Cowboys Bye-ing In

There are those — mostly fans — who hate bye weeks in the NFL schedule.

Once the season starts, the players and coaches might value a week off, but for members of the media, a bye week means an interruption in routine. For fans, a bye represents a lost weekend.

But like it or not, the Dallas Cowboys find themselves entering a bye week, and while some coaches might prefer to have a bye later in the season, so their players can heal from injuries before entering a playoff run, this actually is a good time for the Cowboys to decompress for a week.

• Injuries will be there no matter when the bye rolls around. Football is a collision sport, and whether they are bumps and bruises or more significant, injuries are part of the game. Where the timing of the bye is most beneficial in terms of injuries is in the case of star tight end Jason Witten, who has a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL), and veteran left guard Kyle Kosier, who also re-strained his MCL. Witten thinks he'll be back Oct. 10 when the Cowboys host the Tennessee Titans; Kosier is expected to sit another week or two after that.

• Of equal importance is the benefit the break will have on the team's psyche. Before Sunday's victory over the Houston Texans, the Cowboys were 0-2, and were the subjects of jokes and criticism. Nobody within the organization was ready to give up on the season, but there was no question several felt the heat. An 0-3 start would not have been insurmountable, but it would have presented a serious hurdle for the Cowboys to climb just to reach the playoffs, much less to fulfill owner Jerry Jones' fantasy of becoming the first team in NFL history to play in the Super Bowl in its own home stadium.

Had the Cowboys followed their losses to the Washington Redskins and Chicago Bears with a third straight stumble against the Texans, the bye would have been anything but beneficial, because they would have had two weeks to fret over the loss and the mistakes that led to it. They would have heard talk show hosts and fans rip their performance, and they would have spent an extra week fighting off questions from media wanting to know what's wrong.

• The fact that the Cowboys beat the Texans is not an indication that all is well in Dallas — it's not. The fact is that the Cowboys still have plenty on which they can improve, and the extra week of practice will be invaluable. The running game remains lukewarm, and there are loose ends to clean up in the secondary. Depending on the length of the injuries to Witten and Kosier, replacements may need to be found, or at least brought up to speed.

The fact is that the bye comes at an ideal time for the Cowboys. They need the extra week to iron out some kinks in their game, but by getting the victory over Houston, they can approach their extended practice with a less stressful approach. They can get to work knowing that they are talented enough to win, and that with some fine-tuning, there is plenty of time to reach the goals Jones has set, and those they have set for themselves.

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