Woodson: "It's Different Without Emmitt"

Darren Woodson officially became the Cowboys longest tenured player when the team released running back Emmitt Smith in February. Woodson is still trying to get used to life as the team's elder statesman and being without Smith, who was in his third year with the Cowboys when Woodson joined the team as a second-round pick in 1992.

Through the years, they became close friends as well as respected leaders on offense and defense.

"It's different being in here without Emmitt," Woodson, 34, said. "I could just look across the room and he was right there. He and I communicated every day. We talked all the time. You know Emmitt didn't practice much during mini camp but you miss the friendship and camaraderie. The thing with this is that life goes on."

And while he misses Smith, life has gone on for Woodson.

He refuses to rest on the laurels of becoming the team's all-time leading tackler last season or going into the 2003 season as the last man standing from Cowboys three Super Bowl title teams in 1992, 1993 and 1995. Guard Larry Allen joins him as the only remaining members of the 1995 title team.

Woodson, who has fully recovered from an abdominal strain that ended his 2002 season after 11 games, said his goal is to become a champion again.

The 12-year veteran said it was painful watching the Cowboys from champions to also-rans, culminating with three straight 5-11 campaigns in 2000, 2001 and 2002. But he acknowledges being reinvigorated by the hiring of Bill Parcells as Cowboys coach. He said Parcells' history as a two-time Super Bowl champion coach has fostered confidence but watching him instill much needed discipline into the organization has him believing that his renewed Super Bowl dreams can become a reality.

"He reinvigorates me," Woodson said. "His goal is to win and win Super Bowls. That's the reason I am still here. I like him. He is straight forward. He shoots straight. As a football player, you really appreciate knowing what your head coach wants you to do."

While Parcells says the five-time Pro Bowler will have to prove to him in training camp that he can still play at high level, the new coach has already taken a liking to the team's oldest player for his work in the off season program.

"He is a good guy," Parcells said. "I like him. He reminds me of some of the real good leaders I have had in the past. He has that type of personality. He was very eager to jump right into the offseason and get to work. We have completed 32 workouts and he has 37. He is one of those kind of guys. That tells you why he has been successful. I look forward to working with him."

Despite his own record of success, Woodson isn't bothered by being asked to prove himself all over again. In fact, he says that's what he likes about Parcells.

"It's not just the coach," Woodson said. "Any time you get a new coach, you want to impress him. If you don't impress you are going to be out here. You want to show what kind of skills you have. With him, you are going to be self-motivated. That's what he brings. He brings high standards."

Moreover, Woodson says Parcells has brought standards to Cowboys not seen since Jimmy Johnson left in 1993. Focus, attention to detail and discipline have again become high priorities at the team's Valley Ranch training complex. Woodson, who outlawed dominoes in the locker room last season, is on board with Parcells' decision to prohibit dominoes, cards and cell phones in the locker room this season.

"He is not going to let the little things beat us as in the past," Woodson said. "I think that's what I really like about him. The little things count. We are back on our toes around here. We haven't had that feeling since Jimmy was here. I don't want to say too much. I don't want to say this guy's is the savior. He takes it one step at a time and that's how I am taking it. But I just know how he goes about his business is what I expect in a coach."

That alone makes Woodson feel good about life as a Cowboy without Emmitt.

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