Snake Handling

IRVING, TX. - The Cowboys are well aware of Jake Plummer's recent streak of good luck.

SNAKE HANDLING: Head coach Bill Parcells said Tuesday that when Denver quarterback Jake Plummer was a free agent a few years ago, the Cowboys did consider signing him. But in the end, owner Jerry Jones shelved the idea.

"One of the things Jerry indicated to me was that he had invested some time and money in (Quincy) Carter and (Chad) Hutchinson, and he said he really didn't know what we had. So he wanted to take a year before piling more money into (the quarterback position)."

Parcells then said that he is not surprised by the high level at which Plummer has played this year.

"(Denver head coach) Mike Shanahan has done a tremendous job with him, a tremendous job at letting him do what he does well," Parcells said. "They're able to run the ball and have him roll out on bootlegs, that kind of thing. Of course, it's only effective when you're playing with the lead. He played from behind a lot when he was in Arizona."

Defensive end Greg Ellis said he also sees a dramatic change in Plummer from his days with the Cardinals.

"They've shown you they're going to run the ball, but you can't just sit back and say you're going to play the run, because then Jake will hurt you on the roll-outs. Jake had too much placed on him in Arizona. What Shanahan has done is built an offense around the run, just like he always does, and when that's successful, that allows Jake to run."

RUNAROUND: Parcells said that the Broncos have arguably the best running game in the entire NFL, and that the Broncos employ the system the Cowboys try to emulate.

"They have a very solid running game," he said. "By virtue of that, they're able to play-action. Basically, they're going to run the ball hard. Then they can bootleg off the run, and they can play-action off the run. They try to get the ball out of Plummer's hands quickly, and then three for times a game, they'll take a deep shot (downfield)."

But what Parcells really admires, he said, is the way Denver rotates running backs Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell.

"We would actually like to do that," Parcells said. "They're trying to do the same things we try to do. They just do it very well.

"They don't run complicated schemes. They're totally about execution. If you look at their games, they have a staple of two or three plays. They'll add another two or three a week, depending on what they want to do, but they're not going to roll out 12 diffferent running plays, I don't think."

In addition to its prolific running attack, Denver has gained a measure of notoriety in recent years for employing offensive linemen who are generally considered small and quick by today's NFL standards, and are known for utilizing some unpopular tactics, such as chop blocking and cut blocking.

"Philosophically, you attribute that to (former offensive line coach) Alex Gibbs (now with the Atlanta Falcons) a little bit," he said. "He taught that system there, and they're doing the exact same schemes now in Atlanta."

A potential recipient of the anticipated chop blocks, Ellis understandably is not a fan of the technique.

"That's a part of their scheme," Ellis said. "We realize that's part of what they do. Three plays out of four, they're going to cut you.

"But you can't go soft out there or play back. You have to have good technique and you have to try to be aware of where people are."

Parcells agreed, saying that it's vital that the Cowboys' defensive linemen conscious of what's going around them.

"You've got to be alert, justle and move your hands quickly," Parcells said. "If you don't do that, you're going to get chopped."

For his part, Ellis said he wishes the league would outlaw such techniques.

"They (the NFL) really need to do something about it," Ellis said. "We (defensive linemen) have been complaining for years. I don't agree with it, but that's what they do. You don't go out there worrying (about getting hurt), because that's when you will get hurt. You just have to go out there and play football."

SHARPENING THE EDGE: While waiting his turn behind starter Drew Bledsoe, backup quarterback Tony Romo lost a little of his intensity during practice. Parcells was nice enough to let him know about it.

"I had a little dit-down with Romo a few weeks ago," Parcells said. "I put him in for a few reps (in practice) and I didn't think he had the same edge that he had coming out of camp, when I thought he was very sharp.

"But he's a very bright, studious guy who's mature enough now as a pro player that I know he'll prepare as a starter, even though he might not play."

Parcells said he doesn't regret his decision not to play Romo earlier in some games this season.

"It's easy to sit here in the air conditioning and talk about it, but after some of the games we've been involved in, (a lead of) 20 points doesn't seem that safe."

RELAX ON YOUR OWN TIME: Parcells said he's not concerned that the short week before Thursday's game against the Broncos will leave his players weary.

"It's their job to rest," he said. "I'm not working them at a pace that's wearing them out," he said. "Their job is to get their feet up at night, and hydrate. That's a part we've known all along (about the Cowboys playing three games in 11 days, the last of which is Thursday's game with Denver.) They need to just suck it up and go."

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