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Training camp is a really important time for players to get comfortable in a system, establish a rhythm with one another and get in top-tier shape. That doesn’t mean that preseason games are overly important, though.
Every year, we see the same basic process when it comes to preseason playing time for the majority of starters—a drive in the first game, a quarter in the second game, three quarters in the third game and then off in the fourth game.
I think even that is too much for established players. We know what Tony Romo can do. We know what Jason Witten can do. We know what Tyron Smith can do. It’s not like they’re unfamiliar with game speed or can’t get into shape without playing a few quarters in the preseason. That stuff can be simulated in practice.
If there is a small benefit provided by participating in preseason games, it’s wiped away by the injury risks. The Cowboys aren’t in a position to have anyone get hurt before the season begins, so they need to be extremely cautious with how they distribute playing time. They obviously can’t prevent all injuries, but they can minimize the exposure to them for their top players.