Time marches on for Romo, Witten

OXNARD, Calif. -- The Dallas Cowboys players and coaches have had an offseason of not seeing DeMarcus Ware, Miles Austin and Jason Hatcher, but the beginning of training camp, when football becomes real, finalizes the separation.

The Cowboys cut Ware and he quickly signed with the Denver Broncos. The Cowboys cut Austin, and he eventually signed with the Cleveland Browns. The Cowboys did not make an attempt to keep Hatcher, who signed with the Washington Redskins after a career-high 11 sacks in 2013.

Coach Jason Garrett thanked them for their service when he was asked if it was strange to not see three players with a combined 25 years of service to the club, as well as a combined 10 Pro Bowl appearances.

“But that’s the nature of our league, and they’re in other places right now,” Garrett said. “We’re focused on the 90 guys who are here, and we’re excited about the group that we have.”

Garrett did not mean to sound cold. It is just how the NFL operates. For players such as Tony Romo and Jason Witten, the longest-tenured Cowboys, it is a little different. They become used to the changing faces in the locker room, but there is a certain sentiment when you lose long-time teammates.

Romo recalled Bill Parcells pulling him to the side and telling him there will come a time in his career where he will look around and effectively say, ‘Who are these guys?’

DeMarcus Lawrence was 11 years old when Romo and Witten broke in with the Cowboys in 2003.

“It’s funny you never really look back at what you did or any of the stuff you’ve done semi-successfully or this over here and what you did good,” Romo said. “As an athlete you always look to the next play, next season, the next game, but along the way you develop some friendships and camaraderie and special times with different individuals. So that’s probably one of the tougher things about playing is just how all of a sudden every few years there’s that changeover that takes place and after 10 or 12 years they’re all gone except Jason Witten.

“I think you miss some of those guys … I’m excited about a lot of the new guys. At the same time you eat with different people now. You might go talk after practice and it’s new people. You just remember all the times you had with a lot of great people.”