Jones in No Hurry with Emmitt

The word from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is that nothing has been decided regarding the future of running back Emmitt Smith. They have yet to have that much-anticipated meeting to discuss whether Smith will be back in a Cowboys uniform next season, if at all.

Until then, nothing has been decided, according to Jones, who says he is not going to make up his mind until he and Smith have a chance to sit down and talk.

"No one in our organization can say Emmitt isn't coming back or what role he would have to take or what he's going to be making because I don't think even I know that right now," Jones said. "I haven't decided how we are going to go forward."

Smith, who is not ready to retire and wants to be a starter next season, is scheduled to make $7 million and count $9.8 million against the salary cap in 2003. Sources have said the Cowboys don't want to pay the soon-to-be-34-year-old back more than $1 million. And if he does come back, it will not be with a starting job guaranteed and most likely as a backup. At least that is the word.

So what Jones and Smith have to decide is: 1) if Smith is going to return; 2) if so, how much he'll be paid and what role he'll have; or 3) if not, when he'll be allowed to start looking for employment elsewhere.

Jones had hoped to sit down with Smith by now. But scheduling conflicts have gotten in the way. He hopes the meeting takes place in the next week or so.

"There is no urgency," Jones said. "This isn't a linchpin decision. I don't see any decision we are going to make over the next week or months as dependent on another, other than the fact Emmitt is as distinguished as he is and such a part of our team and such a part of the tradition we have and such a part of our recent past."

Smith's history with the Cowboys is the reason Jones is being patient and delicate with the subject. However, its hard to believe that the Cowboys don't have any idea on if they want Smith back, in what role, at what price or if at all.

The running back position is very important to the team under new coach Bill Parcells, whose attack is built around a ground game. Don't think for a minute Parcells hasn't thought about who he wants at running back. He would like to see what Troy Hambrick can do in the featured back role. He also will address the running back position in the draft.

What's more, if Parcells wanted Smith and really feels he can help the Cowboys win next year, he would have said that. So far all Parcells has said was the diplomatic reply that he would leave the Emmitt decision to Jerry as he promised.

Parcells has said he wants Flozell Adams back at left tackle even though the Cowboys have to negotiate a contract with the free agent to be. He could have said he wants Emmitt back but understands that things have to be worked out with Jones as far as his contract is concerned.

Parcells, never one to mince words, hasn't done that. So what he isn't saying speaks volumes about his plans for the running back position next year.

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