OXNARD, Calif. – The Dallas Cowboys' offensive players walked off the field when practice ended Monday, a clear indication they received the message coaches sent the day before.
The whole crew "stayed after school," as team owner Jerry Jones put it, because of a sloppy workout Sunday.
Receiver Patrick Crayton said the challenge will be keeping it up.
"We have to be crisp like this every day," he said. "Yesterday, the defense pretty much just kicked (us around). I think today we executed, we were polished a little bit, the balls were on the money, the blocks were good, the catches were good, the runs were good. It was just, all together, collectively as a unit, we were in sync. The execution was there all the way around."
Tony Romo was sick Monday, although not as much as he had been Sunday. Jones praised his quarterback for being out there anyway and coach Wade Phillips said, "No excuses, but obviously it affected the way he played yesterday."
Offensive worries have been a constant the past few weeks — from the ankle injury that's sidelined Dez Bryant to right tackle Marc Colombo needing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Monday, from the offense failing to score a touchdown in the first two preseason games to the line allowing 11 sacks in those games.
So when the offense got sloppy Sunday, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett reached his breaking point.
"We needed a little wake-up call, get your tails in gear and let's go," Crayton said. "We can't have another day like we did yesterday. And we didn't."
Phillips said off days are bound to happen. The bothersome part was that players let it keep deteriorating.
"You need to pick it up when you're having a bad day," he said. "That's the thing. ... They got the message."
Because the Cowboys played in the Hall of Fame game, they started training camp earlier than other teams. Could fatigue be part of the problem?
"Everything is a mental thing right now," Crayton said. "Physically, you're body is beat up. So, really, you've got to keep telling your body, 'Push it, push it, push it, let's go.' When you get tired, that's when you really determine how mentally focused you can stay."
Jones said he's not overly concerned. Tight end Jason Witten noted that the starters have only played 32 snaps.
"I'm not overly frustrated or concerned," receiver Miles Austin said. "But it's not my job to be concerned. My job is to go out there and play. I'm sure we're going to correct it. We've got to work on a lot of things. We're not where we want to be yet, but there's enough time to get there."
That also seems to be the approach with Bryant's return.
Jones had been hoping to use the budding talent in two preseason games, but now it sounds like they are leaning toward one — or maybe none.
"The question is, are we at a position with his ankle to get the gain out of letting him play as opposed to the gain out of keeping him off of it another 10 days till the opener and what we would gain there," Jones said. "If he were a veteran like Michael Irvin, you would probably keep him off til the opener. It's the rookie factor. You'd like to see him get in. He's obviously dying to get in, but that's the decision right there: How smart is this?"
Another risk-reward issue is how much Romo will play Saturday since he'll be missing his usual right tackle. Phillips said that probably won't be much of a factor in the decision.
"We may change protections, keep a tight end in," he said. "There a lot of things we can do game plan-wise."