LANDOVER, Md. — Gold and burgundy stands encircle FedEx Field. But ahead of the Cowboys’ 1 p.m. kickoff at Washington, four “COWBOYS” logos on the Dallas sideline stirred conversation.
The story: The Cowboys imported their own customized sideline benches to the division contest, the benches conspicuously bearing the team’s name and star logo. Fans wondered whether this was Cowboys owner Jerry Jones further flexing the deep Cowboys presence at the game.
To some degree, yes. But alas: This decision was practical.
The Cowboys equipment team spoke with equipment staffers from the Seattle Seahawks, who played at Washington Nov. 29. Dallas learned that Washington’s benches, and particularly the heating function that teams find at the outdoor venue, “weren’t in great working order,” a person with knowledge of the conversation confirmed to USA TODAY Sports. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly disclose the information. The Cowboys were advised to rent benches more effective than Washington’s older equipment.
The Cowboys reached out to Cleveland-based Dragon Seats, who supplied their latest model of benches with both heating and cooling functionality, Dragon Seats COO Franklin Floyd confirmed to USA TODAY Sports by phone Sunday afternoon. Floyd said the company has long serviced the NFL, including Washington’s FedEx benches that he estimated were more than 10 years old. Dragon Seats supplies customized benches at home for the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans. Dragon Seats has also supplied a visiting team with benches: The Ravens utilized the company at Buffalo last season during the playoffs, Floyd said.
But a customized bench…for the visitor at an NFL stadium? Dragon Seats had not debuted that before Sunday at FedEx.
“We wanted to bring the latest and greatest, our newest and best, to the Dallas Cowboys organization,” Floyd told USA TODAY Sports by phone. “We were excited to, for the first time, bring a branded set of benches to a road stadium.”
The benches were designed this week, the customization process taking two to three days, Floyd said. Dragon Seats had actually met with the Cowboys last summer to discuss how their latest cooling function could benefit domed teams; it was during that meeting that the company also displayed what a logoed bench would look like. “The NFL refers to it as their beachfront real estate,” Floyd said of how much attention the custom benches generated.
Dragon Seats delivered the Cowboys’ benches to FedEx Field on Saturday. When the benches arrived bearing Cowboys logos, “I think they were surprised,” Floyd said of the stadium employees’ reactions.
No doubt, Cowboys management enjoyed the chance to further highlight the team in a stadium that perennially draws a deep Cowboys fan base. The more attention, the merrier, Jerry Jones says.
“We as a franchise, we as the Cowboys, we put it out there,” Jones told Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan on Friday. "We know we do. We ask folks to look at us, be interested in us, follow us. We know a bunch of people look at us because they’d like to see us lose. That’s sport. That creates excitement.
“I like all this kind of additional color to the interest in this game.”
And the NFC East contest already had plenty of reason to draw attention, the 8-4 Cowboys currently leading the division with 6-6 Washington second. The teams’ coaches traded jabs during the week when Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said “we’re going to win,” a move Washington coach Ron Rivera called a “big mistake.” Jones said Friday that he loved McCarthy’s assertion and would be “shocked” if his coach couldn’t assert the team would win.
Dragon Seats and the Cowboys both highlighted the benches’ functionality as the primary reason for the import. Floyd said safety is their number one goal, while the person with knowledge of the Cowboys’ strategy said most of their players prefer heated benches “even when it’s not super cold” to keep their muscles warm. For a team with deep playoff hopes, the more methods of injury prevention in December, the better—even in the 48-and-sunny FedEx climate at kickoff.
USA TODAY Sports asked running back Ezekiel Elliott on Wednesday how outdoor conditions affect the knee injury that Elliott has battled since Oct. 3. With stiffness a primary symptom of the ailment, would outdoor games pose more challenges?
“I would say it’s probably a little bit harder to warm up outside, but outdoor games you get those heated benches so it kind of actually is a little bit warmer on the sideline than in indoor ones,” said Elliott, whom the Cowboys expect to rely on even more with running back Tony Pollard (torn plantar fascia) inactive for the first time all season. “So at the beginning it might be a little more stiff. But once the game starts going and those benches are on, there’s plenty of heat over there.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dallas Cowboys bring in benches to game vs. Washington Football Team