No Special Treatement in San Antonio

Cowboys coach Bill Parcells has gotten a lot of mileage out of his opening day use of safety Darren Woodson as an example of how he treats everybody the same. Simply put, veterans are treated no differently than rookies in camp. Just ask Darren Woodson.

Even those with 12 years of experience, three Super Bowl rings, five Pro Bowl selections and the team's career tackles record.

That's why Woodson has his name taped to the top of his helmet in practice just like long-shot rookie free-agent safety Jonathan Martin.

Parcells, who replaced Dave Campo in January, certainly knows Woodson's name, if not his familiar No. 28. But that's just how this new old-school coach does his business.

"It's different, but that's fine with me," said Woodson, who became the oldest tenured Cowboy and the last link to the three title teams of the 1990s when Emmitt Smith was released in February.

"I'm not different than these guys," Woodson said. "I never considered myself a star or anything like that. I've just been around longer. But we're a team. I've got to do the same things everyone else has to do."

Parcells' coaching style and the expected improvement at cornerback, however, means Woodson won't be doing the same things on the field as in the past.

For much of his career, Woodson's versatility and the team's lack of depth at cornerback forced him to play an underneath cornerback position covering the slot receiver on passing downs.

But while being asked to cover the likes of Jerry Rice and Tim Brown said much about Woodson's outstanding skills, it also prevented him from making headline plays from the safety position. His record-setting total of 1,251 career tackles stands in contrast to only 10 sacks and 22 interceptions.

Sacks, interceptions and bone-crushing hits are the mark of a great safety. His low output in those areas is considered a big reason he doesn't have more Pro Bowls on his résumé and is not regarded as a shoo-in for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But he probably won't have those problems in 2003. The additions of first-round pick Terence Newman and veteran Donald Mitchell to go along with holdovers Derek Ross, Mario Edwards and Pete Hunter have given the Cowboys their most talented group of cornerbacks in years.

Newman and Ross are the likely starters, putting Edwards, Mitchell and Hunter on tap for the underneath roles in nickel coverage. That would free up Woodson to play deep safety or to blitz.

It is set up that way because Parcells doesn't want Woodson to play nickel corner anymore.

Woodson is excited about the new role and is approaching it the way Martin or another wide-eyed rookie would.

"For the first time in my career, I'll be able to play safety -- a true safety," Woodson said. "It'll make it a lot easier for me, and I think people will be able to judge me for the safety I really I am. I am going to be a real safety now. So I am excited about that."

Fellow safety Roy Williams is also excited about the possibilities. Williams is pleased, first and foremost, that Woodson is back playing alongside him after missing the last six weeks in 2002 with a hernia. He also said Woodson has a chance to prolong his career with his new role.

"I got my boy back next to me," Williams said. "We had to compensate a whole lot last year when Woodson went out. Woodson was the heart and soul of our secondary. It's a blessing to have him back.

"We will be able to show our big-play abilities more with sacks, hits and interceptions. We will be able to do everything and show our talents. I'm ready. It's time to ball now."

Williams, whom Woodson says is already one of the league's top safeties, had an outstanding rookie season. He finished with 127 tackles, two sacks and five interceptions. His tackles ranked second on the Cowboys and tops in the NFL for rookies. His interceptions tied Cowboys cornerback Derek Ross and Baltimore safety Ed Reed for the most among rookies.

While Woodson is eager to make more plays, it's Parcells' presence that has him believing the Cowboys can become winners again. And if that happens, he said everything else would take care of itself.

"It's all about winning to me," Woodson said. "That's the only thing that matters to me. That's why I still play ... to win Super Bowls. That's why I am here."

That's also why he doesn't mind being treated like a rookie.

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