Tyson Thompson was startled. Bill Parcells was driving the golf cart -- directly at the him.
"He asked me to take a ride in the golf cart with him after practice,'' says the rookie, days later still thrilled by the after-practice experience. "He told me that he likes me, and that I don't have anything to worry about. He told me to just worry about playing, and not to worry about making the team.''
A welcome-to-the-NFL joy ride with the coach? That's great news for the Cowboys rookie running back. And based on how the rest of Dallas' 2005 draft class performed in Monday's 18-10 preseason win at Seattle, Parcells might want to make some more room on the cart.
Yes, the Cowboys demonstrated on Monday why running back Julius Jones is viewed as the next big thing. And yes, quarterback Drew Bledsoe finally found his rhythm and led Dallas to a TD drive. And yes, the Cowboys' top defense limited the explosive Seahawks to just one touchdown.
But the story of the night was the Class of '05. The undrafted Thompson didn't get much work (maybe because he's already "made it"?); his greatest exposure came when the ABC Monday Night crew opted to show a national audience the kid from Irving's high-school highlight reel. But outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware drew comparisons to Lawrence Taylor. Offensive lineman Rob Petitti survived at right tackle. Defensive lineman Chris Canty looked healthy. Running back Marion Barber learned a valuable lesson. And safety Justin Beriault taught lessons, time after time, to Seahawks who dared come across the middle.
Let's take them one by one:
WARE: The 11th overall pick in the draft had three tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles, one recovered fumble, a pass deflection and a brilliant interception. ... all before John Madden even had time to catch his breath. Madden did the LT-comparison thing; Parcells did the "he-ain't-that-good'' thing.
Hey Bill, what about Ware?
What about him?" Parcells said in the postgame. "Well, he had a sack, and an interception. But let me look at the film . . . I don't think he was great, if that's what you want to hear."
Well, boss, you better go take a look at that film.
PETITTI: The sixth-rounder from Pitt has long been a Parcells favorite. He's made a rapid climb up the depth chart, admittedly in large part because nobody else on the club seems to want this job very badly. O-line play is tough to judge with the naked eye, but we'll say this: He doesn't seem spacy like Torrin Tucker. He doesn't seem wounded like Jacob Rogers. So by simply lining up right, he's ahead of the pack.
There's a lot of things I need to learn," said Petitti, who has shifted all summer from left to right tackle. "But there are things I'm getting used to. I'm kind of getting to the point where I'm thinking maybe if I went back to the left, it'd be weird."
CANTY: We keep looking for signs that he's physically wobbly, what with the knee and the eye. There is no discernable problem. Canty is a man among boys, size-wise, and his mobility and pursuit were impressive. Privately, going into Monday, Parcells and the coaching staff have been talking Canty way up lately; he did not disappoint.
BARBER: He's got a battle on his hands, what with the veteran Anthony Thomas at his level and Thompson pushing from behind. Give it to the kid, though: He's a tough runner (18 carries for 62 yards), and after the coach chewed him to pieces for a could-have-been critical fumble, Barber learned from the error, re-entering the game and cradling the precious football.
BERIAULT: Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer was quoted last week as saying that Dallas defense would be "pretty good'' if only he had a Darren Woodson to play at free safety. Well, one game has at least given Zimmer options here. Starter Keith Davis looked overmatched in coverage but put licks on people -- and then was outdone by substitute Beriault, who singlehandledly dominated the final minutes by scaring the daylights out of Seattle receivers.
Beriault was involved in a pass rush that gave Dallas a safety, and issued a hit that kept Seattle from keeping a last-gasp drive alive.
Bill, what about Beriault?
"He did a couple of knucklehead things," Parcells said.
Fine, coach. They're all "OK'' and "decent'' and "not great'' and "knuckleheads.'' We saw the Class of '05 differently on Monday, and that was without stellar nights from the speedster Thompson (slated for special-teams stardom), the playmaking linebacker Kevin Burnett (who likely will get starter-type snaps) and defensive end Marcus Spears (a probable starter upon his injury return).
That's a rookie class of nine guys who appear to be able to contribute at a high level. That's a lot of knuckleheads.
Bill Parcells, you're gonna need a bigger golf cart.
A Rookie Joyride
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