It’s been four seasons since the Cowboys made the playoffs.
In Jason Garrett’s first three seasons as coach, the team has finished 8-8, missing the playoffs after losing in the regular-season finale.
Injuries have played a part in some of those losses.
The year before, the Cowboys didn’t have Lee, and Dez Bryant suffered a back injury in the loss at Washington.
Would things have been different if the Cowboys were healthy, at least with some of their key players available?
“You have to be careful when you talk about injuries to make it not feel like excuses,” Garrett said. “Injuries are a part of the game. There are no excuses. They have been a factor on our football team. But they have been a factor for a lot of teams.”
Lee missed the regular-season finale with ligament damage in his neck, Romo underwent back surgery, then there was starting linebacker Justin Durant out with a hamstring injury. Starting guard Brian Waters was also missing with a torn triceps. Miles Austin, the starting wide receiver, was available for the regular-season finale, but he battled hamstring issues for the bulk of the season.
Nickel corner Morris Claiborne was coming back from a hamstring injury. The Cowboys were a mess physically in the late stages of the season.
It’s something that can’t happen again in 2014.
“We just got to make sure we do everything we can as organization, as a coaching staff as players on our team to minimize the injuries to the best of our abilities going forward,” Garrett said. “It is better to have your starting players in: That’s why they are starters. Throughout the season and certainly at the end of the season when you are playing some of these big games that determine whether or not you make the playoffs.”