Why the Cardinals?

After 13 seasons and 17,162 rushing yards with the Cowboys, Emmitt Smith is a free agent for the first time and hawking his services around the league. His free-agent tour landed in Arizona last week. Which begged the question, even from the Arizona media, "Why, pray tell, the Cardinals?"

"No. 1," Smith answered, "I think you absolutely have to believe that the organization here is headed in the right direction. The Bidwills (Owner William Bidwill and family) are putting their best foot forward in terms of acquiring players who can come in and improve this team.

"No. 2, the weather here is awesome. I've been here before because we practiced here during the Super Bowl, and we fell in love with the facility. I fell in love with Arizona in terms of the weather, the golf courses and the amenities. And those things play a major factor."

His eventual decision on where to play, Smith said, will be based upon three things, in this precise order: "Winning. Playing time. And the money."

The first factor is why Tampa Bay must be considered as a suitor for Smith's services, should the Buccaneers muster their reported 11th-hour bid. The Bucs are reigning Super Bowl champions. Other possible suitors are the Raiders and the Patriots. Both teams are like the Buccaneers. They can give Smith a chance to win but substantial amounts of playing time and cash are not in the offing.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, can merely offer substantial amounts of the other two.

"I think he's got plenty left," said Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis. "I was fortunate enough to be on a team with Walter Payton. The similarities that I see between these two guys are incredible. It's just the aura and the quiet confidence that he moves and talks with. He's got plenty left."

Smith would also serve as a pr boost for the Cardinals, considering the enormous Cowboys fans base in Arizona.

* WR Reggie Swinton, DE Colston Weatherington, safety Keith Davis and safety Lynn Scott, all exclusive rights free agents, have signed their one-year tender offers.

Six exclusive rights free agents are still unsigned, including running back Troy Hambrick, linebacker Louis Mackey, punter Filip Filopovic, receiver Ken-Yon Rambo, running back Woody Dantzler and guard Ross Tucker.

* While the Cowboys have been busy trying to sign free agents players, the city of San Antonio has been trying to sign the Cowboys.

And after approval from the city council Thursday night (March 13), it appears both sides are ready to sign the dotted line and approve the Cowboys making San Antonio their training camp home for the next two seasons.

The Cowboys moved from Wichita Falls, Texas to San Antonio last season, using the Alamodome for all but one practice during their month stay.

And although the Cowboys have a new head coach in Bill Parcells, it appears as if the majority of the practices will again be held at the Alamodome. However, the Cowboys will again have the option of practicing outdoors in a field built specifically for training camp. Last year, the grass field was not ready until two weeks into camp, and the team used the field just once for a morning practice.

The deal has yet to be finalized, but it calls for the city of San Antonio to pay the Cowboys $900,000 and provide rent-free use of the dome.

This year, the Cowboys are expected to have more use of the Alamodome, moving their team meetings and meals over from the hotel, eliminating the back-and-forth trips. Last year, many of the players rode their bikes to and from the hotel, causing potential problems in crossing busy streets in downtown San Antonio.

The Cowboys have yet to announce official dates for the start of training camp, but it's likely to begin during the last week of July.

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