Not giving up on current season
Head coach Bill Parcells said Tuesday that quarterback Vinny Testaverde would return to the starting lineup Monday when the Cowboys face the Seahawks in Seattle.
"I'm going to play Testaverde against Seattle," Parcells said. "He's going to start Monday night. He gives us the best chance to win the game Monday night. That's what I'm interested in doing."
After injuring his shoulder in the loss two weeks ago to Baltimore and enduring back spasms, Testaverde was replaced in the lineup Thanksgiving day by rookie Drew Henson. When Henson struggled, Testaverde came off the bench to lead the Cowboys to a victory over the Chicago Bears.
With the 4-7 Cowboys still hanging on to a slim chance at the playoffs, Parcells said that winning now takes priority over playing for the future. That mentality dictates his commitment to playing Testaverde.
"Didn't the Browns make it (to the playoffs) at 8-8 once?" Parcells said. "I don't know the year, but it was during my coaching time. Things (teams' positions in the playoff race) are different than they were when we played Thursday, and prior to Monday night, things will be different again.
"Someone (in the bottom echelon among the still-alive teams) in the NFC, and I might be wrong … Someone in the NFC could make a run. I'm not saying we're going to do it. But we have a chance."
Parcells said it's simply not in his nature to give up on his current team in order to get long looks at young players who might play significant roles next year.
"My mind only works for this week, this season," he said. "That's the only way my mind works. That's my responsibility -- trying to win games."
He also said he has heard the calls from fans and media to make the move to Henson. But he said those clamoring for the team's rookie quarterback are basing their pleas on a desire for something new, rather than for something that's necessarily an improvement.
"'Different' is always better," Parcells said, "until 'different' is no good. Then something different from that is better."
Running more smoothly
Part of the reason Parcells said he thinks the Cowboys can win with Testaverde under center is the sudden emergence of rookie running back Julius Jones, who racked up 150 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries in just his second career start.
"This team has changed just a little bit in the last two weeks," Parcells said of the infusion of speed and energy the offense has gotten since Jones took over the ball-carrying duties. "If we play with more balance on offense … and we have to play good defense, good special teams …"
Those criteria, Parcells said, have had a direct effect on Testaverde's performance.
"Most quarterbacks are pretty much the same," Parcells said, "when they're playing from behind all the time. When you have the luxury of presenting a balanced attack …"
As well as Jones ran the ball -- first in the loss to Baltimore, and then in the win over Chicago -- Parcells said he does not want to overuse his rookie runner, who missed seven games with a broken shoulder blade.
"I don't want to give it to him 30 times a game, I really don't," Parcells said. "Richie (Anderson) should be back this week, so that might help."
Anderson was held out of the Chicago game after suffering a concussion against the Ravens the week before.
"Julius gives us more balance, more speed on the field," Parcells said. "I don't want to use Julius like we are right now. But I am interested in winning games. That was the single most important thing Thursday."
The thing that Parcells said is among Jones' most admirable qualities is his inner drive.
"He doesn't get discouraged, and I take my hat off to him for that," Parcells said. "There were a couple of series there, in the beginning of the third quarter, when he didn't get discouraged when he could have -- and that's a very, very good sign. That's a very good intangible. There are days when it's going to be tough sledding out there. There are days when he's not ever going to see any daylight."
Parcells said some of Jones' dedication and maturity began to show when he was rehabilitating his shoulder injury.
"I think he learned a lot about pro football by not playing," Parcells said. "The trainers really pointed it out to me. We pushed him (Jones) hard -- really hard. (Trainers) Britt (Brown) and Jim (Maurer) work him hard, so I give them the credit. All I say to them is "makee sure he does this or does that, slap at the ball, beat him with the blocking sleds.' But they did a great job getting him ready to come back and play.
Copper is precious
Parcells appears to be an unabashed fan of rookie wide receiver Terrance Copper, the free agent from East Carolina.
"I knew our running game took a hit when Dan Campbell went out, OK? I knew that," Parcells said. "Then, when Terry (Glenn) went out, that was another hit for the offense. But the byproduct of that is that I've gotten to see more of Quincy Morgan.
"And I've seen mercurial development from Terrance Copper. He came here on the practice squad, and he has far exceeded our expectations. I've been calling Keith Davis 'Hasim Rachman' … who knocked out Evander Holyfield. I told David he was our best special teams player … for about six weeks. Copper has passed him."
Parcells said that Copper clearly has recognized the difference between playing at the college and NFL levels.
"I think the biggest surprise, for him, was the stamina it takes to play his position(s)," Parcells said. "He's a cover guy on special teams, he's running routes all day and he's expected to block, too. I think he got a little gassed Thursday."
Coach doesn't see rift with owner
Parcells was asked Tuesday if he objected to having his decision to pull Henson for Testaverde Thursday questioned by owner Jerry Jones, who said after the game that he would have liked to see Henson finish out the game.
"I didn't view it that way (as Jones questioning Parcells' decision)," Parcells said. "I viewed it as Jerry saying what his opinion is, and that's fine.
"We talk all the time. We discuss the team, what we're going to do -- that's natural. You (media) guys can write what you want and say what you want, but it's not going to have any bearing on what I say."
Back in the Saddle
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