Some solid reading for a Wednesday morning, as you will quickly be ready for Sunday in Giants Stadium:
Gary Meyers stirs it up ..
Justin Tuck wants to beat the Cowboys and he doesn't want to hear any excuses about Dallas not having Jessica Simpson's boyfriend at quarterback.
Tony Romo won't play Sunday against the Giants and Tuck is genuinely disappointed. Maybe Romo should give Brett Favre another call for another dose of motivation about playing hurt. The first one didn't work.
"Everybody wants to beat everybody at their best. We don't want to have excuses like 'Romo is not playing, we didn't have this guy, we didn't have that guy,'" said Tuck, the best player on a Giants defense that leads the NFL in sacks. "We don't want excuses like that. But it won't change our approach. We are still going to go in there and try to sack whoever is back there."
Romo will miss his third straight game with a broken pinkie, Terrell Owens could be ready to blow if he doesn't start getting the ball more and Jerry Jones won't really be happy until he replaces his puppet Wade Phillips and is coaching the Cowboys himself.
Welcome to Dallas week for the Giants. How 'bout them Cowboys?
"We hate them," Tuck said Monday. "They hate us."
Clearly, it's much better for the Giants that Romo is out and Brad Johnson, the 40-year-old statue, will get his third straight start unless Jones tells Phillips to start ex-Jet Brooks Bollinger, which would really put fear into the Giants defense.
"When you are a competitor like everybody on this football team, you want to play the best," the Giants' defensive end said. "I can honestly say I wish they were coming here undefeated."
Instead, the Cowboys are a mess coming into Giants Stadium.
In one of the greatest victories in their history, the Giants went into Dallas last January and eliminated the Cowboys in the playoffs, sending a city and team that were anticipating a Super Bowl into a prolonged state of depression.
Now, just halfway through the regular season, the Giants have a chance to bury Dallas in the NFC East. The Cowboys have become a Sunday afternoon soap opera, and they bring so much of it on themselves. Did Jones really have to trade for Pacman Jones? That one worked out pretty well.
If the 6-1 Giants beat the Cowboys this weekend, they will have a three-game lead on them in the loss column and drop them to 5-4, putting them in a wild scramble just to make the playoffs.
"We want Dallas. I'm sure Dallas is the same way with us," Tuck said. "They always want to play us."
The Giants chuckled at all the Dallas propaganda going into the season. They were among the most forgotten Super Bowl champs in history and the Cowboys were anointed the team to beat in the NFC. It's the Super Bowl champs who are supposed to be fighting distractions and complacency, but instead it's the Cowboys who are self-destructing.
There's a chance some of the Giants might be talking this week about how Coughlin got a good laugh at Jerry Jones' expense after the playoff victory. A couple of days before the game, Jones distributed two tickets to each of his players for the NFC title game along with two tickets for the game against the Giants.
He was being a bit presumptuous, as it turned out. Coughlin told his players about
it before the game and it fired them up even more to beat Dallas. After the victory, which sent the Giants to the NFC Championship Game in Green Bay, NFL Films had footage of Coughlin's speech to his players.
"I don't want anybody talking about this in the media," he said in a real serious tone, then with his right arm extended like he's holding something in his hand, he tells them, "Jerry just sent the tickets over. So, we're all set."
Coughlin broke into a huge grin. The players roared. Maybe for the first time, Coughlin actually has provided bulletin-board material.
Even More on Jerry’s move …
Jason Witten has broken ribs …he plans to give it a try…
Breathing right now for Jason Witten isn’t easy. Sleeping isn’t a given, either. Despite pain accompanying such simple tasks he hopes to play.
Witten said he plans to practice this week to determine whether he can play Sunday against the New York Giants, despite having a broken rib.
“Practice will tell me everything,” Witten said Tuesday evening. “I don’t know yet. I’ve never had to deal with anything like this before. I’ve broken my jaw before and that was something that hurt, but this is something that is totally different.”
Witten had to leave during the second quarter of the Cowboys’ 13-9 victory on Sunday against the Buccaneers, but eventually returned. The return in the second half didn’t last long as the injury reduced him to a cheerleader role on the sideline the remainder of the game.
He said the bone is broken but there is no cartilage damage.
He has given some thought to just waiting until after this game to rest and heal through the bye week. But it’s clear his first priority is to try to do everything to play against the NFC-East leading Giants.
“I guess in hindsight you’d say, ‘Yeah,’ because you don’t have to worry about taking a hit,” Witten said. “It’s just part of the chances you take.”
He will wear extra protection — most likely a flak jacket — to guard against further injury this week during practice.
This would not be the first time Witten has played in some serious pain this season. He suffered a separated shoulder in Week 2, but did not miss any games. Now he’s hoping a broken rib won’t sideline him, either.
At a time when a lot of big-name Cowboys are out with injuries, Witten’s injury couldn’t come at a worse time. The Cowboys’ offense is already without starting quarterback Tony Romo, guard Kyle Kosier, change-of-pace running back Felix Jones and now possibly Witten. Minus some of those names, the Cowboys have scored a combined 27 points the last two games.
“It is frustrating. I felt like I was having my best-year ever, and as an offense we had some things go bad here recently,” Witten said. “I felt I’ve been playing well. It is frustrating, but it could have been worse. I’m trying to be positive about it right now.”
Witten leads the Cowboys with 46 receptions for 549 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He is also relied on heavily in run blocking and pass protection.
Without Witten, the Cowboys would elevate rookie Martellus Bennett to the top spot on the depth chart. He has eight receptions for 145 yards and a touchdown this season. The other option is Tony Curtis.
But Witten’s preference is to play. Apparently if both sleeping and breathing are
painful, football won’t be much worse.
Michael Lombardi says what we are all thinking …
I am sure that quarterback Brooks Bollinger will get a ton of reps this week during the Cowboys practices as they prepare for the Giants. There is no way that the ‘Boys can keep playing Johnson with his eye level and his unwillingness to throw the ball down the field.
Meanwhile, whether you are ready or not, here is the NBA season upon us….
Are the Mavs going to shut up the critics? …
The critics aren't big fans of the Dallas Mavericks. Most analysts rate them no better than sixth in the Western Conference.
Many put them at eighth or even out of the playoffs.
Jason Terry doesn't much care for those sorts of predictions.
"I'll be shocked if we finish eighth or ninth in the West, and I probably won't be on this team next year if that's the case," Terry said Tuesday, adding that he loves Dallas and has no plans on leaving, if he has anything to say about it. "I want to be here. I've got a better suggestion than eighth or ninth."
Terry will have plenty to say about the Mavericks' fortunes when their season opens Thursday against Houston. Coach Rick Carlisle wants his team to utilize the 3-point shot, but only when the looks are good, either in transition or after tossing the ball around in the half-court set.
That should be right in Terry's wheelhouse.
"If we share the ball, we're going to make our share of shots," Carlisle said. "I don't know why, but the more guys that touch it, the more frequently it goes in. That happens more times than not when you're able to get a stop and get an advantage."
The making of shots goes back to playing defense well enough to trigger a fast break and getting open looks in transition. Failing that, Terry sees a better flow to the offensive sets in half-court situations.
That's what the motion offense Carlisle has implemented is designed to do.
And as for the Mavericks being dismissed by national observers, Terry said it's not such a bad thing.
"People doubt us and it's been a long time since we've had that doubt," he said. "I think teams are going to come in [thinking], 'Yeah, we ran through the Mavericks last season.' But it's going to be a big shock for them.
"Starting Thursday, we got to protect our home court."
Bill Simmons types what we are all thinking …the Mavs and Suns are old…
The window will officially close on Dallas and Phoenix as title contenders.
Remember how excited we were when the NBA briefly shed the "No Balls Association" tag this past February and Dallas (Jason Kidd) and Phoenix (Shaq) swung for the fences? Well, it didn't work -- the Kidd gamble was doomed from the start, and the Shaq gamble was nullified when Phoenix suffered a colossal Stomach Punch loss in Game 1 of the Spurs series (and by the way, the Suns choked that game away, so I'm not absolving them). If this were "Entourage," the '09 Mavs and Suns would be a reeling Vincent Chase right after "Medellin" bombed, only they don't have a superagent like Ari to save them. Stick a fork in them. And yes, I picked that analogy only because it combined Marc Stein's favorite show with his two favorite NBA teams.
(The good news: We haven't lost either team from the "wannabe contender" group just yet, and they still have a chance to win 45-50 games. Also, we get another elite year of Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki; a potential career year from Amare Stoudemire; 15-20 box scores from opposing point guards against Jason Kidd that will resemble some of Oscar Robertson's best work; a full season of Josh Howard jokes; two Suns with WNBA hairdos; tons of bitterness from the Phoenix fan base toward Robert Sarver, not just for blowing their 2004-2008 window by being cheap but also for indefensibly selling the Rudy Fernandez pick in 2007; and Shaq officially shifting into Kareem-in-1989/Ewing-in-2000 full-scale calcification mode.)
The rest of the ESPN geniuses look at the squad …
ESPN.com SOUTHWEST: 4 | WEST: 8 Would feel better about having Jason Kidd around for a full season if he hadn't looked so average during the Olympics. Rick Carlisle has a tough job changing the mentality of a team that has folded in its past three playoff series.
ESPN.com SOUTHWEST: 4 | WEST: 7 Time for this team to be broken up. It's not the right mix since the 2006 Finals meltdown. Just not a championship-quality team. Maybe they'll deal Howard if they get off to a slow start. Don't be surprised if Cuban mixes it up.
ESPN Mag SOUTHWEST: 4 | WEST: 8 The Mavs are younger than the Suns, but the story lines are the same: Like the Kings of C-Webb, Bibby & Co., they missed their opportunity for a ring. Carlisle's newness will have them all saying it's not the same ol' song. But it is.
ESPN Mag SOUTHWEST: 4 | WEST: 8 Biggest challenge of Rick Carlisle's career. He'll get more out of Jason Kidd, but this team needs a major overhaul. The psychological scar of the 2006 collapse is still visible.
ESPN.com SOUTHWEST: 4 | WEST: 8 The Mavs' problem is that they didn't make that significant infusion of youth to an aging franchise -- they went opposite. The trade of Devin Harris and two first-round picks for Jason Kidd will haunt them for the next five years.
ESPN.com SOUTHWEST: 4 | WEST: 8 Dirk Nowitzki is a franchise player who is unable to be a closer. The Mavericks have been sliding backward since going to the 2006 NBA Finals. This might be the year they don't make the postseason.
ESPN.com SOUTHWEST: 4 | WEST: 7 The Jason Kidd panic trade likely ended their title-contending days, but any team lining up Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard at the forward spots should at least make the playoffs, especially given new coach Rick Carlisle's track record.
ESPN.com SOUTHWEST: 4 | WEST: 9 It will be very important for this team to get off to a fast start. Especially with so many changes made and distractions this offseason. They will be led by Nowitzki, Kidd and Howard. Rick Carlisle has proven to be a great coach.
ESPN.com SOUTHWEST: 4 | WEST: 9 Although owner Mark Cuban tries to subcategorize all of ESPN's talent by what he sees as their respective shticks, we'll categorize his team as what it is: a mediocre assemblage of talent whose long-term hopes were ruined by the Jason Kidd deal.
Stein ESPN.com SOUTHWEST: 4 | WEST: 6 Just a thought: If they won 51 games last season when everyone in Mavsland was so unhappy, should we hold off on all those obituaries until we see how the Mavs look (and feel) under Carlisle?
Welcome back, Otter …
Steve Ott has been hobbling because of a sore groin for much of this season, but the last time the Dallas Stars had him in the lineup, they played one of their best defensive games of the year – a 2-1 win against the New York Rangers.
So when Ott returns tonight after a three-game injury hiatus, the Stars are hoping they will be better defensively.
"We miss his energy out there," coach Dave Tippett said. "He plays the game hard every shift. He's a physical player who will compete for space. He's a gritty player that plays hard in those defensive areas. That's what we need right now."
Ott played on the left wing with Brad Richards and Sean Avery in practice Tuesday, and that could mean the two agitators will be on the same line against the Minnesota Wild tonight. Tippett tried that combination with some success in the preseason but has stayed away from it during the regular season.
"I can't wait to see it," center Mike Ribeiro said. "Those two together would be interesting."
Ott said he's excited about returning. He has been trying to play injured, and he believes he lost some of his edge.
"I think with something like that, you have to sit down for a while and just let it rest," Ott said. "I feel much better, and I've really been able to push it the last couple of days."
Ott has an obvious love for the game, and his annoying antics often create tension-breakers for his teammates on the ice. With the Stars 3-4-2 on the year and the Wild 6-0-1, Dallas needs a release of pressure.
"I've been bugging him to come back," Ribeiro said. "We've been having some ups and downs, so we need a guy like that. He brings energy to the building."
Great question about the Longhorns …
David from Jackson, Tenn., writes: With the Longhorns playing Texas Tech this weekend, that will make four top ten opponents in a row. Has any team ever done that before? And if so, has any team won all four?
Tim Griffin: I asked your question to ace ESPN research department college football guru Brad Edwards and he's researching it as we speak. But he turned up the 1960 Iowa team as what he considers as the hardest schedule in history. Check out the gauntlet the Hawkeyes had to charge through that season.
IOWA HAWKEYES, 1960 season
Oct. 1 at 6 Northwestern W
Oct. 8 at 13 Michigan State W
Oct. 15 12 Wisconsin W
Oct. 22 10 Purdue W
Oct. 29 19 Kansas W
Nov. 5 at 3 Minnesota L
Nov. 12 3 Ohio State W
That's a seven-week stretching featuring games against No. 6, No. 13, No. 12, No. 10. No. 19, No. 3 and No. 3. Incidentally, the Hawkeyes finished 8-1 that season and No. 3 in the AP poll.
Most amazingly of all, that Iowa team didn't even get to a bowl game. Only one team from the Big Ten was allowed to go to bowls back then. And Minnesota advanced after winning the head-to-head game, losing to Washington in the Rose Bowl.
Iowa finished the season 8-1 and No. 3 in the AP poll
And with all due respect to the Longhorns, I think they've been one-upped by the Hawkeyes on this.
Andy Reid defends Lawyer Milloy …
Nobody in the Eagles' locker room had anything bad to say about Lawyer Milloy yesterday, after the Falcons' safety knocked tight end L.J. Smith out of the game a little more than 3 minutes into the fourth quarter with a concussion, on a vicious shoulder hit to the face delivered after the ball had bounced away.
Milloy, who was penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness, is in his 13th NFL season and has never been known as a dirty player, Eagles coach Andy Reid noted. But closing fast after a Donovan McNabb pass bounced off a defender's helmet away from Smith, Milloy unaccountably lowered his shoulder and drove it into Smith's face.
It was hard not to recall a similar hit by a similarly revered veteran safety, almost exactly 6 years earlier. On Oct. 28, 2002, at Veterans Stadium, Brian Dawkins unaccountably lowered his head and blasted defenseless Giants receiver Ike Hilliard, with the overthrown ball nowhere near Hilliard. Dawkins' hit, which drew a $50,000 fine, was helmet-to-helmet, which Milloy's was not, and Hilliard suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Smith eventually walked off the field, with assistance.
There was no word after the game on how long he might be sidelined.
"You saw by the players' reaction on both sides of the ball that they knew it was one of those things where it was a bang-bang deal," Reid said. "It is an emotional game, and sometimes things happen. I hated to see it happen to L.J. He was having a heckuva game. That's part of the game. Lawyer is not a cheap-shot guy, that's not his deal. He's been in this league a long time, and he's a clean player. For whatever reason, that one slipped by."
Dawkins said he didn't think of the Hilliard hit when he saw Smith go down.
"Playing the position, those things are going to happen," Dawkins said. "You don't have the vantage point to see everything everybody else sees. I understand exactly the situation he was in."
See the hit for yourself: LJ Smith concussion
Rollerblading Gay or not gay?