Cowboys back to practice after memorial service

IRVING, TEXAS (AP) - The corner locker assigned to Jerry Brown at the Dallas Cowboys facility remained untouched Wednesday.

A day after a private memorial service for Brown, the practice squad member killed in a car accident involving a teammate, his Cowboys helmet hung on a hook below a shelf with several pairs of cleats. Towels marked with his No. 53 were folded on the bench right next to a copy of the team’s itinerary from last week.

For the Cowboys, it was back to practice as they took their next steps after the tragedy and started preparations for Sunday’s home game against Pittsburgh.

“It was hard last week initially. But this week, it’s been upbeat. Guys are getting their energy back,” defensive tackle Jason Hatcher said. “I’m back to being me, making people laugh, being the guy I am. We had a good day today. Hopefully we can have another one tomorrow and the next day and get ready for the Steelers.”

The Cowboys won their game Sunday at Cincinnati, about 36 hours after Brown was the passenger in a one-car accident for which nose tackle Josh Brent, his college teammate and close friend, is facing an intoxication manslaughter charge. The car Brent was driving flipped over and Brown was later declared dead at a hospital.

Brent, who is free on bond, was placed Wednesday on the reserve/non-football illness list by the Cowboys, a move that ends his season but allows him to remain with the team.

“I think we want to be able to contact him and him being able to contact his teammates,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said from an NFL owners meeting being held at a hotel not far from Valley Ranch.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said teams are ultimately responsible for such roster moves and that in this case, “it was the right decision.”

Asked about possible NFL discipline against Brent, Goodell said the league would let the legal process move forward a little bit to get more clarity on that. The commissioner gave no timeframe on when he anticipated speaking with Brent.

“The best thing for Josh Brent and for everyone involved in this thing is that he’s a part of the Dallas Cowboys in some way, shape or form, and he feels the love that we have for him and the support that we have for him,” coach Jason Garrett said.

Fullback Lawrence Vickers, whose locker is next to Brent‘s, echoed Hatcher and Garrett that the team is there to support Brent.

“You’ve just got to be there for your brother in a time of need. This is one of those times,” Vickers said. “This is an issue that we all have to deal with, but he has to deal with it even more.”

Brent was with Brown’s family at the memorial service. Vickers said Brown’s mother, Stacey Jackson, had comforting words for the entire team.

“Stronger than any woman I ever seen in that position,” Vickers said. “For us seeing her strength, her strength was more like, `Hey, y’all focus on what you have to do, Jerry’s in a better place.’”

The Cowboys (7-6) are a game behind the NFC East-leading New York Giants with three games to play. They play Pittsburgh and New Orleans at home before ending the season at Washington, which is tied with them for second place.

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