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Cowboys refreshed, urgent in return from bye week

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IRVING, Texas (AP) - When the Dallas Cowboys returned to work Monday following their bye week, they had the same number of losses as the two teams ahead of them in the NFC East.

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More important than the standings was how the Cowboys (2-2) felt about themselves after an extended break.

``We had a week to recoup, refresh, regroup,'' cornerback Brandon Carr said after their first practice in five days. ``I felt like we were refreshed, guys had a sense of urgency. We just erased the last four weeks out of our memory. ... Guys are just eager to get out there and to have fun, just get out there and mix it up a little bit.''

Asked about the New York Giants and Philadelphia both being 3-2, only a half-game ahead of Dallas, Carr said he didn't even know the records of the other teams in the division.

The Cowboys have enough to think about with their upcoming stretch of four of five games on the road. The first is Sunday at AFC North-leading Baltimore (4-1).

``You know they're going to be physical. They play that way. That's their style,'' defensive lineman Marcus Spears said. ``Obviously they've been playing great ball for a while. But we've got to go up there and handle our business. It's not about them, it's about us.''

After the Ravens, the Cowboys are at Carolina before their only home game in a six-week stretch, against the defending Super Bowl champion Giants. Dallas beat New York on the road in the season opener in its only division game so far.

Then the Cowboys travel to Atlanta (5-0) and Philadelphia.

Two starters in the middle could be back after the bye week. Center Phil Costa and Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff both practiced Monday.

Costa was hampered throughout much of training camp by back issues. He returned in time to play the final preseason game, then started the opener and lasted only one series before being sidelined again.

Costa's return comes with Ryan Cook bothered by a hamstring injury. The Cowboys got Cook from Miami in a trade at the end of the preseason, and he had been the center since the second series against the Giants.

Ratliff hasn't played yet this season because of a high ankle sprain.

``Getting Jay back is like getting three guys back. In the nickel packages, in the base packages and then teams actually game plan for Jay Ratliff,'' Spears said. ``It'll give other guys the opportunity to probably make more plays and have more success because he's in the game.''

Linebacker Anthony Spencer also was at practice after missing the Cowboys' 34-18 loss to Chicago because of a strained pectoral.

``It feels good to essentially have all your guys back out there,'' Carr said.

Before practice Monday, the Cowboys added running back Lance Dunbar to their 53-man roster from the practice squad. He ran for 105 yards with a 58-yard touchdown in the preseason finale against Miami.

But the speedy Dunbar, an undrafted rookie from North Texas, will be used primarily on special teams. He could have an immediate impact.

``He's very aggressive and active,'' coach Jason Garrett said. ``So we want to give him a chance to do that. He's also done some returning for us as well. So just wherever he's needed. We'll give him some work in practice at the different spots and see how he responds.''

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Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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The Associated Press
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