Hutchinson Hanging On

Nobody has said that quarterback Chad Hutchinson won't be with the Cowboys when the team heads to training camp this summer. But when the team opened mini-camp this weekend in Dallas, the message seemed to be loud and clear: he's still a member of the team, but that might not last long.

Hutchinson started nine games as a rookie in 2002 before becoming a spectator last year, watching Quincy Carter start all 17 games (16 in the regular season, plus the team's playoff loss to Carolina). He was sent to play for NFL Europe's Rhein Fire, where he played to mixed reviews before injuring a shoulder that sent him to Birmingham, Ala., while the rest of the squad convened in Valley Ranch this week for mini-camp.

"When a player is injured in NFL Europe, there's a standard procedure that's followed, which involves him going to Birmingham to get evaluated," head coach Bill Parcells said. "He'll go through a sort of 'medical clearing house' before he can move forward."

But it wasn't so much what he's done on the field as it is what's transpired off the field that has made him expendable. Carter earned the starting job last year, and for much of the season, played pretty well. The Cowboys then traded for highly-touted passer Drew Henson and locked him up with a eight-year contract. Last week, Dallas signed 19-year veteran Vinny Testaverde, who will be given every opportunity to challenge Carter for the starting job. And all along, the coaches have sung the praises of Tony Romo, who served as the team's No. 3 quarterback last year.

Parcells said Saturday that he never has gone into a training camp at any of his previous coaching stops (with the New York Giants, New England Patriots or the New York Jets) with five quarterbacks on his roster, and that he doesn't want to start now, citing the difficulty of getting each passer enough repetitions in practice to fully display his ability without taking away needed reps from the other quarterbacks.

"I never have before,," Parcells said of the idea of taking five passers to camp, "and I don't think I'd want to. It gets hard to get each of them the work that they need. I don't want to take more guys and sacrifice the reps we need to give to the starter."

Parcells added that in the last couple of preseason games, the starting quarterback and his main backup need a certain amount of playing time to be ready for the season, and that an excess of quarterbacks would diminish the amount of work his starter (and first backup) would get. Such a scenario also wouldn't allow the last quarterback on the bottom of the depth chart enough reps to develop and display his skills.

Most NFL teams carry three quarterbacks on their roster; some carry only two. If the Cowboys break from the NFL norm and keep four quarterbacks (with one stashed on the practice squad), Romo is thought to have a far better chance of sticking with the team, if only because he makes significantly less money than Hutchinson, who earned what some called "first-round money" when he shelved his professional baseball career to join the Cowboys in 2002.

So when the team gathered Saturday for mini-camp, Hutchinson was getting his shoulder examined in Birmingham. More telling was the fact that he was not listed on the rosters distributed to members of the media, and he had no locker in the locker room. The Dallas Morning News quoted owner Jerry Jones as saying the absence of a locker was "an oversight" and that the error would be corrected by Sunday's morning practice. It was … sort of. The lockers in the Cowboys locker room have two sections: a tall section in which players can hang clothes, etc., and a small section above the main section in which players keep cell phones, grooming products, family pictures, etc. Hutchinson's name plate was posted above the small upper section of Henson's locker, giving the impression of a very temporary arrangement. (Henson's locker still contained all his personal items.)

Whether Hutchinson joins the team at training camp presumably will be determined by the medical report and, of course, Parcells. Hutchinson's departure would ease the logjam at quarterback and allow the Cowboys additional room under the salary cap (and some compensation -- likely a draft choice -- if the team can trade him before having to release him). While no move has been made, and perhaps won't until the start of training camp, most observers agree Hutchinson likely will have to find another team to continue his career. Stay tuned....

CowboysHQ Top Stories