IRVING, Texas (AP) Jason Garrett won't discipline defensive end Greg Hardy over a physical confrontation with one of his assistants, and the Dallas coach brushes off suggestions he faces his biggest leadership challenge in five years at the helm.
As for the whirlwind of criticism over Hardy's shoving match with special teams coach Rich Bisaccia on the sideline after New York's decisive kickoff return for a touchdown, Garrett was unmoved Monday.
''It was not a big deal from anybody inside our football team and inside this building,'' Garrett said.
The Cowboys (2-4) have their first four-game losing streak under Garrett - all without offensive stars Tony Romo and Dez Bryant - and have to face defending NFC champion Seattle on Sunday.
For the third time in five months, Garrett acknowledged having to address a misstep by Hardy, who just played his second game after a four-game suspension for his role in a domestic violence case.
The latest incident came after former Dallas return man Dwayne Harris took a kickoff back 100 yards in the fourth quarter for the winning points in the Giants' 27-20 victory Sunday.
With Bisaccia getting his players ready for the next kickoff, Hardy barged into the huddle and took a swipe at the coach's clipboard. Hardy left only after Bisaccia pushed him away with both hands and other players pulled him to the sideline, where he had an animated conversation with the equally volatile Bryant, who hasn't played since the opener because of a broken right foot.
''Greg and I talked about how you can channel that better,'' Garrett said. ''What he was trying to do was encourage the guys who were going out on special teams.''
During the draft last spring, Garrett said he spoke to Hardy after an inappropriate tweet about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They had another chat two weeks ago after Hardy made insensitive remarks about Tom Brady's wife before his Dallas debut against New England.
But the coach talked around the question of whether he can get conformity out of Hardy, who has three sacks in two games.
''We talk to players every day about how they play, about how they think, about how they act,'' Garrett said. ''And that's part of our job as coaches. Oftentimes that's the best part of our job - to help shape that behavior, both on and off the field.''
Romo will miss at least three more games with a broken left collarbone, but there's a chance the Cowboys will get Bryant back against the Seahawks (3-4).
The defending NFC East champions probably need two wins in the next three weeks. And while the Cowboys dominated New York statistically, they lost because of three interceptions by Matt Cassel in his first start, and a muffed punt by Cole Beasley that ruined a shot at a tying score in the final minute.
Garrett is on his second quarterback trying to get a win without Romo after Brandon Weeden lost all three of his starts. And he has a team finding ways to lose, much to the frustration of an emotional and polarizing player in Hardy.
But Garrett is preaching the same message he conveys with his stoic sideline demeanor, even though he's been stuck for more than a month just a win shy of matching two-time Super Bowl winner Jimmy Johnson for the second-most victories in franchise history at 44.
''We're in the circumstances that we're in, and we're going to keep grinding away,'' he said. ''We're going to evaluate the game. We're going to build on the stuff that was good. We're going to clean up the stuff that wasn't good. We're going to get back to work tomorrow.''
And he has the backing of the front office on his view of Hardy's tirade - from owner and general manager Jerry Jones after the game to executive vice president of personnel Stephen Jones on his radio show Tuesday.
''Zero,'' Stephen Jones said when asked if Hardy's personality was an issue. ''Got a lot respect from his teammates, and he's a very competitive guy, obviously wants to win. Frustrations can flow. We've had great football players throughout our ownership that can get fiery on the sidelines.''
Winning a game without Romo would be the biggest step in moving on.
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