Brandon Carr hoists a heavy heart

CINCINNATI -- As Brandon Carr left Saturday's burial service for his friend Kasandra Perkins, he saw he had missed several calls from one of his Dallas Cowboys teammates.

Sensing something was wrong, Carr immediately got in touch with injured safety Barry Church, who passed on the horrible news the rest of their teammates had heard just before the Cowboys' plane took off for Cincinnati.

Jerry Brown, a 25-year-old outside linebacker on the Cowboys' practice squad, died early Saturday morning in a single-vehicle accident. Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent, who was driving with his best friend Brown in the passenger seat, was in jail on a second-degree felony charge of intoxication manslaughter.

"I wasn't ready for that," a somber Carr said after Sunday's 20-19 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. "I wasn't expecting it. I didn't believe it, so I called him back again and said, 'What did you just say to me?'"

Less than 24 hours after his conversation with Church, Carr might have played his best game as a Cowboys cornerback, making an interception and long return that set up a touchdown, and helping hold Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green to three catches for 44 yards.

It was certainly Carr's most impressive performance, considering the tragic circumstances.

The spiritual Carr spoke after the victory about realizing how precious life is and living it to the fullest. He hoped his performance might play a small role in the healing process of so many people he knows and others who have been affected by the awful events of the past two weekends.

"That interception was for a lot of heavy hearts, including mine," Carr said. "It's for everybody who's grieving right now."

Carr had close ties to the tragedy that rocked the NFL last weekend. He was teammates for three seasons with Jovan Belcher, the Kansas City Chiefs linebacker who killed Perkins, his infant daughter's mother, before committing suicide at the team's facility. Carr also was good friends with Perkins, who visited Carr and his fiancee at their Dallas home less than two weeks ago.

And Carr, like the rest of the Cowboys, was shocked and saddened by news of the accident that left one teammate dead and another guilt-ridden and facing a significant prison sentence.

"It was a hard day for Brandon, a real hard day," said Jerry Jones, who saw Carr's emotions flow as they flew on the Cowboys owner's private jet to Cincinnati on Saturday evening.

"I'm like, man, how much can you take?" Carr said. "At the same time, God always says that he won't put more on you than you can bear."

Once Carr arrived at the team hotel about 9 p.m., his focus shifted to being there for the teammates who had supported him so strongly during his difficult week. He then got about six hours of sleep, the most he had in several nights.

It was his loyalty to his teammates that inspired Carr on Sunday morning, when he somehow managed to focus well enough to play a major role in a win that was critical to the Cowboys' playoff hopes.

"When I walk in here, I see all my brothers," Carr said. "I don't want to let them down. If I can just channel all of my thoughts, all of my energy for three hours into this game, just to make it through this game and give the best performance that I can, whatever happens at the end of the game, there's life to live after that.

"That's what I try to do. That's how I try to hold it together."

Carr has had his share of struggles in his first season with the Cowboys, but his performance Sunday further convinced the Dallas decision-makers that he's worth the five-year, $50.1 million investment.

This was about much more than an interception, a 37-yard return, good coverage and solid run support. Carr's character was on full display.

"He is a special guy. He really is," coach Jason Garrett said. "That is one of the reasons -- besides his ability as a player -- we thought [it] was important to sign him in free agency. We really like him a lot as a person.

"He is the right kind of guy to build your team around."