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IRVING, Texas -- Three Cowboys ailments of note: Cowboy Ailment No. 1: Terrell Owens wants to show you his middle finger.

OK, not THE middle finger. In the figurative sense, T.O. has already flipped that at his critics by demonstrating his value to the Cowboys -- even in Sunday night's 27-10 win over the Redskins, when he didn't put up huge numbers (three catches, 19 yards) but was nevertheless a factor while staying in the game with what turned out to be a broken digit. Owens will undergo surgery on his fourth metacarpal bone in his right hand, will have a plate inserted, and will benefit from the Cowboys having a bye week. Dallas doesn't play again until Oct. 1, at Tennessee. The week after that, it's Dallas at Philadelphia.

"It came at a good time,'' Owens said. "We have a bye week coming up so I've got at least two weeks for it to heal.''

Some media reports are already counting T.O. out for four weeks. Are they not aware of T.O.'s hyperbaric chamber? Are they not aware that T.O. as a decoy might still be an effective weapon? Are they not aware that T.O. played his college ball in Tennessee? Are they not aware of which NFL team in which NFL city has Oct. 8 circled in green ink on his calendar?

Prediction: Terrell Owens will attempt to flip off his critics yet again by wanting to dress in two weeks.

Cowboy Ailment No. 2: Mike Vanderjagt is suffering from an inflamed ego.

Vandy is a trip. And sometimes, Vandy is trippin'. That seems to be the case as he reviews his performance in the win, in which he was activated in time to make both his 26- and 50-yard field goals.

How difficult for the veteran Vanderjagt was it to take the questions, the uncertainly, the deactivation in Game 1?

"It was 100 times harder than missing a kick against Pittsburgh," Vanderjagt said -- insanely, in as much as missing an FG against Pittsburgh in last year's playoffs, thus derailing his Colts' Super Bowl dreams, was, well, rather important.

"It was real hard to take. It was real hard to deal with. I came to a new team, and I just wanted to kick - the reason I was here. And when you're not provided that opportunity it's kind of discouraging."

Vanderjagt does not choose his words carefully. But he chooses them purposely. By saying he wasn't "provided that opportunity,'' he seems to be pointing to the gods of groin injuries and to a disbelieving head coach. It's worth noting that after he nailed the 50-yarder, he crossed paths with Parcells. Parcells seemed almost willing to slap his butt, shake his hand, maybe even offer him a Flozell Adams face pat.

Vandy kinda turned his back on The Man.

Because of a lack of faith in Vanderjagt, Parcells had to carry two kickers on the roster. He even offered a tryout last week to Arena League booter Carlos Martinez. Is Dallas really that Desperado? Is Parcells now fully trusting of his $5.4 million kicker?

"Vandy didn't earn anything from me,'' Parcells said grudgingly, "I'm just happy he made the kick for his own well-being. You got to rely on your kicker, instead of being afraid of you kicker like I have for a few years.''

That's quite an admission. But not to worry; Vandy said he and Shaun Suisham have it all figured out. Mike said dressing both him and a kickoff specialist makes sense because I think we both feel like we can contribute very well in this scheme.

Whoa. The placekicker labels his involvement in the team by speaking Footballese, calling it "this scheme.''

Yes, Mike Vanderjagt is trippin'.

Cowboy Ailment No. 3: Bill Parcells' has an "electrolyte imbalance'' and some "Chronic Grumposity.''

Late Sunday, Parcells announced he was "physically ill." When he continued on detailing the few things that had gone wrong in the game instead of the multitude of things that went right, it was assumed that it was, say, penalties, that brought on the nausea. It was also assumed that Parcells was exaggerating his condition a bit for impact. But no. Bill said Monday that continuing to wear a raincoat all night even after the skies cleared brought on dehydration.

By Monday morning, Parcells was explaining that the rain coat that he wore caused him to dehydrate. And that he truly was ill. "Electrolyte imbalance'' was the problem, easily solved by a) drinking some fluid, some water, some Gatorade, some of Jason Witten's pickle juice, and b) removing the darn jacket.

So why didn't Bill Parcells remove the offending coat?

"Because,'' the coach said, alluding to his superstitious nature, "we were winning.'' I'm all for that. So T.O., to the hyperbaric chamber with you! And Vandy, keep trying to work yourself into "the scheme''! And coach, it's about 85 degrees in Dallas today. So bundle up!

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