Intensity Heating Up

IRVING, Tex. - Nothing like easing back into things, huh?

Dallas cornerback Mike Jenkins spent four weeks on the shelf because of a balky hamstring. When he returned to the lineup last week, he had the honor of going head-to-head with star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald in the Cowboys' loss to the Arizona Cardinals — a big, physical target who is widely viewed as being among the top handful of receivers in the NFL.

This week, he likely will tangle with another physical wideout in Hakeem Nicks of the New York Giants. Fitzgerald and Nicks, Jenkins said, present similar challenges for cornerbacks.

Against Fitzgerald, Jenkins said, his approach was "to get up in his face, to put my hands on him, because he is a big body." Against Nicks, Jenkins said he has to do the same thing.

Sunday's game against the Giants is different than last week's game against the Cardinals. This week's game is at home, not on the road. More importantly, it is a division game against a longtime NFC East rival. That alone, Jenkins said, ratchets up the intensity of the game right away.

Asked if there is any genuine hate between the two teams, Jenkins admitted that there probably is.

"Probably so," he said, "if you look at the past history between the two teams. It's always great competition between us … very physical."

Jenkins said that the volume will go up when the Cowboys and Giants meet, and not just because chilly weather might convince Dallas owner Jerry Jones to close the roof on the stadium. The players, Jenkins said, engage in more verbal confrontations than often occur in non-division games. Jenkins stopped short of identifying a ring leader when it comes to trash talk, but he did admit that New York running back Brandon Jacobs is not afraid to get mixed up in the competitive chatter.

"That's him, though," Jenkins said. "That's what you get from him."

Jenkins quickly admitted that the Giants aren't the only team that becomes more talkative. "Of course," he said when asked if he and his teammates are likely to return verbal fire. "You have to talk."

But Jenkins quickly insisted that the verbal sparring does not mean the Cowboys will get drawn in to a war of words that precludes them from taking care of the task that awaits them Sunday night. With a record of 7-5, the Cowboys sit atop the NFC East, one game ahead of the 6-6 Giants. With four regular-season games to go, each game gets more critical. A Dallas loss would even the teams' records and basically give the Giants a leg up in the race for the division title, with Dallas going on the road in a few weeks for the rematch between the teams.

Jenkins did his best Jason Garrett imitation, offering up the same kind of "one game at a time" approach that Garrett insists is the way the Cowboys approach each game.

"Obviously, everybody in here knows what's at stake," Jenkins said. "It's a big game. But we don't care what the situation is. We need the ‘W.' Every game should be ‘the most important game.' If we treat every game that way, and take care of business, we're not in this situation (of having to win late-season games)."

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