Rookie tackle Tyron Smith is questionable for the season opener with a hyperextended knee. He did not practice on Thursday and is considered day to day.
If he can't go, the Cowboys will start Jeremy Parnell at tackle, a former basketball player who has never played an NFL game.
The Cowboys are holding out hope that Smith will be ready for Sunday. They said they like his toughness and mental approach and believe he will work to be ready.
"One of the things we liked about him coming out is he's a tough guy," coach Jason Garrett said. "He works hard. He's a physical player. He has mental toughness and physical toughness. He's somebody who has handled situations like this in the past and that was one of the things that was attractive to us about him and we expect him to continue approaching things that way."
Tight end Jason Witten agreed.
"I think we're all hopeful," Witten said. "Obviously, there are a lot of challenges for rookies, especially at tackle and on the line, throughout the course of the season, but the guy just comes to work every day, keeps his mouth shut and works hard. He's a tough kid. He fights through it every day. I'm hopeful, but if not we can't have a pity party. We've got to have someone step in. That's what we talk about all along is that what the good teams do; they have guys step up. But he's shown all the signs that he's a tough guy. That doesn't get questioned whether he plays or not. Obviously we're a lot better with him in there."
—If you remember the situation the Atlanta Falcons found themselves in their matchup against the New Orleans Saints a few years ago in the first game back at the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina then you understand what the Cowboys will be facing in New York on Sunday.
They find themselves as the opponent against the Jets in the season opener, which is also the game the NFL picked to remember the tragic victims on the 10-year anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
Jets coach Rex Ryan said he feels motivated to win this more than any in his career because of it what it means to the fans and city of New York.
"I certainly feel it," Ryan said. "Being in New York with the World Trade Center and all that, it was 2,253 perished. Obviously it is not going to bring people back winning this game. But I feel we were chosen for this game to play in our stadium on this anniversary of this tragic event. I think it's a way to bring people together and we think the New York Jets would want to put smiles on the faces of our fans and our community. That is what we plan on doing."
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is trying to counter that mentality by letting his team know that they should be proud to be playing in the game and it means as much to them as it does the Jets because 9-11 was a national tragedy not a regional one.
"I don't think in any way it was a regional event." Garrett said. "It was an international event. Obviously, it was like none other in our planet's history, let alone our country's history. I certainly feel like the responsibility that we have as members of the Dallas Cowboys to be at our best is no less than the responsibility that the Jets feel to be at their best. And it's a responsibility that we have every week, but certainly there's going to be heightened emotions with this event, so we're going to try to calm our emotions to allow us to play and coach our best and represent ourselves as well as we can as a football team. But I don't think it's a regional issue. I think it's a national and international issue."
Owner Jerry Jones said he has much respect for the citizens of New York but he's actually honored that his team, America's Team, has been chosen to play in the game.
"I have personally the most sensitivity I can have regarding the citizens of New York," Jones said. "We all know 9-11 was an affront to our nation. It was basically recognized that way throughout the nation and that was in support not only of the victims in New York and the fact the tragedy was right there underneath their nose but it was recognized the country did support the country in the time of need. I feel very much a part of a recognition of 9-11 for our team and our fans to be there with the Jets recognizing that."
Still there's no question that not only will New Yorkers but likely the entire national watching on national television be rooting for the Jets and against the Cowboys Sunday night.
Defensive end Marcus Spears, an LSU alumnus, remembers the Saints-Falcons game well. He said the Cowboys will be in a similar situation and it's important for them to keep their focus and play their best.
"Everybody is going to be rooting for New York ," Spears said. "It's New York 's day. But our motivation is to win. We just go play the game. The team that plays the best is going to win."
SERIES HISTORY: 10th regular-season meeting. Cowboys lead series, 7-2. Dallas won the last meeting in New York, 34-3 in 2007. Dallas has won the last two meetings and three of the last four.