The New England Patriots inked Ezekiel Elliott in August and added former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Will Grier to the roster late last week, providing two players with intimate knowledge of Sunday’s opponent.
Cowboys offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer noted the club would have to change hand signals due to the presence of Grier and Zeke on the opposing sideline.
"We're always aware of it," Schottenheimer told reporters on Tuesday, via The Boston Globe. "Those are things we monitor every week. But we know Will knows where a lot of the bones are buried. Zeke does, as well. So those are things you talk about and you think, 'OK, let's adjust this.' We certainly have more than one hand signal for most of our core concepts."
It's nothing new to milk info from players who've spent time elsewhere to see if they can provide an edge. Rarely does the info raise to headline-making claims, but sometimes -- like Tyler Lockett giving his defense Russell Wilson's hand signals early last season -- intimate details can cause a ruckus for an opponent.
For his part, Patriots OC Bill O'Brien downplayed the info they'd get from Grier and Elliott.
"Interrogating!" O'Brien said. "Schotty is a good guy. I've known Schotty for a long time. I think that's the way it is every week in this league, every year in this league. ... I don't think we're trying to pull a light over anybody and say, 'Tell me what you did on July 20 of 2023.' We're not doing that. We're not interrogating anybody. We're just trying to put together the best game plan we possibly can."
O'Brien added that players change teams so much that every club is constantly having to self-scout its signals and schemes.
"There's going to be guys that come into your organization off of teams that you're about to play, and it goes both ways," O'Brien said. "You know, it's always going to happen. So at the end of the day, you've got to study film.
"Everybody's going to be on the same page with what we're doing. I've never thought in my years in the league that any of that was a real overriding factor in a win or a loss. It comes down to the players on the field and the coaches putting the players in the right positions to make plays, and that's what we're trying to do."