Tucker Takes Over Vital Position

IRVING, TX. - When left tackle Flozell Adams went down for the year with a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), coaches, players and fans alike had to wonder: "How will this affect the Dallas offense?"

When left tackle Flozell Adams went down for the year with a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), coaches, players and fans alike had to wonder: "How will this affect the Dallas offense?"

The immediate answer that jumped to mind for most was that the passing game would … take a hit, so to speak.

Quarterback Drew Bledsoe doesn't have the mobility to make anyone forget Joey Harrington, much less Michael Vick. With Adams gone from Bledsoe's blind side, the concensus reaction was that Bledsoe might get mauled in an onslaught of drooling defensive ends. But just as important to consider is the effect that Adams' absence will have on the running game. According to ESPN.com, Dallas running back Julius Jones averaged 5.39 yards per carry last year on 85 runs to the left side of the offensive line, where he got to duck and dart his way behind two road graders in Adams and left tackle Larry Allen. On the right side, he averaged 2.76 yards on 50 carries.

Torrin Tucker, the Cowboys' third-year tackle, appeared none too thrilled when, after starting at right tackle last year, he was replaced in the starting lineup this season by rookie Rob Petitti. But now that Adams is hurt, Tucker once again is a starter, and becomes a vital cog in the Dallas offense.

"I don't know what drop-off will be there until I see him play," head coach Bill Parcells said. "Flozell Adams is a pretty good tackle. With him, you don't have to worry much about the pass protection. He'll have his slip-ups, like everyone does, but he's a pretty good tackle. When you lose a player like him, it hurts.

"But nobody cares about that. This game has that every week."

Adams' replacement has played on the right side since he joined the Cowboys, but Parcells said Tucker has characteristics that indicate he could enjoy even more success on the left side.

"He's very athletic," Parcells said. "That guy can run. For a big guy, that guy can really run."

That running ability might have saved Torrin's spot on the Dallas roster. When he reported in May for the team's veteran mini-camp, Tucker weighed in somewhere around 350 pounds. At the time, Parcells called out Tucker, saying he was badly out of shape and needed to rectify the situation in order to retain his spot on the Dallas roster. Tucker now weighs about 315 pounds, which is where Tucker and Parcells both say they want him to stay. Tucker said that losing the extra pounds wasn't that difficult.

"If I want to do something, I'll do whatever it takes to get it done," Tucker said. "It wasn't that hard."

Thanks in part to the weight loss, Parcells said Tucker has made significant strides this season. The loss of tonnage allows Tucker to make use of his superior quickness and athleticism.

Switching from the right side of the line to the left won't represent major technique changes for Tucker.

"The only real difference is that the plays are reversed," Tucker said. "It's more a matter of (getting) reps than anything else.

"I know what's asked of me, what I need to do to be successful."

Tucker said that the risk of criticism from Parcells is the least of his worries.

"The main thing is that I have to understand is that I can't always control what happens," Tucker said. "I have to prepare myself. If they ask me to shovel dirt, I'll be the best at shoveling dirt. I work as hard as I possibly can, because I'll be 10 times harder on myself than anyone else is.

"I've always had confidence in myself, football-wise, from the time I was a little boy on up. I've always had faith in myself as a football player. I just have to learn not to be so hard on myself. I want to be perfect in everything I do, but I'll be 10 times harder on myself than anybody else will be. If I let a mistake bother me, that can affect the next play. Then I hurt the other 52 guys. If I make a mistake, I have to recognize that and move on."

To reach his potential, Tucker said he'll learn from the veteran leaders on the Dallas offensive line.

"I always try to listen to L.A. (Larry Allen), Flo (Adams) and Marco (Rivera," Tucker said. "Flo knows what it takes to be a tackle in this league, a great tackle. If he sees me get my head in to someone too much, or not using my hands right, he'll tell me. They'll all tell me. You can't help gut get better with guys like that around."

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