Parcells in Shape, Allen Not?

OXNARD, Calif. - Who'da thunk it? On the same day when Bill Parcells claimed he passed his personal conditioning drill, the coach decided Larry Allen flunked his.

The first day of Camp Cowboys 2005 was marred by a disappointing development (well, Parcells wouldn't concede to "disappointment,'' so I'll handle that for him): Larry Allen, the All-Pro offensive lineman, draped in a gray windbreaker than in his No. 73 jersey. There was Allen, jogging on the "other field'' (in Jimmy Jenius parlance from days gone by, the "asthma field'') and watching his teammates inaugurate training camp without him.

C'mon, Bill: You're not disappointed? Puzzled? Pissed? After all, it was only a few months ago that you proclaimed Allen capable of doing more in terms of agility than he'd done under you before.

"Hey, if he can't perform, I don't know what you call it,'' said Parcells after overseeing a first practice that did not include his most credentialed player. "We're executing our judgement to wait to put players on the field. He didn't pass the physical.''

This marks a continuation of the boxing match that heavyweights Parcells and Allen have engaged in over the years. The point of this latest bout? Maybe a flexing of Parcells' muscle, inasmuch as placing Allen on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list is more embarrassing than it is indicative of Allen's future as this team's best blocker.

"You can bring him back (from off the PUP list) in 10 minutes if you want,'' Parcells said.

OK, Larry, hurry up! Run as far as you can in 10 minutes, will ya?

Larry? Larry? Why aren't you moving?

OK, Larry, will you WALK as fast as you can in 10 minutes?

To the naked eye, Allen appears to be less thick. (Though when it was suggested to Parcells that LA had lost weight since last season, he responded, "That is not the case). But maybe Allen is not less thick in the head.

Fine, so nobody is disappointed or surprised or pissed, besides you and me?

How about stubborn? Is anybody involved in this bizarre tug-of-war willing to admit to "stubborness''? Parcells, stubborn for maybe slapping Larry on the back of the hand? Allen, stubborn for maybe filling the front of his hand with M&M's?

I hesitate to take this story too seriously, except for one factor: Parcells did mention that the league has "mandated'' that teams use great care with out-of-shape fellas, lest we have another Korey Stringer tragedy. So alongside the gorgeous golf course and in the shadows of purple mountains and in a climate that cause the locals to bundle up when it gets in the 70's, Allen trudged along in his gray windbreaker.

Funny thing about the conditioning issue is that Parcells is fresh off boasting about his personal workouts. On Friday, while almost all the rookies excelled in the testing, while Drew Bledsoe blew people away in the testing, and while Larry Allen apparently moved not like a turtle, but rather like a turtle-less shell, Parcells himself – about 30 years his star's senior – claims he was Kip Keino'ing his way through the jogging paths of Oxnard.

"I've had to increase my energy level a lot,'' Parcells said. "I want to be able to stay on their ass every day, is really what I want to be able to do. … I've been trying to do that by running a lot harder than I've run in many, many years. To restore a lot of flexibility, to do everything I could do. Since I've been here. ... I've run 15 miles.''

What?! Bill Parcells, with that spare tire and those linebacker knees that turn inward and that 64-th birthday looming this month, is churning out daily five-mile runs?! That's enough to make a fat old sportswriter feel fatter and older (until, at least, he visits with some Parcells buddies who call BS, laughingly inform yours truly that the coach must be exaggerating his road work by, oh, 90 percent).

But let the record show that on Day 1, Bill Parcells reported in shape – and that Larry Allen did not. And let the record show that, while Parcells was prepping to conduct his Day 1 morning press conference, strolling by, just outside the event, was none other than Larry Allen. … back in uniform!

Hooray! Huzzah! Welcome back, LA!

Um, wait. He wasn't wearing Cowboys-issued No. 73. Larry Allen was wearing a gargantuan green Celtics jersey with "BIRD'' and "No. 33'' on the back.

Oh, well. It's a start.

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