Thanks for all of the kind notes and concerns about my back. I don’t have the results from the MRI yet, but I do have some pills that are totally screwing up my head. This sucks. I can barely type without getting dizzy. Not a fan of drugs.
Seahawks with very tenuous DB situation …
It's the matchup being talked about since Sunday, when it became known the Cowboys and Seahawks were facing each other in the playoffs.
Big Play Babs and Slim versus T.O. and, well, Terry Glenn, a guy without a catchy nickname, as his teammate Tony Romo said.
That's Seattle cornerbacks Jordan (Babs) Babineaux and Kelly (Slim) Jennings trying to cover a pair of 1,000-yard receivers, the Cowboys' Terrell Owens and Glenn.
On paper, the advantage appears to be heavily in Dallas' corner, as Babineaux and Jennings have far less experience. Owens isn't even sure who Jennings and Babineaux are.
"I don't know any names of any corners, really, that I play each week," Owens said Wednesday. "It doesn't really matter. It's all about beating the guy in front of you, so I've never been a guy to really take note of who a corner is unless I know him personally. Other than that, it doesn't really matter."
Jennings and Babineaux haven't been able to stop fielding questions about the situation. On Wednesday in the team's locker room, it was Jennings addressing two reporters with Babineaux sitting behind him offering the rookie some encouragement.
"Be positive," Babineaux said as Jennings tried to keep a straight face.
Jennings was asked about Owens on Tuesday. He said he has to study Owens' tendencies and try to mold his game around what Owens does.
Is it fun to compete head-to-head against the notorious T.O.?
"Yeah, it is," Jennings said. "He's a great player and he does great things. When you do stuff like that I guess you can talk. ... I know he may say a few things, but I will be there the whole time so it will be fun.
"T.O. always has something good for you, so we can all expect him to do something."
The Cowboys aren't saying much about the advantage they are thought to have. They don't have a lot of film on Babineaux and Jennings because the two weren't prominent in earlier games.
It turns out the groin injury believed to be affecting WR D.J. Hackett isn't the reason Hackett is questionable this week. It's a right hip flexor that forced Hackett out of practice Wednesday.
Marcus Trufant (right ankle) is listed as doubtful but won't play, coach Mike Holmgren said. Right guard Chris Gray (right quadriceps), wide receiver Darrell Jackson (left toe) and left guard Floyd Womack (groin) didn't practice and are questionable.
Defensive tackle Rocky Bernard (right foot) and wide receiver Nate Burleson (left ankle) are probable.
Linebacker Leroy Hill practiced Wednesday, though he is questionable with effects of a concussion.
Holmgren said Gray and Womack will be game-time decisions but could practice today. He hopes Jackson can play this week after missing the past three games, and both Hackett and Jackson could be at practice today.
The future of Bill Parcells …
Parcells, though, said Wednesday he and Jones have already picked a time to discuss the issues surrounding a decision on whether Parcells will return for the fifth and final year of his contract.
“We have an understanding as to what’s going to happen,” Parcells said. “I’ll let you know about that when the season’s over. But we do have an understanding. There’s no doubt about what’s in place and what we’re going to talk about and when.”
Asked if the job was still his if he wanted it, Parcells said: “Yeah, I think so. But I’m not saying. You’ll have to ask him about that.”
Success has been elusive for the Cowboys (9-7) under Parcells, who has yet to match the 10-6 record he posted when he took over in 2003. The Cowboys made the playoffs as a wild card that year, but lost in the first round to the Carolina Panthers. Should they lose to the 9-7 Seahawks, the Cowboys’ streak without a playoff victory will have reached 10 seasons.
That drought does not sit well with Jones, whose comments to the local news media have included words like pitiful, disgusted, frustrated and disappointed to describe the state of his franchise.
Jones’s omnipresence on the Cowboys’ sideline, contrasted with Parcells’s occasional listless body language, has fueled speculation of a coaching change in a football-crazy area where the weekly vibe can swing from thoughts of the Cowboys winning the Super Bowl to the sky falling through the hole at Texas Stadium.
Parcells bristled at the notion of being at the low point of his career, although that’s what he said after a loss earlier this season.
“You’re judging me by a five-minute period after the game, when you experience a great disappointment,” he said. “If you judge someone like that, you’re always going to take the negative look. But that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to go forward.”
Parcells said any decisions would include an overall evaluation and would not be based solely on whether the Cowboys beat the Seahawks, who also limp into the playoffs having lost three of four games.
“It’s not about a 10-day period, a two-week period or one-week period,” he said. “You can’t make a judgment based on that. You have to make a judgment based on whether you feel like you want to take on this task, you want to do it again, you want to muster up enough energy, because you know you’ve got another off-season, another draft, another preseason, another regular season, you’ve got the whole drill. If you’re ready to try to do that with the energy that you know is necessary, then you go forward with it.”
How about the The future of Terrell Owens? …
It's been speculated that if Parcells stays, Owens is gone. And if Parcells is gone, Owens stays.
"You guys brought that up," Owens said after Wednesday's practice. "Wherever you guys are getting your leaks or sources from ... it's nonexistent to me."
Owens is due to receive a $3 million roster bonus in June. Should the Cowboys release him before the bonus, it would cost them $3.2 million against the salary cap.
Owens has gone through a mixture of emotions – his accidental overdose, frustration over not getting involved in the offense sooner and dropped passes.
"It shouldn't be a situation where I should be talking about whether I want to come back," said Owens, who said he would get signed by another team if the Cowboys release him. "[The media] should be focusing on the playoffs. This is not anything dealing with whether I'll be back or not."
The Cowboys acquired Owens for his big-play ability, and he led the team in catches (85), yards (1,180) and touchdown receptions (13).
Parcells said he's pleased with Owens' output, but the receiver's NFL-leading 14 dropped passes raises concerns.
With the playoffs starting Saturday night in Seattle, Owens said it's time for him
to play better.
In 12 career playoff games, Owens is averaging 14.1 yards per catch with four touchdowns. He has three 100-yard-plus games but only two TD receptions in his last five playoff appearances.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I've been in the playoffs before, I've played in the Super Bowl before. I wasn't 100 percent healthy, but you know, I held my own. I'm not a guy who will lose his focus. I'm not a guy who lacks confidence."
In other NFL action, The Giants are counting on Eli Manning to take on the Eagles in Philadelphia. Sorry, New York. I don’t see Eli getting anything done on Sunday in that environment.
This writer seems to agree with me …
Last season, Manning took the NFL by storm, breaking free from older brother Peyton's shadow and leading the Giants into the playoffs.
But this season, Manning has been knocked around and often plays with the look of a boy in need of his blanket.
Manning plays quarterback like a streak-shooting basketball player looking to find his range from game to game. When things are going well for the Giants' offense, thanks to a big run by Tiki Barber or an acrobatic catch by Plaxico Burress, Manning looks good. He takes the field with a sense of cockiness and leads the offense like a veteran.
It's a different story for Manning when New York's offense is struggling. He mopes around from play to play and fails to do anything with confidence. Manning's mechanics fall apart and that leads to passes sailing high and throws into the ground.
After playing Philadelphia twice during the regular season, including a loss to the Eagles in New York on Dec. 17, Manning should be ready for the multiple looks and blitzes used by defensive coordinator Jim Johnson.
New York's best bet is to get Manning on the move with rollouts and bootleg plays that feature Barber and Burress. That should allow Manning to complete safe passes to his best receivers against the Eagles' pressure defense.
If the Giants can get that done, Manning may play like he did at his best last season.
But if the Giants fail to build Manning's confidence in the early going, they better make sure he has a blanket ready after the game.
Nick Saban makes a money grab. Don Shula takes a shot at Saban …
For those who believed Saban's pledges of fidelity to the Dolphins during the past five weeks, his departure for Alabama was a stunner. He left after only two NFL seasons, and acknowledged last month that his job of rebuilding the team into a playoff contender was unfinished.
But as he boarded a plane to Tuscaloosa, the mood at team headquarters — and elsewhere in South Florida — was far from gloomy.
"My reaction is that Saban in two years was 15-17," former Dolphins coach Don Shula said. "I don't think that will be any great loss."
Shula viewed the situation harshly in part because the Crimson Tide fired his son, Mike, creating the vacancy that Saban will fill. But others weary of Saban's autocratic approach embraced the fresh start under a new regime.
Good News for US Soccer! Clint Dempsey is going to Fulham of London …
Major League Soccer has agreed to send Clint Dempsey to Fulham of the English Premier League for what would be the largest transfer free in MLS history -- if the New England Revolution midfielder can obtain a British work permit.
Revolution spokesman Brad Feldman confirmed Tuesday that the league agreed to the terms of a transfer with the British club. The agreement could be worth up to $4 million, sources close to the deal told ESPNSoccernet.com.
MLS's current high is about $3.5 million, including incentive bonuses, in the deal that sent forward Stern John to Nottingham Forest after the 1999 season. In 2003, MLS sold goalkeeper Tim Howard's rights to Manchester United for approximately $3 million, including incentives.
A player from outside the European Union must play in 75 percent of his national team's recent games to obtain a work permit. Dempsey falls just short of that, playing in nine of 13 U.S. matches last year -- about 69 percent -- and 23 national team games in all.
The appeal could be heard this month.
"We've agreed [on] a fee, but it still has to go to the tribunal," Fulham manager Chris Coleman said Saturday in comments replayed by Sky Sports TV. "We've been there before and not won all of them, so we've got to keep our fingers crossed."
The 2004 MLS rookie of the year, Dempsey scored the only goal by an American at last year's World Cup and was voted U.S. player of the year.
Revo on the Rangers lack of bats …
He began the off-season with two starting pitchers and will open spring training with at least four of the five rotation spots already filled and still in the running for left-hander Mark Mulder. Daniels bulwarked what was already a strength by adding a new closer to his bullpen, bumping Akinori Otsuka back into the setup
I can't remember the last January when I felt this secure about Rangers pitching, but check back with me in about three months.
So instead of grousing about pitching, at least for the moment, we have the opportunity to ponder whether the Rangers have enough offensively for a change.
Don't worry, Daniels is asking himself the same question, which is why he still has one eye out for a right-handed bat to split time at DH or in left field.
"I'd like to get better on offense," Daniels said over lunch Wednesday. "On paper is [the offense] going to be as dynamic and productive as it's been the last 10 years here? Maybe not. So my biggest concern is probably that we might be a bat short."
In a perfect world, he'd add a proven fifth starter, too, but chances are that final starter will have to come within a group of young pitchers that includes Kam Loe, Josh Rupe, Edinson Volquez and John Koronka.
"But I have to say I have more faith in our young starters and our young bullpen guys coming on this spring than I do that right-handed bat coming internally," Daniels said. "Against left-handed pitching we have some guys in center field who can help out, but I'd like to have a DH to help Cat [Frank Catalanotto] out, or [Brad] Wilkerson, take some pressure off some of those guys."
First baseman-outfielder Craig Wilson is available, as is outfielder Shannon Stewart, and Daniels has at least mild interest in them. But he also realizes that the Rangers probably need to make a decision on Jason Botts and his future with the team.
"He doesn't have much more to prove in the minor leagues," Daniels said. "It's a matter of translating that production to the big leagues. Are big league pitchers going to pitch him differently? Can he make the adjustments to hit at the big league level? The ability is there."
Have the Rangers done enough to make up ground in the AL West? Maybe, maybe not. It'll very likely come down to health, not just for them, but for Anaheim and Oakland, too.
Notre Dame loses 9th straight bowl game! …
So the 11th-ranked Irish arrived at the Louisiana Superdome for Wednesday night's Sugar Bowl against No. 4 LSU knowing that they had to get going quickly if they wanted to keep the Tigers from running away from them.
But in the blink of an eye and the space of a stuffed fake punt, Notre Dame found itself down a touchdown and couldn't recover on their way to a resounding 41-14 loss.
The Irish briefly made a game of it, tying it 14-14 in the second quarter. But they wouldn't score again.
And though a group of Irish fans stood underneath the northwest corner of the end zone to cheer on their team as it left the field, the applause, once again, was conciliatory rather than congratulatory for a program that hasn't enjoyed a bowl victory since Jan. 1, 1994.
"I'm really disappointed in how that game turned out," Irish coach Charlie Weis said. "It was a crummy second half."
Last time the Irish won a bowl game?
January 1994 Cotton Notre Dame 24, Texas A&M 21
Stars grab a point in Vancouver …
The best team in NHL shootout history (all two seasons of it) lost for only the second time. Dallas fell to 15-2 in shootouts when Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler scored on a slick backhand move and Stu Barnes was stopped cold in the sixth round. Zubov and his teammates were hoping it would never get that far, but Zubov made a perfect move and just missed — and that started a tough cycle that the Stars don’t generally have to battle in shootouts.
Barnes shot for the first time in his career in the shootout — and was selected because of his recent success at Stars’ practices. While Dallas was missing potential shooters in Mike Modano (hip.groin) and Brenden Morrow (wrist), the real misses came when players such as Zubov and Mike Ribeiro were stopped.
Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo had 39 saves in what Canucks coach Alain Vigneault called his best game of the season. Dallas goalie Marty Turco added 20 saves and also was spectacular at times. But the Stars still felt the game was one that came down to a puck hitting metal.
“Stu has won two or three (practice) shootouts, so that’s where that one came out of,” Tippett said of his selection. “But we’re missing a few regulars and … I don’t know … Zubie makes a great move, hits the post, and that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Which follows the philosophy Zubov preaches. He did everything right, he had Luongo beat cold … and he didn’t score, the puck didn’t go in the net.
“I heard it,” he said of the loud clang that echoed throughout the arena indicating a miss. “I didn’t see it.”
But that is the way of the NHL. The Canucks (22-18-1, 45 points) were battling for
breaks earlier in the season and now they are getting them during a five-game winning streak. The Stars (25-15-1, 51 points) continue to fight for every scrap they can get as they battle injuries, a tough schedule and a lack of scoring punch.
I need a Jet Pack