-first possibility?Garrett: Probably a lot of different coaches do a lot of different things to help their team understand the situation they're in and help them gain perspective. Certainly there are plenty of examples of teams that have come from the bottom of their division and flip-flopped it around and won the division the next year, and vice-versa. I think again it goes back to that competitiveness that is inherent in this league at every level. You need to make sure you're at your best every day, that's certainly what we preach down here.
Q: Status of Miles Austin, Jay Ratliff, and Mike Jenkins:Garrett: We're hopeful that all of those guys will be ready to play. Each of those guys have been working their way back from injuries, each of them have done different levels of practice here over the past few days. We're hopeful that as the week progresses they can be more and more active and get themselves ready for the ballgame on Wednesday.
Q: Did any of them practice?Garrett: Miles practiced most extensively today. The other guys were not directly involved with practice; they were working more on the side.
Q: Are you tempted to rest guys with the long layoff after Wednesday's game?Garrett: I think you just have to evaluate each situation individually and just see where they are. We certainly value the health of our players, and we're not going to put anyone in there until they're ready. I do think you have to look at the circumstances, if the player is ready to play in the ballgame. You only get 16 games each year, and you only get six against your division opponents, so this is a big game for us, as it is for the Giants. We want to make sure we're at full strength if we're able to do that. We're not going to put any player out there that's not ready to play though.
Q: Did you learn things about defending Victor Cruz from his performance last year?Garrett: Well, he's a great player, there's certainly no question about that. I think everybody in the league knows that. We certainly know that, having played against him a couple of times. He's very productive, both as an inside receiver, and as an outside receiver. Like with all teams in our division, and all of our opponents, we try to study them in the offseason, and figure out ways how to slow them down. He's proven that he can do it against a lot of different schemes. We're going to have our hands full, he's an outstanding player, and it's going to be a great challenge on Wednesday.
Q: What has Tony Romo's preseason been like, and what's his motivation to win a Super Bowl?Garrett: I think he's had an outstanding preseason. We've had a number of different injuries on our team, just like everybody else around the league, and when you're the quarterback of the team, one of the things you have to do is navigate that. Whether you're playing with a different center, or a different set of wideouts, or the tight end is out, or the runner is out, whatever the case may be, you just need to figure it out and make it work. I thought Tony did a good job at that. I thought he played very well in the preseason games where he got some action. I thought he moved our team, I thought he was sharp. Certainly wasn't perfect by any means. You know he goes about it the right way; he continues to improve as a player. He comes in with that commitment every day. He, like everybody who's involved in this league, you want to win a championship, he's motivated by that just like any player or coach in this league is. What you try to do is understand that that's your goal, and put that goal in the recess of your mind, and then do what you need to do each day to move yourself towards that goal. I think Tony's done a great job at that, and we need to continue to do that as a football team and get better and better for the challenges ahead.
Q: How differently are the Giants using Martellus Bennett compared to how you did?Garrett: Martellus Bennett was our backup tight end. He was our second tight end during different parts of his career here. Jason Witten has been our tight end here, I guess he's going on his 10th year here, he's been to the Pro Bowl; he's one of the best at this position. He's been the guy taking most of the snaps, first and foremost. Martellus has been a guy that was a complimentary player for us. He was our second tight end in our two-tight end packages, and certainly in our three-tight end packages. Witten has been a very durable player, I think he's missed one game in his 10-year career, so he's a guy that we can count on, and certainly he's done a great job. Martellus is complimentary; I think we played to his strengths. We felt like he was a very good run-blocker and a very good pass-protector, and when he got opportunities in the passing game, he generally did a very good job with those as well. We really like him. You want to keep all your players, but there's a business side to the NFL, and sometimes when contracts run out, and other people are willing to pay them more money. He certainly will do a nice job for the Giants, we have a tremendous amount of respect for him going forward, and at the same time we're excited about our tight end situation as well.
Q: How has Tyron Smith looked on the left side at tackle?Garrett: Tyron has done a nice job; it's a learning process for him. Certainly any time you change positions, there's different experiences you're going to go through. For him, going from right tackle to left tackle, you're in a different stance, your sets are a little bit different, you're really coming at the game from the opposite side. He was a two-year starter at USA at right tackle, and played right tackle for us last year, so it's a little bit different for him. He's a smart guy; he cares a lot about the game and works very hard at. He's very mature beyond his years; I think he's still only 21 years old. He has a set of physical and mental toughness that defies his age. His approach is a good one, he's trying to get better every day, and he works very hard at it.
Q: How do you game plan for JPP, Tuck, and Osi? Do you do anything differently?Garrett: I think you absolutely have to game plan for those guys, and know exactly where they are on every snap. The issue with the Giants, and I think we've known this for a long time, is that they have an outstanding defensive line. They have a number of different guys that can create problems for you, both in the run game and in pass protection. We know who all those guys are, they have a lot of them. We need to make sure that we're sound up front to take care of it because as much as anything else, that group dictates the pace for their whole football team. I think their back-end on defense plays to them, certainly throughout the team, when they make the difference-making plays in the game; I think the whole team rallies around that. It'll be a great challenge for us, and we're preparing for those guys right now.
Q: How do you think Eli takes advantage of team's weaknesses, and your corners last year? Do you feel like you responded to those problems with some of the draft moves?Garrett: He's a great player. He's been a great player, whether it's a team's weaknesses, or finding the strengths of individual players. He has played with a lot of different guys throughout his career, and played at a high level. He really helped that team win. I think your point is well made, but I think he's a really good player, and good players tend to play well no matter what the circumstances are. He's certainly done that.
Q: Impact of Demarco Murray:Garrett: Demarco's been a really good player for us. He was hurt coming out of training camp last year and didn't really get going till the midway point in the season, and really had a great stretch of games there. I think he had close to 1,000 yards there, in not that many starts. That led up in the Giants game when he did get hurt, was out for the year after that. He can run inside, he can run outside, he knows how to block, he's willing to block, he can catch the ball out of the backfield. Again, he's mature beyond his years as well. He was a very productive back at Oklahoma, and has a good feel for playing the game. We certainly like to have him on our offense, and giving him some opportunities to play in the ball game and run with the football.
Q: JPP had a breakout game down in Dallas. Where would you rank him among the league's best defensive players?Garrett: Is the place over there still, Manny's in Moonachie, is that still there?
Q: It is…Garrett: Yeah, I'm going to let you guys rank him over there after you're done with me. Here's what I know, I know he's pretty darn good. He might've had a good game against us, but he had a lot of good games prior to that, and a lot of good games after that. People know who he is; he's an outstanding player against the run and against the pass. He shows up in special teams, he's just an outstanding football player for the Giants. We know how he can present challenges to the opposing offenses, and the opposing special teams units. I'm not going to rank him, I'm going to let you guys rank him when you're done with him, but I know he's pretty darn good.
Q: Have you talked to Romo about all the distractions off the field?Garrett: I think we've had a number of conversations like that, how to handle success, how to handle adversity in-house, and certainly in a public arena. The Dallas Cowboys and the NFL, it's a high profile situation. There's going to be a lot of people that like what you do, and a lot of people that don't like what you do. That's just part of it. Troy Aikman used to say, "It comes with the dinner." There are a lot of things that come with the dinner when you're playing quarterback for the Cowboys. I think what Tony needs to focus on is himself, and making himself the best quarterback he can be, and the football team. There's a lot of commentary out there that he doesn't need to focus on, none of us need to focus on it. We need to do our job as well as we can do it, and Tony understands that, and I think he's understood that for a long time.
Q: Tony is 32, 10 years in the league. Is this a make-or-break season for him?Garrett: I think it's a great opportunity for us as a football team. Starting off with the Giants on Wednesday night, to just come back and demonstrate what kind of football team we are. We've worked very hard throughout training camp. Tony's been a big part of that, and we're excited about the opportunities of this 2012 season.
Q: Does Demarco Murray bring toughness to your run game?Garrett: He's certainly that. He's a physical back. I think if you watch him at the end of runs, you see that physical nature that he plays with. He's a guy that's very good in open space, he's very good coming out of the backfield catching the football, but again at the end of runs he's a physical player, he wants to keep his pads down and he wants to finish forward. I think you see that in his running style. That's something we saw coming out of school. He's certainly demonstrated that at the NFL level. He's certainly that.
Q: Was last year a big realization of how thin the line is between being division champs and playoff/Super Bowl bound, or being done for the year?Garrett: Well, that's the nature of this league. Ultimately you have to go do it. You can talk about thin lines, or we were close, or they were close, or if we would've done this, or would've done that. That's not how it works. It's a bottom-line business. Make sure you take care of the bottom line. There are a lot of reasons and a lot of explanations about how things turn out, but the fact is you just need to go do it. That's something that we try to pride ourselves on down here in terms of talking to our players about that. You can't make excuses; you have to go get the job done. That's how you're going to be evaluated. 2011 is done, and we're excited about the opportunities here in 2012.