Cowboys players, staff come together for charity event

GRAPEVINE, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys players and their coaches were back together for one night.

The team held its seventh annual "Taste of the NFL: The Ultimate Cowboys Tailgate Party" on Sunday night, and several coaches and players attended the event.

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Contact between NFL coaches and players is prohibited because of the lockout, but the league made an exception for long-standing charity events such as this.

With a wry smile, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett summed up how several of his conversations likely would go.

"We'll talk about the bread and the water," Garrett said.

The event has provided funds for 3 million meals for needy children through the North Texas Food Bank. Chefs from some of the area's top restaurants had 19 eating stations, as well as a silent and live auction.

Asked if the conversations would be awkward, Garrett said: "Not awkward at all. We're all here for this event. The way the rules have worked, we're allowed to be here together. Everyone is focused on being here, having a good time and supporting this event."

Linebacker DeMarcus Ware hosted the event at the Glass Cactus at the Gaylord Texan Resort and never thought of locking himself out of it.

"Giving back is what I do," said Ware, who has been the host for the past six years. "To be able to do that even though with what's going on with the NFL, it doesn't matter. I'd do it regardless."

Along with Ware, current Cowboys players Jason Witten, Andre Gurode, Stephen McGee, Phil Costa, L.P. Ladouceur and David Buehler attended. Assistant coaches Rob Ryan, Wade Wilson, Wes Phillips, John Garrett, Brian Baker and Joe DeCamillis were on hand, too, as well as assistant director of player personnel Todd Williams.

Former Cowboys running back Preston Pearson, who co-hosted the event, agreed with Garrett that conversations wouldn't be awkward, but he knew the lockout cloud still would be there.

"It's a little bit unfortunate because active and former players are in a precarious situation when it comes to showing any divisive nature with regards to the collective bargaining agreement," he said. "It's just a touchy situation, but I think you'll see all the players -- mentally and physically -- will show support with what we're doing."

NFL owners locked out the players March 12, its first work stoppage in 24 years. Ware said he recently joined a private gym in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Southlake and has picked up Pilates to improve his flexibility.

"I'm ready to play," Ware said. "Everybody is going to be ready because you never know when (the lockout is going to end). It's going to come, and then it's going to be time to play."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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