Caution When Wet

IRVING, TX. - Certain stories appear in the news that don't exactly elicit complete shock or surprise: Nick Saban is going to Alabama. Bobby Knight passed Dean Smith to move into first place on the all-time wins list in Div. I-A basketball. The BCS is a flawed system.

Here's another: it's supposed to rain in Seattle. Seriously, it's true. When the Cowboys meet the Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card game this Saturday, the temperature is supposed to be in the 40s and the wet stuff is supposed to be falling from above -- it's kind of like announcing that Terrell Owens is going to earn headlines for something other than his ability to catch a football.

However, while it might not be the kind of news that makes hearts skip a beat, it is important to consider as the Cowboys get ready to face the Seahawks and turn around a regular season-ending skid in which they lost three of their last four games. In preparation, the Cowboys are trying to create conditions that resemble what awaits them in the Pacific Northwest as much as possible.

Rather than practicing inside their indoor facility, head coach Bill Parcells has had his team practicing outside in the cool, January air. He has contemplated piping in noise to simulate the din the Seahawks' "12th Man" crowd emits at their games. And he's having his team's practice with footballs that have been submerged in water.

"The forecast in Seattle is for 44 degrees and showers," Parcells said Wednesday. "When we went outside for practice today, it was 44 degrees. We've practiced with a wet ball quite a bit; we have been for the last two days."

Parcells said that the area in which a wet football affects performance the most, naturally, is in the passing game.

"When you practice with a wet football, you can not throw it as hard," Parcells said. "When you throw it hard, the ball kind of explodes on you. The balls we're using, in fact, are probably wetter than the balls we'll play with, because we've been dunking them in buckets."

Quarterbacks are not the only ones who are affected by the wet footballs.

"You have to focus more when the ball is wet," wide receiver Patrick Crayton said. "You have to squeeze it a lot harder when it gets to you. With a dry ball, the way gloves are now, sometimes it just hits you in the hands, and off you go. With a soaked ball, it comes at you heavier, it really hits you harder. You have to concentrate much more, or it will go right through your hands."

Crayton said that he, and many of the other Dallas receivers and running backs, will switch gloves because of the conditions, too. In dry weather, most players use gloves with synthetic material in the palms; when the skies open up, he said he and many teammates will switch to gloves with leather palms.

"When it gets wet, leather is stickier than the synthetic gloves," he said. "You get the wet leather of the ball and the wet leather of the gloves, and you have a better chance to make the catch."

Even punter Mat McBriar is contemplating the use of gloves … or at least one.

"I might wear one, but only on my left hand," McBriar said. "I don't want to do anything that affects the way I drop the ball (with the right hand) when I kick."

The actual punting part of his job shouldn't be affected, McBriar said, unless the rain turns into an absolute downpour.

"The balls we (kickers and punters) use aren't really that wet, anyway," McBriar said. "They're kept separate on the sideline, and pretty dry. They'll get a little wet, but it's not like they're really soaked, like the balls the other guys are practicing with. "It doesn't affect (punting) a whole lot, unless it's really coming down. In that case, all bets are off."

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