Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips insisted there are no rifts in his locker room, Jerry Jones dismissed rumors of inner turmoil, and Roy Williams wore a Santa hat, but hardly sounded merry.
Before a pivotal game tomorrow night against the NFC-leading New York Giants, the Cowboys fended off questions about divisive secret meetings, an unhappy Terrell Owens and cornerback Terence Newman's frank comments about accountability.
"I am not worried about a divided locker room," Phillips said.
ESPN, citing anonymous sources, reported that quarterback Tony Romo and tight end Jason Witten sketched out plays in private meetings. The Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram also reported, again using unnamed sources, that the Cowboys receivers felt Romo favored Witten in games and practices.
In last week's loss to the Steelers, Romo targeted Witten on his last of three interceptions. He also threw incomplete to Witten on fourth down in what was the last gasp for Dallas.
Owens didn't speak to reporters in the locker room yesterday.
Phillips dismissed the reports as non-issues and inventions of the media.
"Everything is set straight as far as I'm concerned," he said. "I think the players, too. We'll see."
Witten leads the Cowboys with 64 catches. Owens is second with 55 receptions and has nine touchdowns, the most on the team.
Jones said he visited with Owens at practice Thursday, but the Cowboys owner said he never discussed with his star player whether he was concerned about Romo's relationship with Witten.
In yet another issue, Newman told ESPN that coaches need to be accountable for their mistakes as much as the players, though he didn't cite any specific examples.
He later told reporters in the locker room he said those remarks publicly in hopes those in the organization would hear his comments and adhere to them.
"The players for the most part are always saying, 'Hey, that's my bad,' " Newman said. "I think we just need to own up when we don't do something we're expected [to do]. That's for everybody."
* Giants halfback Brandon Jacobs will miss the game against Dallas with a knee injury, so second-year pro Danny Ware, who has never carried the ball in a regular-season game, will suit up.
* Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia (calf) is questionable for tomorrow's game at Atlanta.
* Redskins right tackle Jon Jansen (sprained knee) and rookie safety Chris Horton (shoulder) are doubtful for tomorrow's game against Cincinnati.
* Former NFL player Brandon Mitchell remained in jail in Louisiana on drug charges, following an arrest Wednesday after a 2-year narcotics investigation.
* Titans starting defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch won't play in tomorrow's game at Houston because of a groin injury.
* The Bears signed linebacker Gilbert Gardner and placed running back and special-teams player Garrett Wolfe on injured reserve with a pulled hamstring.
* Colts linebacker Gary Brackett will miss his second straight game tomorrow against Detroit with a cracked bone in his lower right leg. Linebacker Tyjuan Hagler will miss the game with a knee injury and running back Joseph Addai (shoulder) is questionable.
* Jets wide receiver Brad Smith is doubtful for New York's game against Buffalo tomorrow because of a concussion.
* Seahawks star tackle Walter Jones will miss Seattle's final three games following microfracture surgery in his knee. *