Told You So

IRVING, TX. - It's all a matter of perspective. While languishing on the sideline during the preseason and the season- opening loss to Jacksonville with a strained groin, the whispers began in regard to Mike Vanderjagt.

"He's done. He's faking it. He can't handle the scrutiny of kicking for the Dallas Cowboys."

Vanderjagt's Teflon attitude makes it easy for him to dismiss such skepticism.

"Fortunately, that (skepticism) is coming from people who don't know anything about me," Vanderjagt said. "If you were in Indianapolis, you'd know that preseason kicks don't mean a thing to me. Up there, I'd miss a preseason kick, and it's not like they (the Indianapolis Colts) would be bringing someone in to take my place."

The Cowboys, of course, are carrying Shaun Suisham as their kickoff specialist, and Suisham kicked field goals in the opener while Vanderjagt nursed his strained groin. The decision to carry two kickers goes against the beliefs of head coach Bill Parcells, who felt it is necessary to carry the extra kicker solely for kickoffs. Vanderjagt said he would like to kick off as well, and believes he's ready to take over both jobs.

"That's going to come to a head really soon," he said. "I believe I'm ready to kick off, and that's something I've said I would like to do.

"But I know how (Parcells) is -- he's very much a practice guy, he goes off the production he sees in practice. If he's going to judge me just on what he sees in practice, he's not going to like what he sees too much."

Whether the Cowboys continue to carry an extra kicker is something Parcells said he's going to have to decide before every game.

"I've got to consider that on a week-to-week basis," Parcells said. "The (weather) elements are part of it. If it's raining the other night (in the Dallas win Sunday night over Washington) like it did in warm-ups, then that changes how we approach things -- we're just trying to keep the ball down in their end (of the field)."

Parcells said that based on what he has seen in practice from his kickers, Suisham gives the Cowboys an edge in field position. He said that Suisham's kicks -- both longer and higher -- result in a 12- to 15-yard advantage in field position. Add that up over four kickoffs per game, Parcells said, and the end result is a shift of about 60 yards, which he equates to about four points on the scoreboard.

"Suisham did help us the other night (in the win over Washington)," Parcells said. "If he had tackled (Rock) Cartwright on that kickoff (which Cartwright returned 100 yards for the Redskins' only touchdown), he would have helped more. But it (carrying two kickers) is not something I like -- it's something I dislike -- and one of these days, it's going to bite us."

Vanderjagt acknowledged that while he would like to assume kickoff duties in addition to kicking field goals and extra points, Suisham is a valuable asset.

"Shaun is not just a guy who comes in and kicks off," Vanderjagt said. "We're going to save 5, 6, 7 yards every time with him. He is a weapon."

Vanderjagt also said that his performance and injury have drawn far more scrutiny since his arrival in Dallas than they would have if he still was a member of the Colts.

"You guys would have been all of the media up there," he said to the six reporters around him, "not the other 40 in here."

But he said the attention that comes with being a kicker is not something he would prefer to avoid.

"I like the pressure of every kick," he said. "I enjoy the moment, with the crowd going crazy. Yes, I think it's been over-evaluated, and it wasn't the smoothest transition when I got here. But for me, I'm two-for-two this season and I've got a 50 (-yard field goal against the Redskins) under me. It's kind of old, but the Dallas Cowboys are a high-profile team, so the attention is to be expected.

"I thought it would be pretty easy (kicking for the Cowboys) -- I think I'm pretty good at what I do. But that's not the case. I figured (Parcells) out a long time ago. It's his way or the highway. I'm sure over the next 14 weeks, I'll miss a kick I think I should make, and people will say I suck again.

"The 50 is something that feels good to get out of the way. I certainly feel good (physically) and good about kicking for the Cowboys."

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