Many players showed up at team headquarters anyway and there was Josh Brent, the hulking defensive tackle who missed the trip after police say he was driving drunk and caused the wreck that killed practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown, his close friend and roommate.
And Brent was back with his teammates again Tuesday for a private memorial honoring Brown. Players and team officials left without talking to reporters after the hour-long service on a chilly afternoon at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, but Garrett had made it clear that Brent was still a part of the Cowboys family.
“We’re going to support Josh 100 percent in every way that we can,” Garrett said Monday, a day after the Cowboys beat the Bengals 20-19 with a field goal on the final play to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Brent arrived at the service earlier than most of the Cowboys players, team executives and staff members. He was in a van with several other people and could be seen hugging Brown’s mother before walking into the building.
Brent was one of the last to leave, too. He grew close to Brown during three seasons together at the University of Illinois, and took in Brown when the Cowboys added the 25-year-old to the roster in October.
“It’s a really, really difficult situation for him,” Garrett said. “We want to make him feel that there are people around him who can help him get through this thing day by day.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league had “no issues” with Brent being at team facilities while the manslaughter case against him works its way through the courts. Pittsburgh visits Dallas on Sunday in another game with playoff implications for both teams.
Police in suburban Irving say Brent was speeding when his vehicle struck a curb and flipped early Saturday, hours before Brent was supposed to be on the team flight to Cincinnati. Brown was taken to a Dallas hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The Dallas County medical examiner said he died after suffering blunt force trauma to his head and neck.
Officers who arrived at the accident scene found Brent pulling Brown from the wreck, according to an arrest affidavit. However, a woman who arrived moments after the accident said Brent didn’t try to save his friend’s life until she begged him.
“Jerry was alive,” Stacee McWilliams of Irving told The Dallas Morning News. “He was hurt. He was calling out, and his own friend walked away.”
McWilliams, a 40-year-old insurance company employee, said she was on her way home from her birthday party when she noticed the wreck and stopped. She told the newspaper Monday she could no longer talk about the case on the instruction of Irving police.
Brent’s attorney, George Milner, told the Associated Press that an investigating officer told him the woman’s story didn’t match the circumstances surrounding Brown’s death. Milner said he was told that Brown “wasn’t talking to anyone. He wasn’t moaning. He was dead.”
Milner said the woman also told police that Irving fire personnel weren’t at the scene — another fact that isn’t consistent with what really occurred.
“Not one person in the Irving Police Department has said one thing that is consistent” with the woman’s story, Milner said.
Police spokesman John Argumaniz declined to comment on the account, saying only that investigators are interviewing “numerous” witnesses.
A club where Brent and Brown reportedly spent at least part of Friday evening, Privae Dallas, has issued a statement saying it’s “deeply saddened by the events of the weekend” and that it’s cooperating with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and police.
“Privae Dallas is a club that offers its guests a special level of privacy and often caters to celebrities,” according to the statement, attributed to the club’s human resources manager. “The safety of our guests is very important to us, and our staff is trained to follow the regulations set forth by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.”
Comedian Shawn Wayans was at the club last Friday night, and a club promoter tweeted that a dozen unnamed Cowboys players were there ordering numerous bottles of a popular champagne. In Texas, the sale of alcohol with criminal negligence to an intoxicated person is a misdemeanor punishable with a fine of as much as $500 and up to a year in jail.
The TABC, which enforces the state’s liquor laws, also can suspend or cancel the license of an establishment found to have served an intoxicated customer.
TABC spokeswoman Carolyn Beck said the agency is investigating the accident, as it does all alcohol-related fatalities that come to its attention. She said the agency has been told the players were drinking at more than one location but she declined to be specific.