Dez Bryant didn't even show up when the locker room was open to reporters Monday, far from unexpected when he knew the primary topic would be his huge catch that could have set up a late touchdown getting reversed on replay in a 26-21 defeat. Not to mention whether he'll be back.
The dominant question of the offseason — along with how soon coach Jason Garrett gets a new contract — will be the status of the NFL rushing leader in Murray and the league's top producer of receiving touchdowns in Bryant.
Both are free agents, and both would take a big chunk of a salary cap that's still a little tight for the Cowboys even after dumping franchise sacks leader DeMarcus Ware last year.
"I'm not worried about my future," Murray said shortly after offering a terse "I don't know" to the question of whether he would be back. "I just lost a big game, the biggest game of my life. Just not worried about it right now. Just relax with my family and get away from it for a little bit."
Bryant won't be able to get away from questions about the catch that wasn't for a long time, maybe until he gets past the divisional round, if that ever happens. It was a play of such magnitude, even defensive players were getting questions about whether it was a catch, and whether the rule should change.
Of course the Cowboys are going to say it was a catch, but several were quick to add that there were other opportunities to get the storied franchise to an NFC championship game for the first time in 19 years. The longest previous gap between conference title games was nine years.
"I looked at it over and over," defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. "It was definitely frustrating. But it shouldn't have even came down to one play. We missed some key tackles and that's what hurt us."
A season that began with owner Jerry Jones tamping down expectations by telling thousands of fans at a kickoff luncheon that his team faced an "uphill battle" ended with the first playoff berth — and postseason victory — since 2009.
"It didn't matter what anyone else had to say outside of these walls," said cornerback Brandon Carr, who didn't have an interception for the first time in his career and could be asked to take a pay cut if he wants to return.
"It was motivating, entertaining at times. We had a mission and task at hand. Although it was a good season, we still feel like we had much more to prove. We weren't done with our journey."
Jones may have a hard time keeping play-caller Scott Linehan, a catalyst for Murray's huge season, and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. The former Detroit coach made the Cowboys competitive with several bargain-basement pieces, and Dallas was much better than the league's worst defense from a year ago.
"We have a special thing going with all the pieces that are in this building right now," Carr said. "We have something special brewing and the chemistry's definitely coming around and you can see it on the field."
Tony Romo was still standing at the end of a season that started with the 34-year-old quarterback coming off back surgery. He missed a game with another back injury, and played through a left knee injury in the loss to the Packers.
Bryant is likely to rejoin Romo because the Cowboys can use the franchise tag on him at least once if they can't agree on a long-term deal. If Murray returns as well, Romo will also have trusty tight end Jason Witten and a young offensive line considered one of the best in the league.
"You just don't know how many opportunities like this will come around," Romo said after the game. "That is the hardest part. You just don't know. You know everything you had to do to get to this point and now you have to do it again."
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