--Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was disappointed with his team's finish in 2011. But he said he knew there would be growing pains this season because of all the changes the Cowboys made in the offseason, making this more of a rebuilding year.
The Cowboys parted ways with five veteran offensive players -- right tackle Marc Colombo, running back Marion Barber, center Andre Gurode, right guard Leonard Davis and receiver Roy Williams -- and welcoming a new defensive coordinator in Rob Ryan.
Garrett said the Cowboys may have been better this season if they hadn't made all the moves but they were best for the long-term future of the organization.
"We said it right from the outset: We made some decisions in our organization where we moved on from some older players that probably would have given us maybe a better chance to win right now, because we wanted to take it in a different direction," Garrett said. "We did that for a lot of different reasons. We understood that. You heard me stand at this podium and say, 'There are going to be some growing pains with Tyron Smith, with some other (young) guys.' That's a part of the league. That's happening in 32 cities around this league. I'm not saying that's specific to us, but you just have to understand that situation. You make those moves, and you move forward."
--Tony Romo, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Terence Newman and Bradie James have been considering the franchise building blocks for the Cowboys over the last several years. Those players represented the core leaders on the team.
But as the Cowboys have continued to fail in the clutch and those players have gotten older, a changing of the guard is afoot. Newman and James are not expected back.
"When you think about some of the younger guys we've added to our program in the last couple of years we do believe there's another level coming," Garrett said. "You think about Sean Lee, you think about Dez Bryant, you add Tyron Smith, DeMarco Murray and some of these guys that we drafted, they can be the cornerstones of our team as we go forward. To add those to the more veteran guys that we mentioned who are really some of the elite players in the league, we feel like there is a foundation that's been developed throughout our team.
"But you have to get better throughout your team. You always have to create competition to make the bottom of your roster better at every position. You create competition. Whether it's creating competition to make those individual guys better or just to allow the new guy to come in and step into his place hopefully in the end that's going to make your overall team better."
--In addition to games against the other teams in the NFC East, the Cowboys will play New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburgh at home and Atlanta, Carolina, Seattle, Baltimore and Cincinnati on the road.
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