IRVING, Texas (AP) -Stacked boxes waiting to be unpacked from training camp crammed the Dallas Cowboys' locker room and the adjoining hallways. Players wandered in after finally getting a day off at home.
``Man, it looks so good. We're so happy to be back,'' Bradie James said with a smile amid the clutter Monday. ``I slept in my own bed. I'm all refreshed and feeling good. A lot of guys, we didn't even talk to each other (Sunday). I got tired of seeing everybody.''
After three weeks of training camp workouts in California and Denver with only one day off, and two preseason losses, the Cowboys are back home. And they have three more weeks to get things together before the start of a regular season already hyped with super expectations.
While there is no panic setting in after two penalty-plagued and mistake-filled preseason losses, there is a sense that the starters need to play more. Especially defenders who aren't allowed to tackle in practice.
``We need more playing time to come together as a team,'' coach Wade Phillips said. ``You have to play some to tackle better and so we'll play more this week with our starters. The same offensively to get timing, especially in the passing game.''
Expect that Friday night in the home preseason opener against the Houston Texans. The Cowboys' starters will play into the second half, maybe into the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys lost 23-13 at Denver on Saturday night, when they were penalized nine times for 78 yards.
``After looking at the tape, we made too many mental mistakes, offensively and defensively both,'' Phillips said. ``It's not acceptable. We have to clean that up.''
That came a week after their 31-17 loss at San Diego, when Tony Romo led Dallas to a touchdown on his only drive before the Chargers scored 24 consecutive points.
``It's a gradual process and we have to embrace the process, win when it's time to win,'' James said. ``But we have got to come together definitely by the end of the preseason, that's our biggest goal. And be hitting on all cylinders at the beginning of the regular season.''
Dallas will begin the regular season without Miles Austin, who sprained his right knee on the ensuing kickoff after catching a touchdown pass against the Broncos. Phillips said Austin, a contender for the No. 3 receiver spot behind Terrell Owens and Patrick Crayton, could be out up to six weeks.
But the Cowboys could have Pro Bowl cornerback Terence Newman (groin) and nickel linebacker Kevin Burnett (left knee) back for the Sept. 7 opener at Cleveland.
Phillips said Newman, who got hurt three weeks ago, has been ``progressing well'' and is expected to practice some this week. Burnett's arthroscopic surgery Friday went well and the Cowboys are counting on him to play in the opener.
The Cowboys didn't practice Monday, and instead had only meetings. It's the first time they've had consecutive days off from the field since reporting to training camp in California on July 24.
Getting that break and being home should be a boost.
``Even in preseason, you get back in a routine and back to familiar things. ... Now we'll be more settled,'' Phillips said.
``Three weeks from the house, I think anybody is tired of being on the road,'' Crayton said. ``You're never on a set schedule. You go by what's on a piece of paper and what's on the dry-erase board for three weeks.''

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