Dallas coach Wade Phillips insisted there are no rifts in his locker room, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones dismissed rumors of inner turmoil, and Roy Williams wore a Santa hat but hardly sounded merry.
This is how the Dallas Cowboys made their case yesterday that everything is just fine at Valley Ranch.
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.
It began with individual meetings Owens, Williams, and wide receiver Patrick Crayton had with Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett this week. The Cowboys characterized the meetings as normal, but the timing hinted at frustrations over their roles.
That followed a report by ESPN, citing anonymous sources, 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.
Deluged with questions about whether the Cowboys (8-5) are trying to mend divides at a crucial point in the season, Phillips dismissed the reports as non-issues and inventions of the media.
Jacobs out for Giants.
Giants running back Brandon Jacobs is going to miss the game against Dallas with a knee injury suffered against the Eagles on Sunday. He has team highs of 1,002 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns.
Tennessee Titans center Kevin Mawae was fined $5,000 by the NFL for his hit on Cleveland's Kamerion Wimbley in Sunday's victory.
Mawae was penalized for unnecessary roughness on the hit and plans to appeal.
Also, Browns wide receiver Donté Stallworth was fined $5,000, also for unnecessary roughness, on an interception when he speared an opponent with his helmet.
Oakland defensive lineman Tommy Kelly was the third AFC player fined $5,000 for unnecessary roughness for a late shove of an opponent in a loss at San Diego.
Detroit fullback Moran Norris and Minnesota linebacker Napoleon Harris were fined $5,000 each for the same issue when they struck each other in the head in the Vikings' win. Norris was ejected.
Two players were hit with $10,000 fines for prohibited celebrations. Arizona defensive tackle Darnell Dockett went to the ground in a celebration against St. Louis. New England tight end Benjamin Watson was cited for unsportsmanlike conduct for his celebration after a Patriots touchdown when he used the football as a prop.
Seattle star tackle Walter Jones will miss the Seahawks' final three games following microfracture surgery in his knee.
Coach Mike Holmgren said quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, resting a bulging disk in his back, and outside linebacker Leroy Hill, who has a pinched nerve in his neck, are also out for tomorrow's game at St. Louis.
New England quarterback Matt Cassel practiced for a second straight day following the death of his father earlier this week. But the Patriots declined to say whether he'll play against Oakland tomorrow.
Cassel briefly left the team on Wednesday after his father, Greg, died Monday night in the Los Angeles area. Cassel was notified of his father's passing on Tuesday, but stayed with the team before flying to Southern California to be with his family.
New England (8-5) is in a three-way tie with Miami and the Jets for the AFC East lead with three games to go.
Bears kicker Robbie Gould shook off New Orelans' attempt to ice him with a timeout in overtime Thursday night and booted the Saints out of Soldier Field with another devastating loss.