By Matthew Postins
After a heart-wrenching weekend of loss and tragedy and an emotional victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett gave his players Monday off to give them an opportunity to clear their heads and process the death of practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown.
Garrett said the Cowboys would have a memorial service for Brown on Tuesday. Brown died early Saturday morning in a single-car accident. Teammate Josh Brent was the driver of the vehicle and has been charged with intoxicated manslaughter. Brent is out on bond and was at the Cowboys practice facility for treatment and to meet with Garrett, who described Brent as “distraught.”
It’s unclear if Brent will attend the memorial service.
Garrett said it was imperative to give his players a day off after their 20-19 win over Cincinnati. Garrett called it the most emotional game he’s ever been a part of. The Cowboys had Brown’s jersey on the sideline near where the defense usually huddles when the offense is on the field.
“Players are really close, teammates are really close,” Garrett said. “This was an emotional two days for everybody. Our players did an amazing job of processing what was going on and somehow channeling their emotions to play in a football game. They needed a rest. They needed a break.”
Players came into the Valley Ranch facility for treatment, film work and workouts as they wished.
Garrett would not get into details about the memorial service, but said that players, coaches, front office members and Brown’s parents would attend.
Garrett said the Cowboys had both its player development staff and members of the NFL’s player development staff in Cincinnati over the weekend to help the Cowboys deal with Brown’s death.
“There’s no playbook, there’s no roadmap, there’s no script for how to deal with a situation like this,” Garrett said.
Brown and Brent were teammates at the University of Illinois. The Cowboys signed Brown on Oct. 24 to the practice squad and Brown and Brent were roommates in Dallas.
Brown had only been with the team for six weeks when he died, but Garrett admitted Brown had made an impression on players and coaches alike.
“He was a special guy,” Garrett said. “Every time I saw the guy he beat me to the punch and said, ‘How are you doing coach?’ The pictures they’ve shown depict him well — bright eyed with a great smile and passionate about football. That’s what we liked about him. He loved to compete and reported for every play. Those are the guys you love. The number of times I wrote in my notes ‘Jerry Brown! Get this guy a chance. Give him an opportunity.’ We felt he had a great future. If you ask our players they’ll say the same thing.”
Brent, for the time being, will remain on the Cowboys’ active roster.
“What we want to do as an organization, players and coaches is let him know he should feel supported everywhere he turns,” Garrett said. “That’s what we want to express to him. It’s a very challenging situation for him. He and Jerry were best friends. They were very close in college and here. It’s a very difficult situation for him. We want him to feel there are people that can help him get through this day by day.”
Garrett revealed more of what happened on Saturday when the team learned of Brown’s death. Garrett informed the team on the plane before it took off for Cincinnati at 1:15 p.m. Central Time. But it was clear to players and coaches that something wasn’t right Saturday morning when Brown and Brent did not show up at the practice facility as scheduled. The players knew that Brown and Brent did not show up as planned, and while some members of the organization knew what had happened, they could not tell the players until Brown’s mother had been notified of his death.
“That was very challenging from the outset,” Garrett said. “We tried to handle that as delicately as we could. Once his mom found out we were able to tell our team on the airplane. It’s been challenging from minute one on how to handle it, how to grieve, how to move forward and it will continue to be that way.”