4th and One

The Dallas Cowboys broke up camp on Friday and headed back to their home turf. Like shoelaces, the tidbits and loose ends need to be tied up so no one trips over them driving like NASCAR contestants as they head north on I-35.

Quincy, Hutch, Hutch, Quincy. Even ESPN is getting in on the act by taking a page from the standard Dallas media handbook on this issue. In the past, the starting quarterback for the Cowboys has always been the apple of controversy's eye in the minds of those that lurk with pen and notebook.

The first two edicts a new sports reporter is warned about are never say anything nice about the team and be sure to bring up the quarterback controversy. ‘What controversy,' the cub reporter might ask. This is when the big cigar pauses and takes stock in what he just hired. ‘There's always a controversy. Or conspiracy. Heck boy, this is Dallas.'

Quincy is the starter. That is a fact just like Martha Stewart is dancing with the SEC or Barry Bonds can hit the curve. At this point there is no denying Quincy will be under center against the Texans come September 8th, if health issues don't interfere.

But in a twist of fate as enigmatic as who shot JR, Bruce Coslet, the offensive coordinator named Chad Hutchinson the starter in a meaningless game Saturday night against the Falcons. Let the controversy games begin.

The fan base knee-jerked as if Coslet held a rubber hammer to the bendy part of the leg and whacked it a good one. One faction screaming recount and the other claiming victory, this smelled more like ballot issues in Southern Florida rather than a preseason game in Dallas.

Now repeat after me. Quincy Carter will be the starter on September 8th. Chant this like a Buddhist wishing for world peace four times a day until Sunday morning.

The Cowboys are evaluating. When they take out Joey Galloway and replace him with Ken-Yon Rambo, the crowd doesn't question that move. There is little difference here. It's preseason. It's about evaluation. Now chant.

The injury to Raghib Ismail was seen with mixed results by both the team and the fan base. While no one wants a player injured, the chance to find quality snaps for Antonio Bryant and Ken-Yon Rambo along with Reggie Swinton was solved.

The downside is Rocket's team leading 834 yards at a 15.7 yard per catch average will be a difficult role to fill. Yet there is a buzz around the campfire that Bryant is the real deal.

"The Franchise" will have some large shoes to fill, even if they are the diminuitive cleats of Ismail. But the fervor created by a rookie that can catch and plays with intensity and savvy has everyone excited about the 2002 season. Now we wait to see if Chad… opps, I mean Quincy can get him the ball.

Perhaps the most devastating injury of the last week was to Jeff Robinson. The multi-faceted tight end, deep snapper and fullback fell to an ACL injury in practice. The brain trust of the team immediately questioned whether the notion of tossing him into a pass rush drill was wise.

I wonder if the people that made that astounding discovery were the same that steered me into dot com stock when it sold for $175 a share, then advised I should sell when it dropped to under a dollar?

Injuries happen, but the search for the solution to last years special teams woes in the kicking game should have been protected. The investment in Robinson suggests his position was pivotal. Coming to the conclusion he perhaps should have been a spectator in this drill seems laughable after viewing the results.

Two veterans were brought in to fill Robinson's shoes. Trey Junkin and Mitch Palmer will battle for the deep snapper spot.

Junkin, whose career has spanned almost two decades has had more addresses than The Fugitive. Starting in Buffalo in 1983, he has played for the Bills, Redskins, Raiders, Seahawks, Raiders, and Cardinals before trying on a Dallas uniform.

He plays both TE and deep snapper, but hiking the ball is what he does best. In twenty years he has started all of four games and been on the receiving end of exactly 17 NFL passes for a total of 144 yards. Factoring in his longest catch was 28 yards and you get the feeling Tony McGee sleeps easy at night.

Mitch Palmer was ten-years old when Junkin started his career in the NFL. And although he is much younger, he racks up frequent flyer miles in spades as he goes from one team to another. His stops include Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Houston in four NFL seasons.

But the good news about Palmer is his ability to snap the ball. In Thursday's evening practice it was reported he nailed 9 straight snaps where the holder wasn't required to turn the laces away from the kicker. My source stopped counting at that point.

It is suggested this is where you draw the line between the men and the boys when it comes to deep snapping.

Dale Helestrae had the ability to put the ball in the same spot in the same way and made a career with Dallas. If not for Father Time and his wife's cookie shop, he would still be playing a total of 12 plays a game and drawing almost half a million dollars to do so.

The real question is simple. Why isn't Matt Lehr practicing deep snapping starting the minute Robinson was carted off the field? Seems a simple solution to lengthen your career. But then I don't run into people leading with my head, so maybe I see things a little more clearly.

In an interview on Thursday evening with The Ticket radio station, Dave Campo was asked about Randall Williams 4.04 record.

"I know he's the fastest guy on the team. We run on a very fast track but it's all relative. He outruns some pretty fast people no matter what time he posts. So if the time is 4.1 something, it's still pretty darn fast." My admiration meter pegged in the red regarding Campo.

When asked who has surprised him this training camp, Dave Campo said it was Tyson Walter. The rookie out of Ohio State was playing back-up center and some tackle. Campo claims he is ‘athletic and intelligent.' From his glowing report it looks like they will give this rookie every chance to make this squad after he heals. Pretty serious praise from a coach that is conservative with accolades.

Dallas has two weeks of practice sans the Alamodome before the opener in Houston. They plan to get accustomed to the heat during that time.

A home game against Atlanta followed four days later with a road tune-up in Jacksonville and football is finally back.

Is Dallas prepared for the 2002 season? We may not really know that answer until they meet Philadelphia the third week of September.

Until then it's all speculation and controversy.

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