SCHUYLER DIXON,AP Sports Writer
IRVING, Texas (AP) — Jason Garrett knew when reporters started asking five months ago that he would no longer call plays for the Dallas Cowboys.
He just couldn’t bring himself to say it until Tuesday — a week after a strong hint from owner Jerry Jones forced Bill Callahan into a sheepish admission that he was the new play-caller.
“We made that decision a long time ago,” said Garrett, who has called plays since joining the Dallas staff in 2007. “Where I made a mistake as a head coach was making sure the communication publicly happened more cleanly. It didn’t happen as cleanly as I wanted it to last week, and I take full responsibility for that.”
Garrett didn’t do his perception any favors when he flatly refused to acknowledge what had become obvious.
It gave the pundits one more chance to say Garrett was being stripped of his power by the meddlesome Jones, and therefore wasn’t on board with giving up a role he kept even after he was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach in 2010.
Garrett said last week he didn’t care about perception. He said this week he’s always been on board with what he frequently calls collaborative decisions.
“Just to say it one more time,” Garrett said after the start of a three-day mandatory minicamp at team headquarters. “Mr. Jones, Stephen (Jones) and I, we’re all on the same page and have been on the same page for months and been acting that way around this building. We just hadn’t said it out loud.”
Garrett offered something of a “trade secrets” defense for why he kept quiet for so long after the decision was made. He said he had been around coaches who never revealed their play-callers, after saying last week he just wasn’t sure it was in the team’s best interest for him to give up those sorts of details.
Jones has long said he insisted on Garrett keeping the play-calling role when he became head coach, just as Wade Phillips did with the defense before he was fired after a 1-7 start in 2010.
Then the owner engaged in something of a public debate last year with former coach Jimmy Johnson, who pointed out the virtues of a “walk-around” head coach — one who doesn’t call plays —when Garrett was being criticized for poor game management.
The Cowboys won three Super Bowls with Johnson letting others call plays, but New Orleans won the title four years ago with Sean Payton handling that duty.
“There are a handful of teams that have had the head coach be the acting offensive coordinator and calling plays,” Garrett said. “They happened to be some of the best offenses, so there was always that argument that we made, ‘Some of the best guys do it this way,’ and so we had that tug and really have had that tug for the last couple of years. We finally decided this was the best way to do it.”
During game situations Tuesday, quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson stood next to Callahan radioing plays in to backup Kyle Orton, who is getting all the first-team reps in offseason workouts while Tony Romo sits out after a procedure to remove a cyst on his back.
“I don’t think there will be a huge change from the quarterback perspective,” Romo said.
Callahan is entering his second season in Dallas and has actually carried the title of offensive coordinator since he was hired. He’s also the offensive line coach. He called plays for Oakland, and was the head coach there as well.
“We hired him because we think he’s a great football coach and has been for a long time,” said Garrett, who still plans on having a role in the offensive game plan. “He can really coach it from A to Z. He knows the details of things. He knows the big picture of things.”
Notes: Romo was among six starters to miss part of all of the first mandatory workout. DE Anthony Spencer hyperextended his left knee during offseason workouts last week and says he hopes to do more Wednesday. DE DeMarcus Ware and OG Mackenzy Bernadeau (shoulder) were limited to individual drills. OG Nate Livings (knee) and CB Morris Claiborne (migraine) were out. … The Cowboys released CB Malik James and signed DT Jeris Pendleton, a seventh-round pick by Jacksonville last year.