IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett didn't want to offer any specifics on what he said to his players during a 20-minute speech Wednesday morning, but I was able to piece together some of the message. Garrett had his players in full pads and he asked them to show up at Valley Ranch 45 minutes earlier than usual. Starting linebacker Keith Brooking came straight from a local hospital where his third child, Jonah Blu, was born in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
I talked to five different players and all of them were quite impressed with the way Garrett and defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni came across during their meetings with players.
"He was very passionate," defensive tackle Stephen Bowen said of Garrett. "He's played the game at this level, so he knows what we're going through. ... Everybody liked it, everybody was ready to go out and do their job. He got everybody going."
I bumped into rookie Dez Bryant on his way to lunch and asked him if anything was different Wednesday when Garrett stood in front of the team.
"Much more intense," he said before showing great acceleration toward the lunch room.
Running back Tashard Choice told me that Garrett emphasized causing more turnovers on defense and reducing them on offense. He presented some numbers to his players to drive home the point.
"The ball. The ball. The ball," he told the players during a private meeting.
Garrett stressed a faster tempo in practice and required players to jog between drills. It's something that Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and Giants coach Tom Coughlin have always encouraged. Choice said that Garrett wants to simulate game situations in practice.
Brooking was still disappointed about Phillips' firing because the two of them have spent so much time together, but he certainly understands why it happened.
"This league is about change," he said. "It's a performance-based business and if you're not getting the job done as coaches and players, someone will replace you. Our first example of accountability was [Coach Phillips].
Brooking talked about the intensity that Pasqualoni brought to his first meeting with the entire defense. But I thought Bowen had the most interesting comment about the Cowboys' new defensive coordinator.
"He's very intense, very technical," Bowen said of Garrett. "Nothing will go by the wayside with him. His intensity is something you can feel as a player."
Bowen wasn't trying to say anything negative about Phillips, but you couldn't help read between the lines. All in all, I'd say it was a pretty good day for Garrett. Of course, that could all change if the Giants blow the Cowboys off the field Sunday afternoon. But I do think Garrett has a chance to motivate these players.