Game Snapshot: Cardinals - Cowboys

<b>Arizona Cardinals</b> (1-3) at <b> Dallas Cowboys</b> (2-1)<br><b>GAME SNAPSHOT</b><br><b>KICKOFF:</b> Sunday, 1:00 ET<br><b>GAMEDATE:</b>10/05/03<br><b>SURFACE:</b> Sportfield Realgrass<br><b>TV: </b> FOX, Curt Menefee, Tim Green<br><br><b>SERIES: </b> 82nd meeting. The Cowboys lead the series 52-28-1. The Cardinals won last year in Arizona, 9-6. The Cowboys won the last meeting at Texas Stadium, 17-3 in 2001. The Cowboys have defeated the Cardinals in 26 of 31 games played at Texas Stadium.

2003 RANKINGS: Cardinals: offense 16th (28th rush, 8th pass); defense 21st (15th rush, 22nd pass). Cowboys: offense 1st (4th rush, 6th pass); defense 13th (4th rush, 26th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Injuries have crippled Arizona's defensive line, which can't stop the run and can't pressure the passer. Dallas will try to take advantage by using RB Troy Hambrick early to set up play-action passes for QB Quincy Carter. If Carter plays mistake-free, the Cowboys will be in good shape, but his downfield passes can be inconsistent, and a few turnovers would keep the Cardinals in the game. Arizona's massive offensive line has a big advantage over Dallas' defensive line in the running game, and the Cardinals need to dedicate themselves to the run early in RB Emmitt Smith's emotional return to Texas Stadium.

FAST FACTS: Cardinals: The defense has produced only two sacks through four games. ... Smith needs one 100-yard rushing game to tied Walter Payton (77) for the most in NFL history. Cowboys: The team is above .500 for the first time since 1999. ... The offense's average of 5.7 yards per play ranks second in the NFL. ... They have won their past 12 regular season home games against the Cardinals.

PREDICTED SCORE: Cowboys 27, Cardinals 17


RG Leonard Davis (tendinitis, right foot) has returned to practice and could be back in the starting lineup. The team's best lineman has missed the past two games.

G Chris Dishman, who had been starting on the right side while Leonard Davis (foot) missed two games, might be starting on the left side this week. Cameron Spikes, who has taken every snap at LG through four games, has a calf strain. Frank Garcia, the projected starter going into camp, is just coming off a four-game Ephedra suspension and probably isn't ready.

LG Frank Garcia, who has returned to practice following a league-imposed four-game suspension for using a product that contains Ephedra, said he's in good condition but acknowledges he is football-rusty. He is expected to play Sunday but probably won't start for at least another week.

LG Cameron Spikes (strained calf), who had taken every snap through four games and was emerging as the most consistent lineman while filling in for Frank Garcia (four-game suspension), missed a day of practice but is expected to be available for this weekend's game. It remains unclear if he will stay in the lineup. Chris Dishman is working at LG in practice.

LDT Wendell Bryant (ankle) was not encouraged after testing his ankle in practice. He had difficulty cutting and could miss another game.

DT Marcus Bell had five tackles, two for loss, in his first start of the season at St. Louis in place of injured starter Wendell Bryant (ankle). With Bryant still hobbling, Bell appears headed for another starting assignment at Dallas.

LOLB Raynoch Thompson (knee) isn't practicing. His live body and motor translate into a playmaker that would be missed dearly if he can't play.

OLB Gerald Hayes, a rookie, could get his first career start if Raynoch Thompson (knee) is not ready to face the Cowboys.

WR Larry Foster (ankle) remains gimpy but could be active for the game for emergency use.

KR-WR Kevin Kasper (back) returned to practice but he has been out nearly a month and probably will be little or no factor again on Sunday.

C-G Jason Starkey (shoulder), a valuable backup, is having surgery and is headed for Injured Reserve.

DE Kenny King (toe), a backup, won't play.

C Bill Parcells has continually downplayed the Cowboys' winning record. Still better-than-.500, 2-and-1 fever has hit Cowboys land. Talk of 5-1 is gaining momentum. Playoffs have been mentioned. Without smirks.

And, from Wednesday's news conference, came this query to Bill Parcells: "Coach, do you ever marvel at your own genius?"

Parcells looked somewhere between stunned and ticked as he tried to respond.

"Where do you coin these phrases? I mean, Jesus, Mary and Joseph. We're 2-1," Parcells said. "I mean, we better get our reservations for Houston."

Super Bowl XXXVIII is being held in Space City. But before Cowboys fans go making reservations for February in Houston, let Parcells put 2-1 in perspective.

"We didn't play well at all the first week, and we were fortunate to win the second game," he said. "Last week, we played more of a solid game, but we kind of missed a couple of opportunities to make it easier on ourselves. Certainly, this is a work in progress. We have a very difficult schedule in front of us. I am happy with some of the progress. I think we're doing things better than the last time you saw us. I'm just trying to improve the team every week, if I can."

CB Derek Ross (knee) is still questionable for the Cardinals game. Ross has looked better in practice but Parcells said a final decision won't be made until after Friday's practice. If he can't go, look for Pete Hunter to continue his role as the nickel corner.

OT Torrin Tucker was officially added to the active roster from the practice squad.

WR Gary Lusk, who was released by the Cowboys in training camp, was signed to the practice squad.


Emmitt Smith says he isn't sure what to expect when he emerges from the visitor's locker room and walks down the tunnel at Texas Stadium on Sunday to face the team that helped make him the NFL career rushing leader.

"I'm not going to be so bold as to think I'll be received with open arms," he told reporters in Phoenix this week.

There really would be no reason for Cowboys fans to have ill-will toward Smith. After all, he didn't want to leave. He held a news conference on his way out to help owner Jerry Jones and the organization save face and ease a potential public-relations disaster.

Smith was a class act to the end with the Cowboys.

He's been exactly that with the Cardinals, as well, a great ambassador for the game, the team and for living a good-spirited life.

He just hasn't been as productive on the field, somewhat of a surprise given that Arizona has a large experienced line and a huge fullback who is no stranger to leading the way for an elite runner.

Yet the Cardinals haven't gotten anything going on the ground and Smith is on pace to have the worst production of his career.

Skeptics can assume an "I told you so" posture. Many believed there wasn't much gas left in the tank when the Cardinals signed Smith during the owners' meetings in March.

The problem isn't Smith, though, as much as it is those around him. The line has been disrupted by the loss of both starting guards, both of whom are coming back this week but won't yet be in top form. Left guard Frank Garcia comes off a four-game Ephedra suspension imposed by the league and right guard Leonard Davis is on the practice field after missing two games because of tendinitis in his right foot.

The Cardinals offense was expected to carry this team while the defense is being rebuilt with young players. At the heart of it, the Cardinals hoped, would be a rushing game that could control the clock and take the team on scoring drives to help the defense.

Who better in that plan that the game's most prolific rusher?

Smith still believes new Cowboys coach Bill Parcells was the driving force behind Smith's ouster in Dallas, but he added that it's all behind him now.

"I have bigger fish to fry, and I'm not talking about Tuna," Smith said.

It would be quite a fish fry if Smith and the Cardinals could generate a decent ground game in Texas Stadium, and not have Smith looking like a 34-year-old who has gained only 193 rushing yards during the first quarter of the season.

Emmitt Smith has apologized for calling his ex-Cowboys teammates "trash" in an article in Sports Illustrated.

Again. And again.

So the Cardinals' running back was not quite sure what else he could say when asked Wednesday if he'd attempt to mend fences before Sunday's game at Texas Stadium with ex-teammates like Dexter Coakley, who admitted his feelings were hurt by his "trash" talk. Smith tried anyway.

"To me, I don't think there is nothing for me to truly clear up," Smith said in a conference call with Texas writers. "I have apologized for those statements and I find myself torn because my statements, to me, were not a reflection of how the interview went from my perspective. The way the interview went was much more positive than what the article reads. It had me looking like I was bitter, angry, [ticked] off, just mad at everybody back there, including my teammates. And that, to me, was so much not right.

"The only thing I can say to Dexter or anybody ... and, here I go again apologizing for someone else wanting to [tweak] an article and make it appear it is me."

Coakley said Monday it was "painful" to read Smith calling himself "a diamond among trash," while Cowboys defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban said he felt Smith's pursuit of the NFL's career rushing record had been a distraction last season.

And while Smith said he has adapted to being a Cardinal, he said he believes if coach Bill Parcells had wanted him, he'd still be a Cowboy.

So how does that make him feel?

"It is what it is," Smith said. "I think he got what he wanted and he's doing well with what he has. So obviously, the decision was good for him."

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