Barrow Endlessly Grateful

IRVING, TX - Free-agent LB glad to continue career with Cowboys.

This has been a long football season for linebacker Mike Barrow. After being turned loose by the Washington Redskins following an injury-plagued 2004 campaign during which he didn't play a single snap, Barrow found himself watching the NFL each weekend, from his couch at his home in McLean, Va.

"It was frustrating," Barow said. "I can't even tell you how frustrating it was."

Finally, the phone rang.

The Cowboys were calling, and said they were in need of a linebacker, having lost Al Singleton for the year and facing the possibility of losing Dat Nguyen for the rest of the year -- or perhaps to injury-forced retirement. This week -- some three weeks after the first phone call -- Barrow arrived in Dallas to sign his contract with the Cowboys. But there were those who thought his career had ended in Washington because of a mysterious thigh injury that kept him from suiting up with the 'Skins. Barrow was not among the doubters.

"I never thought about (retiring)," Barrow said. "The frustrating part was just that we never knew what it was."

Originally diagnosed as a quadricep strain, Barrow was put on a regimen of rest and ice. After a week or more, he'd return to practice, and the leg would give out again. ("I could run forward fine," Barrow said, "but when I would plant and cut, it would just quit. It brought me to the ground."

Barrow said an MRI revealed no muscle tears or structural damage, but after repeated collapses within his leg, he had a diagnostic ultrasound test (which Barrow said is about 40 times as sensitive as the stanard MRI ), which revealed a qudricep tendon strain.

"It drove me crazy," he said. "I'd sit out and rest for a week, then I'd go out and injure it all over again. It wasn't until I was able to really rest it in the offseason that it got healthy."

In his first week as a member of the Cowboys, Barrow will see a familiar foe across the field Sunday: the New York Giants, the team with which he played from 2000-2003. Just two years removed from his tenure with the Giants, Barrow still knows many New York players. When asked which of his former teammates concern him most, he was quick to name New York running back Tiki Barber.

"For a young guy (Barber is 30 years old; Barrow is 35), he does a lot of things well. He can run, he can catch. He has great vision -- great vision, which makes it hard for you to get a direct hit on him. And he's surprisingly strong -- we call it old-man strong.

"Tiki is fast, but it's a sneaky kind of fast, because he's so patient, so you can over-run the play while he waits for it to develop. But he can just run along at three-quarters speed, and all he's doing is he's setting you up. Then -- boom, he hits another gear."

Barrow said that his familiarity with Barber doesn't necessarily give the Cowboys any advantage when it comes to containing Barber.

"Everyone else in the (NFC East) knows what he can do, too," Barber said. "That doesn't mean you can do anything about it."

Whether Barrow has another gear to keep up with his former teammate is unclear. The 13th-year veteran out of the University of Miami said he doesn't know if he'll get into the game this weekend or not. What he does know is how fortunate he is to still be playing.

"Quitting wasn't an option," he said. "I'm a fighter -- I don't know how to quit. When (Dallas) called, I was ready. I'm always ready. I was sitting on the couch at home -- ready."

As Barrow sat Wednesday in front of his new locker with the No. 48 nameplate, he shook his head when asked about the year he lost in Washington.

"The injury wasn't even a bad injury," he said. "It was like fighting the Invisible Man -- we didn't know what we were looking for. The doctors up there, they were like mad scientists. By that I mean, they were treating what they thought it was. But the problem was different, so the remedy wasn't working. I've been injured -- anyone who plays football has been injured. I know myself, I know how to get better. I missed five games in my first 11 seasons -- three in my third year. Last year … last year was just frustrating, because we didn't know what was wrong. But 'quit' is not in my vocabulary. 'Retire' is not in my vocabulary."

Barrow said that he's looking forward to facing three of his four former teams -- the Giants this weekend, the Redskins (Dec. 18) and the Carolina Panthers (Dec. 24) -- but said that he harbors no grudges or animosity toward his former employers.

"I've got all of the games circled in my mind," Barrow said. "Every game is a big game. Practicing is like playing -- I'm thankful just to practice. I feel so good, I'm even looking forward to practices. Can you believe that?"

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