Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Shawn Clarke, NFL Contributing Editor
The Sports Network

When Terrell Owens is having fun and not criticizing teammates or coaches, the rest of the NFL better beware. A focused T.O. will burn you.

Owens certainly appears to be catching fire following Sunday's win at Carolina. He didn't score a touchdown, but caught passes and made plays to set up scores for the team. The wideout also passed Michael Irvin and Charlie Joiner (750 receptions) for 19th place on the NFL's all-time reception list, and now has 703 for his career. Owens also has 37 catches for 482 yards and five touchdown receptions this season, all team highs, and burned a talent- laden Carolina secondary for 107 yards.

Owens is quiet for now, or at least until Romo throws a few picks and turns his attention away from the loud-mouthed wide receiver, who is satisfied so far with the new signal-caller.

"He proved that he can play on a national spotlight," Owens said of Romo. "He had a great week of practice. This is why the coaches put him back there. We just have to go out there and make plays for him."

In Romo we trust: Cowboys ride QB to victory

Shawn Clarke, NFL Contributing Editor

(Sports Network) - It started out ugly, but the debut of new Dallas Cowboys No. 1 quarterback Tony Romo ended prettier than the team's heralded cheerleaders.

Romo's performance in Sunday's 35-14 win at Carolina had head coach Bill Parcells smiling, and even kissing a few players. The coach also jokingly turned the brim of Terrell Owens' cap, like a father would his eight-year old son after a Little League game.

Of course, Owens was all smiles. He got the ball a season-high nine times for 107 yards, including a clutch two-point conversion which gave Dallas a 21-14 lead.

But the big story of the night was Romo, who completed 24 of his 36 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown with one interception in his first NFL start. Romo, so far, is proving his worth over Drew Bledsoe, whose ability to avoid the rush and pick up first downs with his legs is inferior to Romo's.

Bledsoe was the starter until being replaced at halftime against the Giants, and Romo did no better in that game with three picks over the last 30 minutes. Week 8 brought a different story. There were a few moments against the Panthers, that if Bledsoe had been in the game, he would have exited with a few black marks on his helmet.

It's only one game for Romo, but his introduction left an impression on the team and improved the Cowboys to 4-3 this season. Dallas is second in the NFC East behind New York, and ahead of both Philadelphia (4-4) and Washington (2-5), which is this week's opponent at FedEx Field.

Romo, who was named starter on the Wednesday prior to the Carolina game, helped Dallas score 35 unanswered points over the final three quarters at hostile Bank of America Stadium. The Cowboys also opened their three-game road trip in style and erased the memories of last Monday's loss to the Giants.

"It was a good comeback being down 14," Parcells said. "I'll take my hats off to my kids tonight. They fought back. That was a good one for us. We needed it badly. They fought their guts out."

Dallas fought for 404 total yards of offense with a well-balanced attack. The offensive line was a big reason, and gave Romo enough time to spread the ball around and the running backs to find lanes.

In addition to the receiving work of Owens, tight end Jason Witten recorded season-highs in receptions (6) and yards (80) with a touchdown of is own. Wideout Terry Glenn caught four passes for 52 yards.

"Hey, I don't really care who it goes to," Romo said. "I just throw it to whoever is open. I'm not trying to pick out anyone. If you're going to get open, I'll get you the ball."

Running the ball was an area Dallas needed to work on during the week, after posting just 69 yards on the ground in the loss to New York, including a season-low 30 for running back Julius Jones.

This week, Jones took out his frustrations on Carolina for 92 yards and a score on 24 touches. Jones and fellow back Marion Barber, who had 49 yards and two TDs on nine carries, helped contribute to a 156-yard ground assault.

ARON ON COWBOYS: Forget mobility; Romo most offers hope

Associated Press
National Football League News Wire

IRVING, Texas -- Tony Romo lacks Drew Bledsoe's big arm and
his pedigree. He wasn't drafted, much less taken No. 1 overall. He
hasn't started a Super Bowl and perhaps hasn't even watched an
entire Pro Bowl, while Bledsoe has played in four.

But for the time being, Romo offers the Dallas Cowboys something
Bledsoe can't: Hope.

The same statement could've been made last week, after coach
Bill Parcells announced the quarterback change. Yet it would've
been wishful thinking for Cowboys fans, not something based on
"demonstrated ability," to borrow from the Parcells phrase book.

Now Romo has demonstrated that ability. And while Parcells tried
tempering his optimism by saying Monday that Romo's success against
Carolina might have been beginner's luck, do you really think the
65-year-old coach would've gone around kissing players as if they'd
won the Super Bowl unless he thought this game really meant

C'mon. That was way too rousing of a celebration for a
pre-Halloween victory from a guy who repeatedly says a season isn't
worth evaluating until after Thanksgiving.

It was all about a player sparking a team -- not just for one
win, but in a way that could lead to many more, perhaps enough for
this team to finally win its first playoff game since 1996.

Sure, that's reading a lot into one game that turned as much on
mistakes by the Panthers as it did perfection by the Cowboys, but
it describes the fresh mood at Valley Ranch this week.

"You just hope the course of action you decided to take is for
the good of the team," Parcells said Monday.

Parcells had a lot riding on the move -- this season and,
perhaps, the final chapter of his career. Had it blown up on him
Sunday night, there's no telling what might've happened this week.

Now Parcells is fired up. He's got friends calling and telling
him how great he is. He feels like a genius for having stuck by the
kid and maybe takes a bit more glee in having turned his nothing
into something when Jerry Jones' hand-picked somethings all turned
out to be nothings.

Players are feeling good, too. They finally beat a good team and
did it on the road after getting down by two touchdowns. They are
rallying around Romo right now more than they ever were around
Bledsoe this season.

"He can play," said Terrell Owens, who may benefit from this
move as much as anyone. "You saw Tony scanning the field, scanning
the defense and putting the ball in the right place at the right
time. I think with the weapons we have on offense, we can rip a
defense apart."

While some might say Romo was a better option simply because he
couldn't be any worse than Bledsoe, he certainly seemed to know
what he was doing out there, proving that he really was paying
close attention during his three-plus years of apprenticeship.

Down 14-0 after three drives (a punt, a missed field goal and an
interception), Romo got Dallas within 14-10 at halftime. A pair of
punts to start the second half didn't get him down either. The
Cowboys scored on four of their final five possessions, ringing up
a club-record 25 points in the fourth quarter.

"His game management could use a little work, but for the first
time out in that kind of situation, I'd say I was generally
satisfied with that," Parcells said Monday.

The next challenge is how Romo handles the fame that comes with
being the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.

He got a taste of it being everyone's darling the last few
months, as Bledsoe fell out of favor. But that might be nothing
compared to what could be coming.

Consider this: The team sent fans a "Breaking News" e-mail
Tuesday with the subject line "QB Tony Romo Jerseys Are Here,"
along with pictures of the home and road versions. Click through to
the jersey page on their Web site and those two models are in the
first two slots, ahead of the top-selling Terrell Owens models.

Then there's the 21st century example of his new status: an
anti-Romo blog began last Tuesday that's purely a farce. All
postings are signed by "Really Drew Bledsoe," and nearly all are
good for a chuckle or two, providing you don't offend easily.
That'll be obvious once you do a Google search and discover the
address is a derogatory tweak of Romo's name.

That's off the field stuff, though. He'll have plenty more
challenges on the field, starting Sunday with the blitz-happy
Washington Redskins, who now have six quarters' worth of film to

Actually, his first on-field test comes at practice Wednesday.
He might still be sore from Sunday night, and perhaps still
bursting with pride, but will have to wipe the slate clean and get
ready to try proving himself all over again.

He's already been warned. As Romo was getting on the team bus
Sunday night, Parcells told him: "You better be able to get back
in the huddle on Wednesday and try to convince us you can move the

Anthony Fasano, TE — Dallas Cowboys

Anthony Fasano, TE — Dallas Cowboys Oct. 31, 4:08 p.m.

Now that Tony Romo has replaced Drew Bledsoe as the Cowboys' starting quarterback, Fasano could get more passes directed his way. Fasano has excellent hands and runs good routes, but he doesn’t have much speed and that makes it difficult for him to separate from linebackers. (Jean-Jacques Taylor for SN)

This week on "Dallas"

By Os Davis on October 31, 2006 12:22 AM

And now, a special RealFootball365 service for those of you viewers who may have missed an episode or two of that scheming, head-game playing, back-biting family known as "Dallas." Following is an episode guide to help fill you in on all the plots, subplots and subsubplots of the NFL's No. 1-ranked soap opera you somehow may have missed

In this week's episode, entitled "New Blood brings New New Hope," patriarch Jock Ewing (played by Jerry Jones) again sees nothing but trouble for the whole Dallas Cowboys ' clan as alliances have shifted from soon-to-be forgotten Gary (Drew Bledsoe) to his up-and-coming smiling son Bobby (Tony Romo).

Bobby pleases stockholders (Cowboy fans) with a solid 24-of-36 for 270 yards. Gary threatens to leave the series altogether, but no one notices. Meanwhile, Jock reassures J.R. (Terrell Owens) that he is still his favorite, citing as proof the 107 yards on nine catches. Miss Ellie (Bill Parcells) looks happier than a tuna in a pond full of minnows at her rollicking boys and says, "We haven't been having a lot of fun around here. They're having fun right now."

Previous episodes with a bearing on current events in "Dallas" include the following:

Episode one, "A New Hope." (Wait, that was "Star Wars.") With an all-new supporting cast, higher production values and a J.R. meaner than ever, "Dallas" looks primed for a solid season before a rival firm overlooked by the clan, the Jacksonville Jaguars , surprises when Gary appears to have lost his stock reports, newspaper, ranch house and mind. Overcoming illness, J.R. is overshadowed. Jock reassures J.R. that he is still the favorite.

Episode three, "Who OD'd J.R.? Part One." In an otherwise blah episode, the critical mass created by J.R.'s steady stream of media hype, half-joking statements and complaining result in an attempt on the Favored Son's life. As Jock, Jones delivers a heart-rending monologue resembling a combination of "King Lear" and William Shatner (Capt. Kirk) lamenting his son's death in "Star Trek III." Suspects in J.R.'s near-lethal poisoning include his jealous receiver mate Sue Ellen (Terry Glenn), Gary, and essentially the entire population outside the Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan statistical area.

Episode four, "Who OD'd J.R.? Part Two." The ratings-grabbing cliffhanger resolution has the "Dallas" clan overcoming little serious opposition from Tennessee, and the would-be assassin of J.R. revealed to be no one, as J.R.'s spokesman, Alexis Carrington, explains. (And yes, we know that Joan Collins' character was never on the real-life "Dallas," but that's about as close a reference to "Dynasty" this incarnation of the Cowboys is going to get.)

Episode seven, "Take This Job and ... No, Wait, Please, I Didn't Mean to Throw that Interception, I'll Concentrate Next Time." Impatient stockholders suffering from a condition similar to that of the "Memento" protagonist, instantly forget Gary giving up the body for a gutsy TD and begin booing, throwing blunt objects and calling for his head. Bobby, thought dead for the remainder of the season, appears in a shower in the locker room and is inserted into the lineup. J.R. smiles charmingly while dropping a key third-down pass. Miss Ellie mouths the word "damn" on prime time.

Be sure to tune in again this week, as the "Dallas" family visits the nation's capital to lobby for playoff positioning; the defense takes further steps in its struggle with bipolar disorder; Gary again threatens to leave and no one notices; Marion Barber III decides to continue taking injections of DNA to make him into Earl Campbell; and the entire offensive line is lined up against a wall in Moldavia and shot.

Film review: Tony Romo

By Grizz
Posted on Tue Oct 31, 2006 at 12:04:41 PM EST

I watched the win over the Panthers again and have two reports two give. The first one is all Tony Romo, since he deserves special attention and it follows below. The second one, about the rest of the team, will follow later today and includes a focus on the offensive line.

Here's the caveat for the entire Tony Romo breakdown below; this was one game. I'm basing this review on what I saw Sunday night and it's not a comment on future play. So if it sounds like Romo is the next Tom Brady or something, it's because for one night he was. But next week, that all could be washed away with a poor performance.

1. Poise

The game wasn't too big for Tony Romo on Sunday Night. We hear Coach Parcells throw that phrase out in press conferences, on Sunday we saw it defined. To Romo, this was just another day at the office, or so it appeared.

Take the opening drives of the game. Romo comes out and hits T.O. to open the first drive and on 2nd and 3 hits Witten for a first down. Chop block, penalty, 2nd and 18. He hits Witten for 10 yards and its 3rd and 8. Peppers reads the middle screen and covers MB3, Flozell gets beat and Romo is sacked. Tough start.

Undaunted, Romo comes out and leads a 9-play 52-yard drive, and then Vanderjagt misses the FG. That's two series in a row where Romo had done his job but was undone by the rest of the team. The next offensive series for Romo starts with the Cowboys down 7-0. Hostile environment, you're now losing, the team is making mistakes, that could be discouraging for a young QB. On first down he hit Witten again but a holding penalty makes it 1st and 20. On 3rd down, desperate to make something happen, Romo makes the killer mistake by throwing an ill-advised pass that is intercepted. The Panthers immediately cashed it in for a 14-0 lead.

This was the moment that poise really kicked in for Romo. That's a lot of negative activity in the first quarter of Romo's first game starting in the NFL, and only the second game where he'd played minutes that were actually meaningful.

So what does Romo do? Direct a 9-play, 47-yard TD drive. A drive that never even has a 3rd down, Romo threw 4 passes on 2nd down, converting each to 1st downs or a TD. Efficient and effective. On the next series Romo goes 68 yards in 14 plays, eating up the time in the first half, and gets a FG. On the series, he converted a 3rd and 2 by using his feet, then converted a 3rd and 7 with a bullet strike to Witten. He almost converted a 3rd and 13 with the Panthers blitzing for a first down, but Terry Glenn came up a yard short on the catch and we kicked the FG.

Now its 14-10 at halftime and the game is up for grabs. That's poise under pressure.

2. Pocket presence

I counted at least four. And by that, I mean four times that Romo made plays when Bledsoe would've absolutely failed, and I think that's being generous to Bledsoe.

Tony Romo had the spidey-senses working. He felt pressure when it was real, and when it wasn't real he stayed in the pocket. Two different sides of the coin and equally important.

When the pressure came and the pocket started collapsing, not only was Romo adept at moving around in the pocket or taking off running, but he almost always moved in the right direction to open space. He almost always put himself in position to make a play instead of just running around in the backfield without a plan except to avoid the sack. A good example was a play to Witten. We had a 3rd and 2 deep in Panther territory, and MB3 had just picked up the 1st down on a run but T.O. got called for holding. It's a spot foul so now its 3rd and 7; Gurode gets a false start penalty and its 3rd and 12. Romo drops back, Rivera gets beat and his man is headed for Romo. At the last second Romo takes two quick steps to his left, finds the open ground in the pocket, and with his head up the whole time fires a bullet to Witten for the first down.

On the flip side, he doesn't get hit as much as Bledsoe did, so he doesn't get happy feet in the pocket. After Bledsoe got hit a few times early in games because he couldn't avoid the rush, he would start seeing the rush instead of sensing it and the happy feet would start dancing. His mechanics would get out of whack and disaster usually awaited. Romo didn't have that problem. He avoided the rush so well that he didn't take a lot of hits, even on plays where he gets the pass off; he's not getting knocked down. As the game progressed Romo stayed in the pocket, sometimes when it looked like it was breaking down, but he knew he had enough time to make his throw. He didn't start dancing and was able to accurately judge real pressure from false pressure. It's frustrating when a QB bails out of a pocket to early, almost as much as when he bails out too late.

3. Quick release

It was like hitting the fast-forward button on your Tivo in comparison to Drew Bledsoe. Not the super fast-forward, just the one tap on the button fast-forward. Romo has a quick release and he makes quick decisions.

When Romo took 3-step drops to throw the quick hitches and slants, it was text-book. His drop is fast; he plants on the back foot and gets the ball out on target, quickly. When he hits the 5 and 7-step drops, his quick release lets him hang in the pocket just a little longer before he has to throw it. He was very adept at letting the rush get close to him but still giving himself time to get the ball out cleanly, without anyone hitting his arm or fouling up his mechanics. This was one thing that absolutely killed Bledsoe, throwing passes under duress when he couldn't step into a throw.

4. Reading the defense

It's hard to be too accurate about reads and audibles without knowing the play calls, but Romo didn't look to be shy about changing the plays. He took his time at the line, was constantly pointing out the pass rush and appeared to make audible calls regularly.

The Panthers chose to blitz Romo. They ran a number of middle blitzes using their LB's. The line did a good job of picking them up and Romo took advantage of their absence. With the middle LB's missing from the coverage Romo and Witten played catch over the middle of the field and he hit both Owens and Glenn on deep `in' patterns.

On the 2-point conversion, Romo read the defense perfectly. The Cowboys lined up in a shotgun formation with an empty backfield. I was calling out QB draw the minute I saw the formation. But it wasn't a draw. Owens was in the left slot, and the linebacker covering the middle of the field crept up to the end of the line and faked a blitz. Romo took the snap, faked a QB draw by taking a step forward, then dropped back and fired the ball to Owens on a quick slant. Romo saw the linebacker at the end of the line, froze him for just an instant before he could drop back into coverage and he was a step slow in making the coverage on Owens across the middle. The defensive back on Owens was covering his outside expecting help from the linebacker on the inside. Romo saw the whole thing and executed it perfectly.

5. Possible weaknesses

So far, Romo hasn't connected on the deep pattern with regularity, mainly because he's content to take the short, underneath stuff. He did connect on a couple of passes of 20+ yards on Sunday over the middle, but we've yet to see the go pattern or the deep post, routes of that nature. We don't really know yet how good he is hitting receivers 30-yards or more downfield. He's going to have to do it at some point because defenses will start pressing forward to stop the short passing game.

We can't forget he did make a very bad impulse throw for an interception which is easy to overlook considering how he played the rest of the game. But he needs to remember that play as an example of what not to do in a game.

His deep out passes could use a little more zip. He threw one to Glenn that was a little dangerous because it hung up there for a second and he also floated one into Owens. Now, the Owens one was a safe loft, he was wide open so the softer touch was the safer throw, but it also kept Owens from having time to turn up field. Next time, he might need Owens to score instead of just getting the first down to help grind out the clock.

Tony Romo on GAC

Recap by c_rob from a sports forum:

It was a big win and we needed it. It was a positive but we have two more road games.

The spotlight that was on you--can this kid come in and save the Cowboys,-you do seem to like the spotlight. I think there is a fine line, if you are going to play QB then you have to want the ball. For me personally it is satisfying to go out and win.

Your girlfriend? Did she call you back? Yes she did (Galloway-I knew she would as soon as you went big time) Tony-we are in a long distance deal, she is in med school. She just complimented me.

What were your thoughts coming out of the Giants game? The thing I learned about myself is that it's tough to have a performance like that and dwell on it for a long time. I knew a long time ago I wouldn't want to do anything in sports if I couldn't be successful at it. I have tried to put myself in position to succeed. It was very hard to swallow last week, but I was very anxious to get back out there and prove that I could.

Your attitude, you want to be the best, how did that work out coming out of high school, you get an offer from E. Illinois, then you don't get drafted, how did you keep the attitude that you were going to do it? I thought I had some of the tools, but I didn't start playing until I was older, once I went forward I kept improving, I think I have good instincts.

What did Bledsoe say after the Carolina game if anything? He has been very complimentary. It has to be tough for him. We still have a working relationship.

There is a grassy knoll theory that the entire team suddenly played better for Romo than they had for Bledsoe. Blocking was better, no dropped passes? I don't know, when you don't win you look for things. I think some of the young guys have rallied together. The execution on both sides of the ball was very good last night.

Washington, everyone is now a Tony Romo fan, what are they going to come at you with on Sunday? I just started watching film on them today. They usually bring pressure. Hopefully I won't be surprised by too much. (Randy, wait a minute you've started one game now you know everything?? Tony-Yeah, but I've watched a lot of film and games. Randy-well you can be a sportswriter now.)

Ware and Spears on the Ticket

What's this about his "talk" to the team?

Apparently Bill saying stuff like, "I need to get back to the coach I used to be, the coach who could inspire guys, the guy who can be passionate about the game, etc."

Ware says that he said that Saturday at the hotel, and that the "speech," was to be honest with the team, not to inspire them, per se, but that after that, he said, the team was ready to go out and rip someone's head off, he said you could tell there was no losing this game.

Ware says none of them (at least, most of the "newer" guys) had ever seen Parcells that way before.


A change in Parcells approach?
Spears: "Carolina didn't stand a chance. It all transpired from the talk in the hotel, the being down 14, the emotion on the sidelines, etc."

Spears: "Let me get this out there (when someone called in about pass rushing). Me, Fergi, and Canty are not in this defense to rush the passer. Even DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis have three or four other responsibilities on pass plays."

Spears: (Responding to the sack-happy media) "Our coaches are going to be happy when we go into practice tomorrow because we only let up 73 yards rushing. You aren't going to see a 15 sack guy in this defense. Its Ware and Ellis's job to re-route these guys to the outside first....

... It's Me, Canty's, and Fergi's job to get these guys into third and long so Ware and Ellis can pin their ears back. You aren't going to see sacks from this defense in first and second downs."

SI.com: Mid-Season Playoff Predictions

NFC wild cards

Dallas: The Cowboys are my pick to get hot down the stretch and play the role of dangerous wild-card qualifier, in the mode of Pittsburgh in last year's AFC playoff field. And like the Steelers, Dallas might find itself sitting 7-5 or so before it really starts to make its move. But having three of their last four at Texas Stadium is going to make the difference in December for the Tony Romo-led Cowboys.

Panthers Reeling After Loss to Cowboys

AP Sports Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The Carolina Panthers entered the season as the trendy pick to win the Super Bowl.

Midway through the season, they're in disarray.

On Monday, coach John Fox called the team's 35-14 loss to Dallas a night earlier - when the Panthers gave up 25 fourth-quarter points - one of the most disappointing of his career. He also apologized to fans for the team's three turnovers in the final 10 minutes of Sunday night's nationally televised debacle that dropped Carolina to 4-4 heading into its off week.

On top of that, All-Pro receiver Steve Smith also appeared to be openly critical of the team's coaches for being too conservative as the Panthers blew a double-digit lead for the second consecutive week.

"One of the reasons why is you get up 14 points, sometimes we act like it's a hundred points," Smith said.

Smith had six catches for 55 yards against the Cowboys, but the normally solid receiver also dropped two passes and muffed a punt return that the Panthers recovered. Still, the former Pro Bowl punt returner said he didn't plan on being a return man again this season.

"That'll be my last time back there," Smith said.

When asked whether he or his coaches had made that decision, he bristled.

"The last time I checked, I've only got one person to answer to. That's my maker," he said.

Fox said Monday he didn't know about Smith's comments.

"I don't know what he said after the game. That could have been in frustration. I don't know," Fox said. "He was very open-minded to do it in that game. We'll revisit that as we move forward."

Fox didn't argue about Smith's criticism of the team's back-to-back collapses, saying only that it was one of many issues for the Panthers to deal with in the next two weeks. The Panthers are off until a Monday night game with division rival Tampa Bay on Nov. 13.

"The reality is the last two weeks in particular we have scored two touchdowns and then not scored again. I don't think there's any mistruth to that," Fox said. "What we act like I'm not really sure, but if that's what he's referring to, it's hard to argue."

The Panthers' quick start Sunday night ended with many of their fans booing in the final quarter, one of the worst single-quarter performances in franchise history. Carolina mishandled punts, fumbled kickoffs, dropped passes and allowed Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, in his first start, time to do anything he wanted.

"My level of frustration is (high) after a loss, in particular when the game is in hand at 14-13 and you lose 35-14," Fox said. "A lot of my losses, I'm not sure I've experienced one of those."

There was plenty of blame to be shared for the poor performance:

- Normally sure-handed Keyshawn Johnson let what might have been a touchdown pass slip through his hands in the third quarter.

- Carolina picked up only 76 yards rushing while the defense surrendered 156 yards on the ground, allowing on opponent to go over 100 yards rushing for the fourth time this season.

- The secondary, which lost cornerback Ken Lucas to a strained groin in the first half, struggled to contain Terrell Owens (nine catches for 107 yards, Terry Glenn (four catches for 52 yards) and tight end Jason Witten (six catches for 80 yards).

Safety Mike Minter appeared a step slow, getting beat on Witten's 3-yard touchdown catch and getting late to Owens on a 2-point conversion catch in the fourth quarter.

Fox, who hinted at personnel changes after Sunday's game, declined to discuss Minter's status.

"Like I said before, my satisfaction level is at 4-4 as a football team," Fox said. "I'm not going to go into individuals at this point, and probably won't a whole lot moving forward."

Cowboys signed RB Keylon Kincade.

Cowboys signed RB Keylon Kincade.

He'll take Tyson Thompson's spot as a reserve running back and special teams player.

USAToday Inside Slant

Inside Slant
Posted 10/30/2006 11:48 PM ET

Bill Parcells won't tell you he expected Tony Romo to play this well in his first start since a 2002 Division I-AA playoff game at Eastern Illinois.
And he doesn't know yet if this was the beginning of the Romo era or just one lucky game.

But he will tell you he is not surprised by Romo's success, passing for 270 yards and leading the Cowboys to a 35-14 victory over the Panthers.

"You don't know what to expect exactly," Parcells said. "You just hope the course of action you decided to take is for the good of the team, and you hope it turns out that way. I told you all along, I'm hopeful the path we chose to get him ready for pro football was correct. I'm hoping that turns out to be the right one, too. I still don't know for us other than the fact if we had done it a lot sooner I don't think it would have worked. And I don't think he thinks it would have worked now. He may have thought then, that it might have, but I don't think so now."

Parcells carefully groomed Romo for this moment.

He watched him mature from practice squad player in 2003 to third-string quarterback in 2004 to backup in 2005 and to now being ready to be the starter.

Sure, Romo has more mobility than the benched Drew Bledsoe. He also has a quicker release. Both of those characteristics showed against the Panthers and played a role in the Cowboys' victory.

But mostly Romo was prepared for this. He had put in the work. And although he had his ill-advised moments and will continue have moments because of his inexperience, he proved that the game is not too big for him.

"Look, Tony is like any young kid." Parcells said. "He's been around here, he knows what this process has been better than anyone. He knows he's been waiting in the wings. He knows that opportunity won't stay forever either. I think he's mature enough guy and a smart enough guy to realize that."


—They are calling Cowboys coach Bill Parcells the kissing bandit in Dallas, following Sunday's emotional victory against the Panthers. Parcells told the team to start having a little more fun at a meeting Saturday night. Many of Parcells' former players expressed concern to him that he wasn't having any fun on the sideline. Former Giants star Jim Burt even flew to Charlotte to check on Parcells personally.

After the win, Parcells let it all hang out, kissing multiple players on the sideline.

"I just do things once in a while," Parcells said. "I'm not ashamed of that. I never have been. I'm really not ashamed of it. I've done plenty of other things I'm not proud of, so every once in awhile you've got to, you know ..."

—The Cowboys' charter plane from Charlotte made an emergency landing in Nashville early Monday when assistant strength coach Tony Ollison became ill on the flight.

Ollison is believed to have suffered heart-related problems. He stayed in Nashville on Monday for continued tests and observation.

His situation cast a pall over what was a festive atmosphere following the victory against the Panthers

"I don't think anybody was feeling all that good about it when you see somebody not doing well and kind of in a captive environment where you can't get immediate assistance," Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said. "I think we all had concerns there but we did about the best we could do. We were on the ground in 10 minutes after the time we decided to do that."

Expected to land at 3 a.m., the Cowboys didn't get back to Dallas until 5 a.m.


—TE Jason Witten recorded his first touchdown reception of the season with a three-yard scoring catch against the Panthers. Witten had a season-high six receptions for a season-high 80 yards.

—WR Terrell Owens recorded a season-high nine receptions for a season-high 107 yards against the Panthers. He now has 753 career receptions, moving him past Michael Irvin and Charlie Joiner (750 career receptions) into 19th place on the NFL's all-time reception list. With his 107 yards, he reached the 11,000-yard mark for his career, the 17th player in NFL history to reach that mark, finishing the game with 11,017 career receiving yards. Owens' 107 receiving yards marked his first 100-yard game of the season and the 37th of his career.

—QB Drew Bledsoe saw his streak of 70 consecutive starts ended when he was replaced by Tony Romo against Carolina. It was the fourth-longest active streak among NFL quarterbacks.

—S Roy Williams recorded his team-leading third interception of the season against the Panthers.

—LB Greg Ellis recorded two sacks and a forced fumble against the Panthers, his second multi-sack game of the season and the 13th of his career.

—RB Marion Barber scored his fifth and sixth touchdowns of the season. It was his first multiple-touchdown game of the season and the third multiple-touchdown games of his career. Barber's six rushing touchdowns this season tie him with Clinton Portis for third in the NFL in that category behind just LaDainian Tomlinson (9) and Larry Johnson (8).



PASSING OFFENSE: B — Tony Romo passed for 270 yards. He got good protection up front. But he also bought time with his mobility and quick release. Terrell Owens had a season high nine catches for 107 yards. Tight end Jason Witten also recorded season highs with six catches for 80 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A — The Cowboys were very strong on the ground. Julius Jones rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown. Marion Barber added 49 yards and two touchdowns.

PASS DEFENSE: A — Dangerous receiver Steve Smith recorded six catches but no big plays through the air. He and the other Panthers receivers dropped a lot of passes. But cornerback Terence Newman did a good job covering Smith with Cover 2 help over the top. Greg Ellis notched two sacks. Quarterback Jake Delhomme passed for just 149 yards.

RUSH DEFENSE: A — The Panthers tallied just 76 yards on the ground. Most of that came on an end around by receiver Steve Smith that went for a 24-yard touchdown. Credit nose tackle Jason Ferguson for bottling thing up in the middle of the defense.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A — Tyson Thompson jump-started the comeback with a 37-yard kickoff return. The Cowboys also forced two Panthers fumbles on kickoff returns, with one resulting in a turnover. Matt McBriar averaged 48.3 yards per punt and kicker Mike Vanderjagt made field goals of 38 and 24 yards.

COACHING: A — Bill Parcells said he made the quarterback switch because he felt Tony Romo gave the Cowboys a better chance to win than the immobile and mistake-prone Drew Bledsoe. At least for one game he was right. Romo made the right plays and extended plays, something Bledsoe could never do. He was also unflappable for a player making his first start.

Redskins' QB Watches Parcells Move Pay Off

ASHBURN, Va. - Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell stayed up to watch the whole game Sunday night when Tony Romo won as a first-time starter for the Dallas Cowboys.

"He kept his composure, played with a lot of poise," Campbell said Monday. "It's something you have to do when your first time comes."

Campbell did his best not to sound envious, but he is still waiting for his first time. And with the Cowboys coming to town this week, the debate over when that should happen will only intensify.

Romo's performance in the Cowboys' 35-14 victory at Carolina was vindication for Dallas coach Bill Parcells' decision to bench 30-something Drew Bledsoe and give an untested youngster a shot at energizing an inconsistent offense.

There's a case that Joe Gibbs should do the same - by replacing Mark Brunell with Campbell - but the Redskins coach isn't yet ready to copy his longtime nemesis. Gibbs, for that matter, wouldn't offer an opinion on what Parcells' move.

"For me to say something about that is out of place for me," Gibbs said. "What they've got right now is a quarterback who played extremely well last night."

The Redskins traded three draft picks so they could move up and select Campbell in the first round in 2005. He has been the inactive No. 3 quarterback for every game since. No one would question his absence of playing time if Washington were headed toward another playoff season, but Gibbs' team is 2-5 and struggling to establish an offensive identity.

"Right now you've just got to stay patient and stay confident and understand that when your number's called , that you can go in there and do some good things," Campbell said. "It's just another test in your life. You've got to understand it's all going to pay off for you one day. I've seen guys thrown in there who weren't ready, and I've seen guys have to wait."

At least Campbell has been getting some rare work with the starters over the past week. Brunell has a pulled ribcage muscle, so Campbell ran the offense during last week's two practices before the bye, and on Monday he and fellow backup Todd Collins took turns. Brunell is expected to return to practice Wednesday.

"It made me feel like I wasn't an outsider looking in," Campbell said. "It made me feel like I was actually within the group."

The crowd of reporters around Campbell's locker was so large Monday that running back Rock Cartwright yelled repeatedly: "Jason must be playing this week." Still, Gibbs isn't even ready to give Campbell the outright No. 2 job.

In the coach's unusual pecking order, Collins will play if Brunell is hurt during a game, while Campbell will play only if the team knows well in advance that Brunell can't go.

"I've talked to him a lot about patience," Gibbs said, "and how sometimes it's hard to be excited about things knowing there's a chance that you're not going to play."

Monday, October 30, 2006

Bobby Carpenter, LB — Dallas Cowboys

Carpenter has been an early disappointment, in part because he hasn't fit the team's scheme. Carpenter started out as an inside linebacker in Mike Zimmer's 3-4 defense. He recently was tried as an outside linebacker. Now he has been moved back inside. Carpenter might be a man without a position. Some think he's too short and not quick enough to pass rush as an outside linebacker, and he might lack the cover skills to be a three-down inside linebacker. (Dan Pompei/SN)

NFL Point Spreads For Week 9

NFL Point Spreads For Week 9

Date & Time Favorite Spread Underdog
11/5 1:00 ET At St. Louis -2.5 Kansas City
11/5 1:00 ET At Baltimore -3.5 Cincinnati
11/5 1:00 ET At NY Giants -13 Houston
11/5 1:00 ET At Jacksonville -9 Tennessee
11/5 1:00 ET Dallas -3 At Washington
11/5 1:00 ET At Buffalo -3 Green Bay
11/5 1:00 ET New Orleans -1 At Tampa Bay
11/5 1:00 ET Atlanta -5.5 At Detroit
11/5 1:00 ET At Chicago -13.5 Miami
11/5 4:05 ET Minnesota -6.5 At San Francisco
11/5 4:15 ET At San Diego -12.5 Cleveland
11/5 4:15 ET At Pittsburgh -2.5 Denver
11/5 8:15 ET At New England -1 Indianapolis

Monday Night Football Point Spread

11/6 8:30 ET At Seattle -8.5 Oakland

Parcells knew 'it was time' to let emotions loose

AP Sports Writer

IRVING, Texas (AP) -Bill Parcells' friends saw the warning signs last week. The way he looked during and after the Dallas Cowboys' loss to the New York Giants left them worried about his health and happiness.

Some called. Others sent e-mails.

Jim Burt showed up.

Burt, the nose tackle on Parcells' 1986 Super Bowl champion team with the Giants and still a close friend, flew to Carolina for the Cowboys' game against the Panthers on Sunday night and delivered a message on behalf of everyone who cares about the coach.

``He said, `It was time,''' Parcells said. ``We all know what that means in that group of guys that were together. You've got to show you're going to be there for somebody and that's a nice thing.''

With Burt on the sideline and his team under orders to have fun, the Cowboys not only beat the Panthers 35-14, they did so in a way that gives Parcells hope for the rest of this season.

Dallas (4-3) trailed 14-0 at halftime, but quarterback Tony Romo led a comeback that included a 25-point fourth quarter. That was the most fourth-quarter points in team history, quite a feat for Romo in his debut as the starter. The defense had a solid game, too, limiting Carolina to 204 yards and none of the big plays that had been dooming the Cowboys.

``We went into the season with a lot of high expectations and we really weren't living up to them. We're still not there yet, but we hope that tonight will (help),'' said Romo, who completed 24 of 36 passes for 270 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.

Once victory seemed certain, Parcells let loose on the sideline. He kissed several players and patted Terrell Owens on the cheek.

``I'd take all the crap I took in this business twice a day for about two years to feel just like I did last night once,'' Parcells said. ``It's a great feeling to see your team go like that.''

The thrill continued afterward, too.

Parcells had a 15-minute phone call with Tony LaRussa while on the team plane, and on Monday morning he heard from New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, a Dallas assistant the previous three years. Parcells received more e-mails from friends, and was especially appreciative of a ``nice, long'' one from a former player he hadn't heard from in more than a year.

``It's one of the gratifying things you have about this profession,'' Parcells said.

The outpouring of emotion might seem a bit much for an October game, but - to Parcells, at least - the season might have been riding on it. The win doesn't help as much as a loss would've been a huge setback for their playoff hopes.

The Cowboys went to Carolina having lost to three good teams and beaten three bad ones. The one that drained Parcells was the loss to the Giants, at home in front of a national television audience.

With a chance to take over first place in the division, Dallas got behind early and never fully recovered. Every time the Cowboys started to make a move, they followed it with a huge mistake. As the failed rallies built up, so did Parcells' blood pressure.

``I was ashamed of the product,'' he said Monday.

Earlier in his career, Parcells might have vented his anger by ranting and raving. Experience taught him to hold back.

``You just don't want to do damage when you know the sensitivity level is the highest,'' he said. ``I kind of have to be careful with my mouth because I can be a little sarcastic. I'm working on trying to improve that, though. And I think I am making progress, I really do, after a few years.''

He finally let the team know how he felt Saturday night. He told them he wasn't having any fun, adding, ``this job is not worth doing if you are not having at least a little bit of fun.''

Asked Monday whether he considered giving up the job because it was no fun, Parcells described such thoughts as a hazard of the profession, saying all 16 coaches who lose each week wonder ``What am I doing this for?''

``This can be a very tedious, tedious endeavor,'' he later said.

Now Parcells is waiting to see whether the performance against Carolina was just one great game or the start of something big. He used metaphors from two other sports to convey that message.

``You know, anyone can land a lucky punch,'' Parcells said. ``Or, every once in a while, you're standing up there at the plate and they hit your bat. You're swinging, but they hit your bat. You didn't really hit the ball.

``I don't know. I won't call it a lucky punch and I don't think they hit the bat. If they did, so be it.''

Thompson out for rest of season

Star-Telegram Staff Writer

IRVING - Cowboys running back/kick returner Tyson Thompson will have surgery on his broken left ankle and miss the rest of the season.

Bill Parcells said the Cowboys will look into possibly signing a returner to replace Thompson.

Veteran Aaron Glenn filled in for Thompson against Carolina and had one return for 14 yards. The Cowboys beat Carolina 35-14 Sunday night.

Thompson, of Irving, suffered the injury on a first-quarter return when he was tackled out of bounds after a 37-yard return and the play drew an unnecessary roughness penalty. Thompson had two returns in the game for a 33.5 average.

Entering the Carolina game, Thompson was third in the NFC and ninth in the NFL in klckoff returns.

Update on Cowboys asst. strength coach

We just bumped into Cowboys linebacker Ryan Fowler at Benny's Bagels, and he said players were informed that assistant strength coach, Tony Ollison, was going to be fine after becoming ill on the team charter.

Fowler said several people on the plane said Ollison had a heart attack. The plane quickly landed in Nashville and Dr. Robert Fowler accompanied Ollison to the hospital.

Ollison joined the Cowboys in 2000. He's one of the nicest guys on the staff and his soft-spoken nature is a good complement to Joe Juraszek's in-your-face style.

I remember Ollison telling me during training camp that he was in the middle of a serious diet.

Fowler said he was confused when someone told him, "T.O. just had a heart attack."

"I was thinking, 'isn't T.O. about 32?'" said Fowler, who was obviously thinking of Terrell Owens.

Our prayers are with Ollison, his wife, Sherry, and their two sons during this difficult time.

Bill should have an update for us in about 15 minutes.


Posted by Matt Mosley at 12:05 PM (E-mail this entry) | Comments (0)

Romo takes team for winning ride

Mosley: Romo takes team for winning ride
12:33 PM CST on Monday, October 30, 2006

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – After a false start against the Giants, the Tony Romo era was cleared for takeoff Sunday night.

Bill Parcells told his team last week that the Romo Plan could last two plays or two years. This was partly out of respect for the quarterback he drafted out of Washington State in 1993, but also because hates for anyone to feel comfortable.

In private, Parcells was telling Romo not to look over his shoulder.

The short-timer coach had taken the calculated risk that his team needed radical change, and based on Sunday night's 35-14 victory over the Panthers, the move paid off.

In a fit of passion, Parcells kissed every player in sight. Terrell Owens. Keith Davis. Keyshawn Johnson.

They were all victims of the Cowboys' very own Kissing Bandit.

"I'll take my hat off to my kids tonight," Parcells said. "They fought back. They fought their guts out."

He recovered in time to downplay Romo's 24-of-36, 270-yard performance, but he may have been the only one in the locker room doing so. T.O. and Witten were giddy over Romo's performance, in no small part because the two former Pro Bowlers combined for 15 catches and 187 yards.

Romo may have been inspired by a career backup quarterback named Frank Reich, who engineered one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history and was the guest speaker during Sunday afternoon's team chapel service.

Romo, an avid reader, alluded to an inspirational book he'd read a few weeks ago after the game but didn't provide the title. He said it was about an athlete who realized, after a big-game situation, that it had been less nerve-racking than expected.

Because we've had several book discussions over the past four seasons, I can all but assure you that the book's either about Brett Favre or Michael Jordan, Romo's two heroes.

It's hard to believe that the Cowboys almost played themselves out of the game in the first quarter. After a costly interception helped put his team in a 14-0 hole, Romo engineered a nine-play, 47-yard touchdown drive that was aided by Tyson Thompson's 37-yard kickoff return and a 15-yard penalty for a late hit by Karl Hankton.

Thompson broke his ankle on the play.

From there, Romo connected on four of five passes and hit Witten with a nifty back-shoulder pass.

From that moment on, Romo never seemed rattled.

The Cowboys' defense gained their footing and pitched a shutout the rest of the way.

Of course, you would probably be reading a completely different column if a wide-open former Cowboys wide receiver hadn't dropped a pass midway through the third quarter.

Keyshawn, who has flourished with the Panthers, eyed the goal line too early on the third-and-7 play and the Cowboys were given new life.

Let's hope Parcells' lips wiped away some of the pain.

Anyway, you've heard the coach talk about "distractible players," and Romo's definitely fit the description at times. He looked like a college drum major while attempting to call an audible in the first quarter.

And if you've spent any time watching Peyton Manning, you know what I'm talking about.

Parcells likes for his quarterbacks to take "mental breaks" between plays, but Tony often spends his downtime executing Tiger Woods fist-pumps and bantering with officials.

What you hope is that the good qualities – the quick release and mobility – outweigh the bad.

Parcells doesn't want to mute Romo's gunslinger mentality because it's a big part of why he's here. The kid from Burlington, Wisc., grew up studying Favre's every move, right down to the way he jogs onto the field before each series.

On Sunday night, a team that had been stuck in neutral fed off Romo's exuberance.

His teammates were strongly advised not to share their opinions about the quarterback switch, but judging by their reaction Sunday night, I'm thinking they're on board.

Now, if you're interested in what happened away from the action last night, please continue reading:

Things I jotted down on my 8½x11¾-inch notepad that may or may not interest you: The next time your family's planning a Halloween Weekend getaway, don't rule this place out.

Dressed as gnomes, witches and disgraced ex-presidents, Panthers fans flooded the downtown area at least five hours before kickoff.

The Panthers are a huge draw in this community, in part, because nothing else is open on Sundays.

Bank of America Stadium has quickly become one of Charlotte's most important landmarks. The teal seats are to die for, and the stadium has more ATMs than Caesars Palace.

Being in the Bible Belt, an invocation was given before the game. This was quickly followed by the Panthers' mascot, SirPurr, doing the Running Man dance. …

Mike Vanderjagt's kickoffs are so awful that teams have no clue how to field them. His unintentional squib kick in the fourth quarter somehow ended up in the arms of Panthers fullback Brad Hoover, who promptly fumbled. Credit rookie Sammy Hurd with the strip and fumble. The kid impressed us with his hands during training camp, but since then, he's emerged as one of the team's most dynamic special teams players. …

Some of you know I've always been partial to mascots, and the Panthers didn't disappoint with Sunday's Mascot Mania halftime show. SirPurr and several local professional and college mascots squared off in a tackle football game. Fans were so entertained that they booed the non-mascot players when they returned for the second half. …

Rufus Lynx of the Charlotte Bobcats organization delivered some nice throws, but was hampered by several drops, which may have been caused by small eye slits. Rufus finally scored on a keeper when N.C. State's Mr. Wuff broke outside containment. …

The New York Times sports magazine, Play, contained an epic Bill Parcells story by Moneyball author Michael Lewis on Sunday. If you have a couple of days to spare, it's a good read.

Quick excerpt: "Flozell Adams is as impenetrable as a symbolist poem."

It's funny, but this stuff almost never pops into my head on deadline.

Lewis, who like most sportswriters, has a home in Paris, France, had the opportunity to watch film in Parcells' office and check out his elephant figurine collection.

Check out his upcoming book, Flo Knows Lambic Pentameter. …

And speaking of the Old Gray Lady, check out the review of Richard Ford's new novel, Lay of the Land in the Sunday Book Review. Headed to my local bookstore to pick this one up following Bill's news session today. …

A wide-open Keyshawn Johnson dropped what would have been a certain touchdown pass midway through the third quarter. He then chucked his helmet on the sideline. When I talked to him Saturday evening, he was almost despondent about USC's loss to Oregon State and that may have carried over onto the field. …

Team chaplain John Weber was nice enough to let me attend the team's Sunday afternoon chapel service. The guest speaker was former Bills quarterback Frank Reich, who took a beating from the Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVII. He said he was pulled over for going 58 in a 40 on his way to the service Sunday afternoon, but was given a free pass when the officer said his wife was a former Bills cheerleader. "That won't happen on Judgment Day," he said. …

Funny moment when referee Scott Green accidentally turned his stadium mic on while shouting at head linesman Tony Veteri.

"C'mon, Tony!" Green said to Veteri, who was loitering with the line judge. …

I just read where a woman is in jail for stalking Jake Delhomme. I'm thinking Jake may have helped his cause with that performance in the second half, though. …

Anyone have any advice on what to do when the man in 16E accidentally puts his head on your shoulder while sleeping? … Was having a nice conversation with T.O. at the team hotel Saturday evening before a Fox 4 reporter broke things up.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Gamblers have little faith in Cowboys

In this game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Carolina Panthers, sports bettors are nearly 80% on the Carolina Panthers to win at Carolina -5 1/2.

The line initially opened at Carolina -3 but has shot all the way up to -6 at some online sportsbooks. SBG Global maintained a line of Carolina -5 1/2

The Dallas Cowboys are 6 of 7 in this series with the Carolina Panthers since 1998.

Tony Romo will make his first career start at quarterback Sunday night when the Dallas Cowboys visit the Carolina Panthers. Sources at SBG Global report that the public has no faith in Romo and are playing the Panthers hard.

Romo started the second half of Monday night's 36-22 home loss to the New York Giants after Bledsoe threw an interception at the goal line just before halftime. ''Any time you do something like this, it's not without a lot of consideration,'' head coach Bill Parcells said. ''I've been thinking about it for some time. ... Hopefully, maybe as the team is comprised right now, he might be able to do a couple of things that assist us.''

Romo will be the ninth different starting quarterback for the Cowboys (3-3) since Troy Aikman retired after the 2001 season.

Romo threw three interceptions on Monday, one of which was returned 96 yards for a touchdown, and got sacked twice. He did complete 14 of 25 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for a 2-point conversion.
''He's got to be more careful with the ball than he was the other night,'' Parcells said.

The Cowboys face the Panthers (4-3) and defensive end Julius Peppers , who leads the NFL with eight sacks this season. Carolina ranks fifth in the NFC with 206.6 passing yards allowed per game.

The Panthers are coming off a 17-14 loss at Cincinnati. Quarterback Jake Delhomme drove the Panthers to the 10-yard line but was intercepted with 3:50 left in the game on a bad pass to Keyshawn Johnson in the end zone.
''You don't play well, you accept it like a man,'' said Delhomme.

In a 24-20 loss to the Cowboys last Dec. 24, star wide receiver Steve Smith was held to 18 yards on one catch and was ejected in the third quarter.

Dallas has taken five of six regular-season meetings with Carolina, but has lost both of its playoff games against the Panthers.

We believe history favors the Cowboys in this one. Oddsmakers will rely on gamblers believing the quarterback situation in Dallas is too messy for a comeback in Carolina.

But we must first review our team ratings. And guess what? We have Carolina only able to win by 3 points in this matchup.

Our pick is Dallas +5 1/2 at SBG GLOBAL

Rooting for Romo: A little background onTony Romo

Midwestern origins gave QB a strong foundation
12:41 AM CDT on Sunday, October 29, 2006
By BRAD TOWNSEND / The Dallas Morning News

BURLINGTON, Wis. – Two hours after their son was named the Dallas Cowboys' starting quarterback, Ramiro and Joan Romo sat in their living room, overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all.

News of Tony Romo's promotion was on TV, radio and the Internet on Wednesday. The Romos' phone rang all day. A Dallas Morning News reporter showed up on their doorstep.

Mrs. Romo broke out her famous Danish kringle pastry and childhood photos of Tony. For one afternoon, the Romos' three-bedroom home in this town of 10,000 nestled in Wisconsin's southeast corner felt like the center of the sports universe.
"I would say to people in Dallas, 'If you're patient, he'll go to another level for you,' " Ramiro Romo said. "Just as he has gone up the depth chart in Dallas, his play will go up. I guarantee you."

He knows patience is a lot to ask of Cowboys fans. When 26-year-old Tony takes Dallas' first offensive snap against Carolina tonight, he will be the Cowboys' ninth starting quarterback since Troy Aikman's 2000 retirement.
That's why soft-speaking Ramiro doesn't want to get carried away. But even here, in the thick of Green Bay Packers country, the Tony Romo-for-Drew Bledsoe shockwave was felt full force.

The Packers' Brett Favre is king in these parts, but Cowboys quarterback is one of the glamour positions in sports. Besides, Tony is homegrown, having starred in football, basketball and golf at Burlington High School.
When Cowboys coach Bill Parcells benched Bledsoe and inserted Romo in the second half of last Monday night's loss to the New York Giants, Burlington phone lines buzzed. High school athletic director Eric Burling woke his kids.
"My youngest said, 'Dad, I can't believe it. We're Packers season-ticket holders, and we're rooting for the Cowboys.' "

Tony Romo's ascension might be the most notable occurrence in Burlington since it was declared Chocolate City, USA, in 1986, 10 years after the Nestle Chocolate and Confection Co. opened here.

Who knows? If all goes well the next two months, he might marshal next May's Chocolate Parade.
"Everyone knows everyone," Romo said. "It's neat to come from there because every time I go back they treat you very well and people want to hear how things are going."

Hope, excitement

For Cowboys fans, Romo represents cautious hope and guarded excitement.
Part of their intrigue is that they know little about the undrafted, 6-2, 225-pounder for whom they have clamored all season – beyond the fact he is more mobile than Bledsoe and has, for the moment, gruff Parcells' nod of approval.
How did Romo rise from pudgy, lightly recruited Burlington kid to NCAA Division I-AA player of the year at Eastern Illinois in 2002 to Cowboys third-teamer to starter?
The clues are sprinkled amid the rolling, tree- and feed-silo-dotted hills of Burlington, which is roughly halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago. The Illinois state line is 25 miles to the south, Lake Michigan 25 miles to the east.
There is the old Burlington High School (a new one opened in 2000), where in 1997 and '98 Romo dazzled – Favre-like, locals say – for undermanned Demons teams whose home field was squeezed by an undersized track that cut through the end zones.
"Coffin corners," chuckled Ramiro, pausing his SUV between the old field and the gym, where three days a week Tony played 6 a.m. pickup basketball games with coaches and teachers.

The Burlington tour continued to the town center, past the movie theater with the photo of Tony in the lobby, to Fred's World's Best Burger. The Tony Romo table was occupied, but the diners kindly allowed a peek at the Tony photos and accomplishments displayed beneath the glass top.

"I'm almost positive: If I'd had him first, I'd have had no other children," laughed Joan, who also has Danielle, 30, and Jossalyn, 28. "He wore me out."
Ramiro and Joan grew up in nearby Racine. They married when he was 18, she 19. Tony was born in San Diego during Ramiro's five-year Navy service.
The Romos returned to Wisconsin when Tony was 2 and built an 1,100-square-foot house in Burlington on a three-quarter-acre cul-de-sac lot, less than a football field from the Burlington Cemetery.

The ideal small-town, middle-class setting, it turns out, for a sports-minded, Methodist-raised boy to grow up.
"We had all the needs," Joan said, "but probably not all the wants."
The video game craze was starting, but Tony spent most of his time outside, or in the gym during harsh winter months.

Ramiro started as a carpenter, rose to commercial-builder foreman and now is a construction superintendent. Joan worked various jobs, including the clubhouse counter at the nearby golf course, where during his elementary school days, Tony squeezed in a few holes before going to school in jeans wet with dew.
He didn't play youth football because Burlington had none. Like his father, he played soccer. Upon arriving at Burlington High, his fall sport was soccer. But, as he discovered, that required a whole lot of running.
"I don't want to say Tony was lazy," laughed Burlington assistant athletic director Scott Hoffman, who coached Romo in recreational soccer and basketball during his middle school years. "He was smart, smarter than most coaches.
"He would always look for the shortcuts, how to finish drills the quickest. Tony wanted to get to game day."

'Kind of a screwball'

Romo quit soccer early in his freshman year and decided to try football.
"What position?" Ramiro asked him.
"Quarterback," Tony said.

Everyone considered it a success when Tony started for the freshman B team. His football, basketball and golf coaches saw raw talent, but Burlington basketball coach Steve Berezowitz recalls that Tony was "kind of a screwball."
The woodshop teacher told the coaches that Tony was such a hazard, he would pass him only if he promised to not take any more shop classes.
Tony usually did his homework on the school bus – just enough to maintain a B average and appease his parents – while leaving extra time for sports.
At home, he'd pop in football and basketball instructional videotapes, rewinding them so often that he wore them out. Joan had to buy three Pete Maravich basketball tapes. One of the football tapes included instruction from Favre and Bledsoe.
After his video sessions, Joan would catch Tony's passes with a pillow until Ramiro got home from work. Ramiro still has a fat ring finger and crooked pinky from catching them.

Tony kept a notepad next to his bed, in case a play or fundamentals thought came to mind in the middle of the night. While visiting his apartment two weeks ago, Joan saw a pad in Tony's bedroom and another in the bathroom.

At Burlington High, a broken finger curtailed his sophomore football season. But as a junior, he flourished in coach Steve Gerber's spread offense.
"The normal high school quarterback that I worked with – that kid would see one side of the field and maybe get as far as the second read on that side of the field," said Gerber, who was Burlington's head coach from 1997 to 2002 and is now a teacher there.

"Tony was one of those kids who could go left to right and back to the left and see the secondary read back on the other side."
Berezowitz was 22 when he took over as basketball coach before Romo's sophomore year. An admitted screamer in those days, he was extra hard on Tony because he saw untapped potential.

"We always say Berezowitz prepared him for Parcells," Joan said.
"Tony really grew up between his junior and senior year, as a person, as a student, as an athlete," said Berezowitz, who still talks to Romo weekly and travels with him to the NCAA basketball Final Four each year.

But before Romo's senior year, 1,100-student Burlington was placed in a larger-classification conference with schools twice its size.
Romo made the All-Racine County football team and was honorable mention all-state in basketball after averaging 24.3 points, but both squads finished with losing records.

Perhaps that is why he received little interest from major-college recruiters. Even Eastern Illinois didn't come around until late in the fall, telling him he would have to be a backup because it had a starter.
"Dad, I'm going to start," Tony told Ramiro when the recruiter left that night.


For all that Tony has accomplished, one might expect the Romo home to be filled with plaques, photos and mementos. Instead, the walls and shelves mostly are filled with family photos. The exception is his Walter Payton Division I-AA player of the year trophy in the living room.

Most of Tony's sports stuff is stored in Rubbermaid containers in the basement, awaiting the day that he has his own house. He has a girlfriend in Florida but shares an apartment with high school buddy Nick Sekeres, now a Plano middle school teacher.

While sitting in the stands at Burlington games on Friday nights, Ramiro and Joan usually get a call from Tony, asking how the game is going. They hear crowd noise on the other end of the line because Tony and Nick will have "found" a high school game in the Dallas area.

"There's been times along the way when I've thanked God that Tony's gotten this far," Ramiro said. "I'll say, 'He did pretty good, he's a good kid, he's not going to advance any further, whatever."

Standing at the kitchen table while Joan showed off Tony's baby pictures, Ramiro taps his finger on the table for emphasis.
"But you know what? Every time he's proven me wrong. I'm not going to doubt him anymore."

Romo's sense of humor intact after promotion

San Antonio Express-News

Tony Romo's promotion to Cowboys starting quarterback apparently hasn't caused him to lose his sense of humor.

Asked last week to name his favorite receiver, Romo said it was little-known linebacker-turned-fullback Oliver Hoyte.
Reporters also wanted to know why Romo gets along so well with Terrell Owens. Romo smiled and cracked, "I used to date his sister."
Looking for a spark: The Cowboys' young defensive line needs to pick up the pace, coach Bill Parcells said.
With the exception of second-year tackle Jay Ratliff, the Cowboys haven't gotten much from their young pass rushers. Ratliff, though, has three sacks and four quarterback pressures.
"That's why I signed (6-foot-6, 272-pound outside linebacker) Junior Glymph back," Parcells said.
Parcells said he especially wants to see more pressure on first and second downs.
Tough guy: When Parcells was asked whether he misses receiver Keyshawn Johnson, the Panthers receiver who played for Parcells with the New York Jets and the Cowboys, the coach said, "It's not the time of year to be sentimental."

Johnson has 36 catches for 460 yards and two touchdowns this season. He caught 141 passes for 1,820 yards and 12 TDs in his two seasons with the Cowboys, a stint that ended when he became a free agent after last season and signed with Carolina.
Third-down woes: The Panthers have converted just 23.5 percent of their third downs this season to rank last in the league. In a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last week, the Panthers were just 2 for 11, including 0 for 5 in the second half.
Hot Peppers: Parcells couldn't say enough good things about Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers last week.

"Any coach in the league wouldn't start naming defensive ends and get very far without putting his name up there," Parcells said. "It's in the consensus he's in the top two or three, and I would agree with that, if not the best."
Peppers' eight sacks leads the league.

This and that: Romo will remain the team's holder. ... The Cowboys are 11-13 in Sunday night games. ... Second-year Panthers center Geoff Hangartner is a former standout for New Braunfels High School and Texas A&M. ... Dallas has won five of six regular-season meetings with Carolina.

FORUM TALK: Plax really disses Williams

Taken from the Giants forum with no links to Plax comments.
Plax really disses Williams
by River Mike

I searched the first page to see if this has been discussed before, and I don't see it. I was a bit surprised when I read it. Although it's not that uncommon for players to dis an opponent, this one seems particularly strong ...

"He clearly does not hold Williams in high regard. "He can't cover and No. 25 (rookie safety Patrick Watkins) can't cover," Burress said. "It wasn't a surprise. That's been (Williams') rap since he came in the league. He's a 250-pound ankle tackler. That's what he is. And horse collars, too." But isn't Williams a big hitter? "He is, when you ain't looking," Burress said. "He'll sock you when you ain't looking. Look at how he tackles guys coming straight at him and guys that are not looking. He's a different football player." So, he can't cover? "Not at all," Burress said. "He wouldn't have made that play if he was on a skateboard."

This should make for an interesting second match.

Williams fined $10,000 & Watkins stays behind on trip to Charlotte

Notebook: Williams collared by NFL

01:53 AM CST on Sunday, October 29, 2006

TODD ARCHER / The Dallas Morning News

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – For the second straight week and the third time this season, Cowboys safety Roy Williams was fined by the NFL.

The league docked Williams $10,000 for a horse-collar tackle on New York Giants running back Tiki Barber on Monday. No penalty was called on the play.

Williams was fined $7,500 for a hit two weeks ago on Houston receiver Kevin Walter and another $7,500 for a hit on Jacksonville quarterback Byron Leftwich in the opener.

The league also fined defensive ends Phillip Daniels of Washington and Ray Edwards of Minnesota $5,000 each for what was considered illegal or excessive contact against quarterbacks in last week's games, according to ESPN.com.

■ FS Watkins stays behind: For the first time this season, rookie Patrick Watkins will not be the Cowboys' free safety.

Watkins did not make the trip to Charlotte on Saturday, which should make veteran Marcus Coleman the starter.

Watkins has struggled to make plays on deep balls, including a 50-yard touchdown catch last week by Plaxico Burress.

Coleman missed the first four games because of a suspension and was released when he came back. He re-signed with the Cowboys last week and saw action on special teams.

Quinn in a Dallas uniform?

San Antonio Express-News
by Tom Orsborn

Could Notre Dame's Brady Quinn wind up with the Dallas Cowboys? How about Michigan State's Drew Stanton?

Don't laugh. Jerry Jones said last week he's prepared to target a quarterback in the first round of the draft should Tony Romo falter. And don't forget the Cowboys' owner often makes moves with the sizzle factor in mind. Wouldn't landing Quinn fill some seats at Texas Stadium?
"Part of the responsibility I have is how you address the long-term situation at quarterback," said Jones, who added he's "consciously tried not to go to the top of the draft to get a quarterback" but could change if Romo isn't the answer.
Trading up to select Quinn or Stanton would be costly. Most 2007 mock drafts have them going in the top 10.
But why not make a move to end this quarterback nonsense once and for all?
The Cowboys have started eight quarterbacks — Romo will be No. 9 — since Troy Aikman retired after the 2000 season. The carousel has included the likes of Anthony Wright, Clint Stoerner and Ryan Leaf.
Jones tried to stop the ride by picking Quincy Carter, Chad Hutchinson and Drew Henson for auditions. Bill Parcells brought in old pals Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe.
So why not stop the madness and draft a can't-miss passer? History says it's a fairly tried-and-true route for a quarterback to achieve greatness with the Cowboys.

In 1964, they drafted Vietnam-bound Navy star Roger Staubach in the 10th round. Aikman was their top pick in 1989. Both have busts in Canton.
Now, there have been misses. As Parcells is fond of saying, the draft is not an exact science.
The Cowboys chose Craig Morton sixth overall in 1965. Carter was a second-round choice in 2001.
Both had their moments but were eventually sent packing.
Of course, Jones may wind up using his 2007 first-round pick on an offensive lineman — now there's a thought — or a receiver. But the guess here is he goes looking for a quarterback if Romo crumbles.
Working in Romo's favor is his relationship with Terrell Owens.
Owens said Thursday he planned to bake cookies for Romo. Before Romo was named the starter and became worthy of Toll House time with T.O., the two played catch after practice and chatted on the sideline about defensive schemes.
Such bonding experiences never occurred between Owens and Bledsoe.
"I honestly tried to do that time and time again," Owens said. "But for whatever reason, it didn't happen."
Translation: "I didn't want to get chummy with a quarterback who already had a go-to guy (Terry Glenn)."
But even with Owens on his side, Romo faces an uphill climb. His biggest obstacle is the offensive line. After six games, it's clear the unit falls apart when it faces physical front sevens that can bring the heat.
Playing behind that line, even a quarterback with Michael Vick's legs, Dan Marino's arm, Joe Montana's cool and Johnny Unitas' grit would struggle.
But Romo could surprise. He's got a strong arm, a quick release, a sharp mind and that certain something extra you look for in a quarterback.
But then again, so does Brady Quinn.
Who would you rather have?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Owner joins Cowboys on candidates list

Star-Telegram Staff Writer
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is among the 111 former players, coaches and contributors on the Pro Football Hall of Fame's preliminary list of modern-era candidates.

"Just to be mentioned with these other names is a wonderful honor," Jones said in a statement. "These are the best of the best, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be considered."

He is joined by several former Cowboys players, including first-time eligible candidates Mark Stepnoski and Randall Cunningham, as well as Herschel Walker, Michael Irvin, Drew Pearson, Charles Haley and Ed "Too Tall" Jones. Gil Brandt, the Cowboys' former player personnel director, also made the preliminary list as did Tennessee Titans national coordinator of college scouting C.O. Brocato, an Arlington resident.

Irvin, who played for the Cowboys from 1988-99, has the best chance to represent Dallas in the Class of 2007. He made it to the final six in his first year of eligibility and was in the final 10 in February.

Hall of Fame selectors will choose 25 modern-era semifinalists next month. Those 25 candidates will be reduced to 15 in a mail vote, joining seniors candidates Gene Hickerson, a guard with the Browns, and Charlie Sanders, a tight end with the Lions, on the Class of 2007 ballot.

For the first time, the finalists list will number 17. It previously was limited to 13 modern-era nominees and the two senior candidates for a total of 15.

Selectors meet Feb. 3, the day before Super Bowl XLI, with induction requiring 80 percent voting support on the final ballot. The Class of 2007 will have between three and six members.

To be considered for Hall of Fame election, players must be retired at least five years. There is no mandatory retirement period for contributors, but a coach must be retired before he is eligible.

In addition to Cunningham and Stepnoski, other first-year eligible players are Terrell Davis, Ricky Watters, Bruce Matthews, Randall McDaniel, Steve Wisniewski, Eric Allen, LeRoy Butler and Carnell Lake.

In the Know

Pro Football Hall of Fame nominees

Class of 2007 preliminary list

Nominees in first year of eligibility

Quarterback -- Randall Cunningham

Running backs -- Terrell Davis, Ricky Watters

Offensive linemen -- Bruce Matthews (G/C/T), Randall McDaniel (G), Mark Stepnoski (C/G), Steve Wisniewski(G)

Defensive backs -- Eric Allen, LeRoy Butler, Carnell Lake

Other nominees

Quarterbacks -- Ken Anderson, Bernie Kosar, Jim Plunkett, Phil Simms, Brian Sipe, Ken Stabler, Joe Theismann

Running backs -- Roger Craig, Greg Pruitt, *Thurman Thomas, Herschel Walker

Wide receivers -- Cliff Branch, Harold Carmichael, Gary Clark, Mark Clayton, Isaac Curtis, Mark Duper, Henry Ellard, *Michael Irvin, *Art Monk, Drew Pearson, Andre Reed

Tight ends -- Mark Bavaro, Todd Christensen, Ben Coates, Brent Jones, Steve Jordan

Offensive linemen -- Jim Covert (T), Dermontti Dawson (C), *Russ Grimm (G), Jay Hilgenberg (C), Chris Hinton (G/T), Kent Hull (C), Joe Jacoby (T), Mike Kenn (T), *Bob Kuechenberg (G), Jeff Van Note (C), *Gary Zimmerman (T)

Defensive linemen-- Fred Dean (E), Richard Dent (E), Chris Doleman (E/LB), Charles Haley (E/LB), Ed "Too Tall" Jones (E), Joe Klecko (E/T/NT), Dexter Manley (E), Charles Mann (E), Fred Smerlas (NT)

Linebackers - Cornelius Bennett, Robert Brazile, Randy Gradishar, Kevin Greene, Ken Harvey, Rickey Jackson, Clay Matthews, Karl Mecklenburg, Sam Mills, John Offerdahl, Darryl Talley, *Derrick Thomas, Andre Tippett

Defensive backs -- Steve Atwater (S), Joey Browner (S), Raymond Clayborn (CB), Kenny Easley (S), David Fulcher (SS), Lester Hayes (CB), Albert Lewis (CB), Lemar Parrish (CB), Ken Riley (CB), Donnie Shell (S), Roger Wehrli (CB), Louis Wright (CB)

Kicker/punter -- Ray Guy (P), Nick Lowery (K), Reggie Roby (P)

Special teams/WR -- Steve Tasker

Coaches -- Don Coryell, Tom Flores, Jimmy Johnson, Chuck Knox, Buddy Parker, Dan Reeves, Clark Shaughnessy, Dick Vermeil

Contributors -- Bud Adams, Jr., Gil Brandt, C. O. Brocato, Joe Browne, Ed DeBartolo Jr., Jerry Jones, Bucko Kilroy, Art Modell, Bill Nunn, Lee Remmel, Ed Sabol, Steve Sabol, Rex Stuart, Paul Tagliabue, Ralph Wilson, Jr., Ron Wolf, George Young

*on 2006 15 finalists list

Big Bill deserves criticism

By Newy Scruggs
Special to the Star-Telegram
"Bill Parcells, a New Jersey Con Man, all wrong for Texas"

"Tuna Refuses to Stay the Course... Romo In"

"Big Bill Cuts and Runs on Bledsoe"

Luckily, Cowboys coach Bill Parcells is not running for political office, because he'd see slogans and ads aimed at his leadership of the 3-3 Dallas Cowboys.

I'm joking... I think.

The Cowboys' season will not go to the polls Nov. 7. Parcells has 10 games to show us if he has a clue and can take this team to the playoffs with a free-agent quarterback 32 teams, including the Cowboys, decided not to draft four years ago.

One day, Parcells will be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. At this point, it will be for his work with three teams up north, and his Texas folly will be forgotten.

Drew Bledsoe, once taken as the top overall draft pick by Parcells, deserved to be benched for making the kind of turnovers veterans shouldn't.

It speaks to a bigger problem of the Tuna's administration. Since taking Dave Campo's players and going 10-6 with a playoff appearance in 2003, the Tuna has failed to make the postseason.

Parcells purged all but 10 players from that playoff team. Since Tuna has turned the roster over to consist of "Parcells Guys," the question must be asked: "How come the head coach doesn't catch any heat?"

The future Hall of Famer (28-26 in four years with the Cowboys) gets off easier than Chan Gailey and Dave Campo did during their mediocre runs as the coaches of America's Team.

In two seasons, Gailey won the NFC East once and produced two playoff teams. Campo went 5-11 three times before Parcells took over. All deemed not good enough from the Cowboys' constituency.

Parcells' biggest blunders seem to be at quarterback. Quincy Carter was cut in training camp in 2004 after taking the team to the playoffs and was replaced by the 40-year-old Interception, Vinny Testaverde, a former Parcells guy with the Jets. Drew Bledsoe found his way to town after Buffalo released him, and now he's riding the pine this weekend. These moves qualify as failure.

Romo could be the next Tom Brady. Odds say he won't be. The playoffs are still attainable, but only if the Cowboys can find a way to start beating teams with winning records.

A team like Carolina in Charlotte on NBC's Sunday Night Football would be a good start.

The heat should be turned up on the offensive line, T.O., the kicker, the defense, but most of all on the man who put the plan together and got a raise to come back and coach in 2006 -- Bill Parcells.

Newy Scruggs is sports director for NBC 5.

Coleman likely to replace Watkins at free safety

Coleman likely to replace Watkins at free safety
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
IRVING - Marcus Coleman, your turn.

After starting rookie fifth-round draft pick Pat Watkins at free safety for the first six games of the season, the Cowboys are looking to an old Bill Parcells favorite.

Free safety has been a sore spot, as Watkins has been in on the coverage of at least four long plays this season, three of them touchdowns.

Watkins said he has not been practicing with the first-teamers this week. All signs point to Coleman making his first start Sunday night.

Coleman, 32, played for the first time last week but only on special teams. The NFL suspended Coleman for the first four games of the season because he violated the league's substance-abuse policy.

"I feel really good," said Coleman. "It didn't take me long to get back and feel the same."

Keith Davis, who was the starter at free safety last season, could also see time there Sunday.

Watkins has 22 tackles, three passes defended and one fumble recovery this season.

Hatcher misses practice

Defensive end Jason Hatcher (ankle) did not practice and is unlikely to play Sunday.


Keyshawn Johnson says he is a better player and a better man than Terrell Owens

Keyshawn Johnson says he is a better player and a better man than Terrell Owens

When receiver Keyshawn Johnson was traded to the Cowboys from Tampa Bay in 2004, he thought he had finally found a home.
He was reunited with coach Bill Parcells from their days with the New York Jets and became friends with owner Jerry Jones. Not only did he have a chance to rebuild his image, but this was to be his nirvana. He badly wanted to finish his career with the Cowboys.
That was before the Cowboys released him last March and signed receiver Terrell Owens. The Cowboys tried to re-sign Johnson but did not come close to the financial offer made to him by the Carolina Panthers.
When the Cowboys (3-3) travel to Carolina (4-3) on Sunday, they will not find Johnson a bitter man. The 11-year veteran believes he found a better situation and a happier place.
"I don't like how NBC is promoting the game. They are showing a picture of me and [Bill] Parcells, with me staring the Cowboys down, calling it a revenge game. They are trying to use me to pump up their ratings. I don't have revenge. I don't have animosity. The people in that organization are all friends of mine. I went to the Arkansas-USC game with Jerry Jones and sat in the box with his family.
"I have heard all the talk about the Cowboys upgrading the position by replacing me with the player [Terrell Owens]. The player is not better than me. He is going to stay behind me, I don't care what the statistics say. He is behind me from the draft to the world in general, in life as a person, as a man and as a player on the football field. I am complete. I am a finished product in every aspect."
"If at all possible, I would like to be an owner one day. It doesn't have to be NFL, but it will be sports related, as long as it makes good business sense. And who else to learn from besides Jerry Jones?"
"I am trying to have success beyond the game. I want to be like Troy Aikman, Roger Staubach, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. I wouldn't want to walk away from the game and have nothing else to do with my life."
"The thing I cherish most about my career was being able to win a Super Bowl title. Nobody can ever take away from me the fact that I was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and that I was a major contributor to a championship team."
"I know people remember me most for writing a book as a rookie. I have no regrets about that. People seem to forget what you have done as a player. They just want to talk about a book. But I have written several books, children's books, a workout book. But people just want to give me the Throw Me the Damn Ball book.
"I would have liked to have finished my career in Dallas. It didn't work that way. I was enjoying the situation. I was content. But I wasn't going to sit back and play for free, regardless of what my relationship was with the owner and coach. It's a business.
"Jake [Delhomme] is one of the three best quarterbacks I have played with, along with Vinny Testaverde and Brad Johnson. Drew Bledsoe is a good quarterback. This quarterback can help me win another Super Bowl. I don't know if that would have been the case with Drew [Bledsoe] in Dallas."
"I think I have a few more years left in me. I would like to get to 1,000 catches and win another world championship so I can put the pressure on the Hall of Fame voters. It's about winning another title for me. If I have the catches and the title, how they keep me out?"
"My mother raised six kids in south central Los Angeles. My siblings sold drugs and were in gangs. We were homeless for a time. I think I am blessed to be where I am today

Good Read on Skins future with Cowboys cap info.

The worst yet to come?
By David Elfin
October 27, 2006

The NFL's most disappointing team this season also faces a troubling question about its long-term future: Is the worst yet to come for the Washington Redskins?

The Redskins, who are in their bye week, are 2-5 and meet teams with winning records in seven of their final nine games. The performance of the offense in general and the quarterback in particular has been spotty, and the defense plummeted in league rankings from top 10 to bottom seven.

The future, however, looks even more distressing. The Redskins entered this season as the oldest team in the league, and they'll head into the offseason with few draft picks and little salary cap space to use to make improvements.

The Redskins' rivals in the NFC East -- the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys -- have stockpiled young talent. The Redskins, meanwhile, have stockpiled veterans on the downside of their careers. Their opening day roster consisted of players with an average age of 27.83, the highest in the NFL.

Eight of the Redskins' starters on offense and defense already are thirtysomethings: quarterback Mark Brunell (36), offensive tackle Jon Jansen (30), guard Randy Thomas (30), defensive end Phillip Daniels (33), defensive tackle Joe Salave'a (31), linebackers Marcus Washington (30) and Warrick Holdman (30) and cornerback Shawn Springs (31).

Four other starters -- offensive tackle Chris Samuels, center Casey Rabach, defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin and linebacker Lemar Marshall -- will join them within a year.

The flow of rookies into the starting lineup, on the other hand, has been decidedly small: Samuels, guard Derrick Dockery, tight end Chris Cooley, cornerback Carlos Rogers and safety Sean Taylor are the only such players to enter the lineup since 2000.

That list seems all the shorter in comparison to the other teams in the division.

The Eagles start 13 such players, including Pro Bowl cornerback Sheldon Brown and star running back Brian Westbrook. The Cowboys start 12, including Pro Bowl safety Roy Williams and tight end Jason Witten. The Giants start nine, led by quarterback Eli Manning and Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey.

That trend won't be reversed soon.

The Redskins will have only one or two picks in the first four rounds of next year's draft, depending upon the compensation they are required to give for their preseason trade for running back T.J. Duckett.

Their division rivals, meanwhile, are better positioned for the draft. The Cowboys and Giants each have all of their picks in the first four rounds, and the Eagles hold a pick in each of the first three rounds.

The Redskins long have operated in such a manner, often to great success. The George Allen line, "the future is now," has served as their motto for nearly four decades, whether Allen, Bobby Beathard, Dan Snyder or Joe Gibbs called the shots in the front office.

The Redskins never believed in losing today to build a better tomorrow. Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi always hates "to see holes" when he looks at his roster of picks for the next draft, but the Redskins generally have traded picks like so many Pokemon cards.

Allen drafted only one player before the fourth round in his seven seasons in charge. Beathard traded six of his final seven first-round picks. Snyder, in charge of the 2000, 2002 and 2003 drafts, and Gibbs, who has ruled the front office the past three years, haven't been as trade crazed. Still, their combined six drafts produced only 13 players, five of them starters, on the current roster.

When Gibbs returned to the Redskins in 2004 after an 11-year retirement, he was thrilled by the prospect of working with the unrestricted free agency that began the month he departed the league. A coach who treasured veterans loved being able to bring in proven players as free agents rather than trying to guess how collegians might adjust to the pros.

"I'd hate to think what our team would look like if we weren't active in free agency," Gibbs said this week when asked about the failure of this year's class of free agents.

Gibbs did well with most of the veterans he imported in 2004: Washington made the Pro Bowl that season, and Springs and Griffin should have. Daniels led the team in sacks last year. All four were key starters for the Redskins team that last season ended a five-year playoff drought.

The most recent free agent classes (Andre Carter, Brandon Lloyd, Adam Archuleta, et al) so far has been disappointing.

In addition to the salary cap-eating contracts, there is a hidden cost to adding such experienced talent. When those players come to the Redskins, they are either hitting their peak (Washington, Griffin) or are on the way down (Brunell, Daniels). And they're not going to give that little extra something in hopes of landing their first mega-millions contract, as a younger player might.

Some scoffed when the Eagles, who possessed elite cornerbacks in Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor, used first- and second-round picks on corners Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown in the 2002 draft. Why not draft a receiver to replace run-of-the-mill starters Todd Pinkston and James Thrash?

Two years later, however, Vincent and Taylor had departed and Sheppard and Brown were starting on the Eagles' first Super Bowl team in 24 years. And, for good measure, Sheppard made the Pro Bowl.

In contrast, the Redskins had no young offensive linemen on the rise to fill in for injured starters in recent seasons. So when Jansen suffered a season-ending injury in 2004 and Thomas did the same last season, they were replaced by Ray Brown, the oldest lineman to play in the NFL in 75 years. Brown retired in January at 43.

Or compare the Redskins' defense, the team's solid foundation the past two years, to that of the Cowboys. The Dallas defense includes six starters under 27, the Redskins' only two (Taylor and Rogers).

And consider the quarterbacks.

Donovan McNabb, who turns 30 next month, is in his prime in his seventh season as the Eagles' main man. Manning, 25, is making giant strides in his second year as New York's full-time starter. Cowboys coach Bill Parcells is gambling that 26-year-old Tony Romo will give the offense the spark that immobile veteran Drew Bledsoe couldn't.

Gibbs, however, remains committed to over-the-hill Brunell while Jason Campbell, a first-round draft pick last year, watches and waits.

The more obvious problem with bringing in top-shelf veterans, however, is their cost.

Springs, Brunell, Griffin and Daniels alone account for more than $23 million on the Redskins' 2007 salary cap. Taylor, Rogers, Campbell and their top choice in the 2006 draft, linebacker Rocky McIntosh, cost less than $7 million combined. And getting rid of highly paid players has its costs, too. Former linebacker LaVar Arrington counts nearly $8 million against the Redskins' cap this year even though he now plays for the Giants.

The Redskins are just $1 million below next year's projected salary cap of $109 million. Their division rivals, again, are in better position: The Eagles ($31 million under the cap), Cowboys ($22 million) and Giants ($16 million) have plenty of money to spend.

So help isn't on the way to Redskin Park anytime soon

Friday, October 27, 2006

Cowboys reeking of desperation

by Richard Oliver:
San Antonio Express-News

Something smells in the land of the Tuna.
The breakthrough campaign forecast for the Cowboys has instead become a season on the stink, and what's wafting through the Valley Ranch corridors these days isn't exactly what you'd call rosy optimism.

It reeks of desperation.

Especially in a team setting, the scent of it can assault the senses quicker than a rancher shuffling into the house after taking a shortcut through the barnyard.

How Dallas' locker room reacts in the aftermath will be telling.

Players can tackle the odoriferous mess they're in or recoil from it. The result will play out on the scoreboard soon enough.

A little more than a third of the way through this campaign, the Cowboys are at 3-3 and gasping in the NFC East, at the kind of crossroads that will decide more than Sunday's pivotal showdown.

Coach Bill Parcells chose a new course this week by making a long-awaited switch at quarterback, installing young firebrand Tony Romo ahead of warhorse Drew Bledsoe.

Mark it down as the defining moment of the coach's tenure with Dallas.

If this latest maneuver fails, the next significant change should aim a bit higher than any shotgun snap.

It's the Tuna who should roll.

After all the drafts, free-agent signings and personnel shifts over the past four-plus seasons, Parcells heads to Carolina with only a 28-27 record in Dallas, including one abbreviated playoff run and more starting quarterbacks than big-game victories.

En route to the Hall of Fame, the legendary coach appears stuck in stall and blame. Hired to be a champion, Parcells has too often been Chan Gailey.

Suddenly, it seems he's no Bill Belichick or Charlie Weis. Heck, at this point he's no Sean Payton.

As the pupils have become the masters, the Cowboys have become mediocre again.

It's time to take a hard look at why.

Owner Jerry Jones said Thursday that he feels the impact of it, admitting he's lowered expectations for a season he projected as something special.

"I have to be a realist," the owner said. "I hadn't thought or hoped that we'd be sitting here after the sixth game making these adjustments."

That, he added, "is a step back."

It should also be an alarm bell for Parcells. The man who views accountability as a standard, often waving it before his troops like a signal flag, should be held to the same over the next 10 games.

If he doesn't take these horses to the Super Bowl, perhaps he should go back to betting on others at Saratoga.

Parcells, 65, would have an answer for that today, and it would be a description awfully similar to what that rancher might be scraping off his boots. During his career, the ascribed genius has generally viewed his management skills to be hindered only by the folks carrying out the orders.

In the latter part of his coaching journey, that has usually involved the quarterback position.

The move to the brash Romo has a precedent on Parcells' resume. In 1997, with the New York Jets offense misfiring, the coach yanked Neil O'Donnell, like Bledsoe a Super Bowl graduate, in favor of another unheralded, cocksure thrower named Glenn Foley.

"It's a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately game with him," Foley, a former Boston College overachiever, said later. "That's how he runs it."

By early 1998, Foley was out and retread Vinny Testaverde in. In a stunning resurgence, the former Tampa Bay quarterback amassed 29 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, leading New York to the AFC title game.

Today, Parcells has found his latest Foley, and it has come to this for Cowboys fans: The hope for the future again rests on a question mark.

Just as it did when Parcells brought Testaverde to the Cowboys and later Bledsoe. And just as it didn't when the Cowboys coach failed to aggressively court Drew Brees and Jake Delhomme, among others, last offseason.

As a result, Dallas heads to Carolina today after a move that smacks of desperation.

And, after all this time, that stinks.