Polite focused on NFL

After three consecutive 5-11 seasons, the Dallas Cowboys turned to Bill Parcells last year and the legendary coach put them in the playoffs.<br><br> The attitude is so good this off-season, not even Antonio Bryant could poison it.<br><br> One of Bryant's former teammates at Pitt, Cowboys rookie fullback Lousaka Polite, has noticed.<br><br>

"There's definitely a positive charge going through the locker room," said Polite, who avoided commenting on the recent brouhaha between Bryant and Parcells.

A three-year captain at Pitt, Polite instead focused on the positives.

"The guys here are just pumped up about getting back on the track this team is used to being on," he said. "I mean the Cowboys, quote-unquote, are America's team."

Being a native of North Braddock, Polite realizes those are fighting words in the Pittsburgh area, where Steelers fans took umbrage to the term in the 1970s.

"Yeah, I definitely understand that. I grew up a Steeler fan," Polite said. "But it is what it is. That's the title they've been given and that's who I work for now. And I'm all about winning and staying employed."

Polite is nothing but a lowly rookie free agent with the Cowboys, but on the bright side all rookies are lowly in Parcells' eyes.

While coaches predictably preach to rookies they're all on equal footing, Parcells has a history of backing it up.

"That's the take I'm getting," Polite said. "He's a straight-up guy. He's all about winning. He doesn't care who plays. He wants to win."

So does Polite. At Woodland Hills he was a sophomore on the 1996 WPIAL championship team. He also captained Pitt through a three-year record of 24-14. The four-year starter also played in four bowl games for the Panthers.

At Pitt, Polite became the rare fullback with playmaking ability. He finished his career with 655 yards rushing (3.6 average) and had 59 receptions for 485 yards (8.2 avg.). At 5 feet 11, 246 pounds, Polite was timed at the Indianapolis draft combine at 4.69 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He figured to be drafted, perhaps as high as the fourth round, but wasn't.

He signed with the Cowboys after the draft for a bonus of $17,500. If he makes the team, he'll earn the NFL annual minimum salary of $230,000.

How disappointed was Polite about not being drafted?

"It was definitely a disappointment because everyone's dream is to get drafted," he said. "But I had to move on very quickly. I had to get on the phone and talk to teams to see where the best fit was for me. It turned out to be Dallas."

Polite had his options, but chose Dallas because of Parcells' reputation for fairness.

"And it's a classy team," Polite said. "Who wouldn't want to play for the Cowboys?"

Well, someone who doesn't want to play in the Texas heat. The weather was more than just idle chatter with Polite.

"The heat here is nothing like Pittsburgh," he said. "That's why I'm here working out now, so I'll be ready for training camp."

By then, Polite doesn't expect the weather to be a problem.

"No," he corrected. "I HOPE it isn't a problem. I'm not going to say it won't be a problem because I haven't even put all the pads on yet. I don't want it to be a problem."

Ahead of Polite on the Dallas depth chart are a couple of three-year vets: Jamar Martin and Darien Barnes. Martin has been with the Cowboys the last two years and played in 14 games last season with one start. The back-up to Richie Anderson -- who's been moved to tailback -- Martin carried four times last season for seven yards.

Barnes was acquired by the Cowboys on draft day. Tampa Bay traded him to Dallas in order to move up in the seventh round. Barnes played special teams almost exclusively with the Bucs.

An early report out of Dallas indicated Martin is the best lead blocker of the three players and Barnes will help as a special teams ace. Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News wrote that "Polite may have the complete package."

Polite couldn't, or wouldn't, evaluate his chances of making the team after two mini-camps. He did realize some improvement as the sessions moved along.

"There definitely was a difference between the first and second mini-camps," he said. "The first one my head was spinning. It was a whole new language. I had to adapt to the terminology. The second one I was a lot more comfortable. I started grasping things a lot better, so hopefully by training camp I'll grasp it even that much better.

"I'm studying now. I took a lot of notes, so hopefully that will help."

He not only took notes, Polite worked extensively with quarterback Quincy Carter after practices. Polite provides the Cowboys with an offensive-minded option at fullback, rendering his undrafted status moot.

"Like I said, at this level it doesn't matter," Polite said. "Even high draft picks can get cut, so I'm beyond that. We're all the same, especially going into training camp."

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