Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

December 13, 2012

Following memorial service, Cowboys return to practice

IRVING, Texas — The corner locker assigned to Jerry Brown at the Dallas Cowboys facility remained untouched Wednesday.

A day after a private memorial service for Brown, the practice squad member killed in a car accident involving a teammate, his Cowboys helmet hung on a hook below a shelf with several pairs of cleats. Towels marked with his No. 53 were folded on the bench right next to a copy of the team's itinerary from last week.

For the Cowboys, it was back to practice as they took their next steps after the tragedy and started preparations for Sunday's home game against Pittsburgh.

"It was hard last week initially. But this week, it's been upbeat. Guys are getting their energy back," defensive tackle Jason Hatcher said. "I'm back to being me, making people laugh, being the guy I am. We had a good day today. Hopefully we can have another one tomorrow and the next day and get ready for the Steelers."

The Cowboys won their game Sunday at Cincinnati, about 36 hours after Brown was the passenger in a one-car accident for which nose tackle Josh Brent, his college teammate and close friend, is facing an intoxication manslaughter charge. The car Brent was driving flipped over and Brown was later declared dead at a hospital.

Brent, who is free on bond, was placed Wednesday on the reserve/non-football illness list by the Cowboys, a move that ends his season but allows him to remain with the team.

"I think we want to be able to contact him and him being able to contact his teammates," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said from an NFL owners meeting being held at a hotel not far from Valley Ranch.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said teams are ultimately responsible for such roster moves and that in this case, "it was the right decision."

Asked about possible NFL discipline against Brent, Goodell said the league would let the legal process move forward a little bit to get more clarity on that. The commissioner gave no timeframe on when he anticipated speaking with Brent.

"The best thing for Josh Brent and for everyone involved in this thing is that he's a part of the Dallas Cowboys in some way, shape or form, and he feels the love that we have for him and the support that we have for him," coach Jason Garrett said.

Fullback Lawrence Vickers, whose locker is next to Brent's, echoed Hatcher and Garrett that the team is there to support Brent.

"You've just got to be there for your brother in a time of need. This is one of those times," Vickers said. "This is an issue that we all have to deal with, but he has to deal with it even more."

Brent was with Brown's family at the memorial service. Vickers said Brown's mother, Stacey Jackson, had comforting words for the entire team.

"Stronger than any woman I ever seen in that position," Vickers said. "For us seeing her strength, her strength was more like, `Hey, y'all focus on what you have to do, Jerry's in a better place.'"

The Cowboys (7-6) are a game behind the NFC East-leading New York Giants with three games to play. They play Pittsburgh and New Orleans at home before ending the season at Washington, which is tied with them for second place.

Garrett said there were still discussions about whether the team would honor Brown's memory with any kind of patch or decal on their uniforms.

While the Cowboys aren't revealing details of Tuesday's memorial, Garrett said the service "was incredible on so many different levels." He said it contributed to helping everybody heal and move forward.

"There was a lot of love in that room, there's no question about that," Garrett said. "A lot of love for Jerry and his family, a lot of love for Josh Brent."

Garrett said he spoke with Brown's mother after the game and got a chance to visit her before the memorial. He called her a "rock for everybody" and described as remarkable the strength that she has demonstrated, her ability to understand and having peace in the situation so quickly.

Most of the players learned of the fatal accident after boarding the team flight Saturday afternoon before taking off for Cincinnati. They won the game Sunday, then got a day off before the memorial service.

Now they have to refocus for the rest of the season.

"The whole situation has been very challenging for all of us right from the start," Garrett said. "The big thing that we have to do is we have to balance remembering Jerry and honoring him, supporting Josh in every way that we can, and also getting back to living our lives, as individuals, as players, as coaches, as a football team, and getting back to work. They aren't two separate things. I believe you can do both."

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