EXCLUSIVE: Rookie hazing?

IRVING, Tex. - Dallas Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer admitted Wednesday that when he stops to think about the fact that Arizona Cardinals quarterback John Skelton will be making his second NFL start of his rookie season, he sort of licks his chops.

Call it the NFL equivalent of hazing.

"Yeah, somewhat," Spencer said, smiling. "We've seen more film on the other guys (Derek Anderson and Max Hall). This guy's pretty big (6-5, 244), but doesn't run as much. I'm not saying the other guys are more athletic, but (Skelton) just doesn't get out of the pocket much. He moves around OK, in the pocket, but he's not going to scramble a lot."

When facing a quarterback as green as Skelton — his playing career began last weekend when he started against Denver — Spencer admitted that he and the rest of the Dallas defenders have to resist the urge to get away from what they normally do in their effort to get inside the young Arizona quarterback's head.

"You actually have to worry about that," Spencer said. "You don't want to try to do too much, because when you do, you run the risk of getting out of position to make plays.

"You've got to just do what you do, and let them adjust to it."

Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis famously said that part of the key to a successful defense is the idea that "the quarterback must go down, and he must go down hard." While Spencer said he and his teammates have no desire to hurt Skelton (or any other quarterback), he agreed that establishing a physical presence on a young signal caller can have a positive effect for the defense.

"Especially early," he said when asked if delivering shots on Skelton could take the young passer out of his game. "He looks like he has a lot of talent, but he doesn't have a lot of NFL experience. If we can hit him early, maybe we can get him worrying more about us than looking for his receivers and checking down to his second and third options."

Spencer has 13.5 sacks in his four NFL seasons, but said that while he believes in the logic behind administering some physical punishment to a young passer, he has yet to see a quarterback actually show fear of the Dallas defense.

"I can't say I've seen that," Spencer said. "Quarterbacks are getting tougher, and they're stronger. Look at (Skelton) — he's a big, strong guy. Most quarterbacks know they're going to get hit, but they still stand in there as long as they can, waiting to get rid of the ball."

The Cardinals have underachieved this year, boasting a 4-10 record with two games to go. According to Spencer, the biggest key to making sure Arizona doesn't increase its victory total Christmas night is to punish Skelton … early and often.

"He's a talented guy, but he's a young guy," Spencer said. "He can make a lot of throws, but hopefully he'll make some mistakes, too. Hopefully, if we can get pressure on him, we can help him make some of those mistakes. If he does, that plays into what we're trying to do against him."

CowboysHQ Top Stories