Allen's status becoming a big issue for Cowboys

Updated: November 6, 2003, 8:09 PM ET
ESPN

IRVING, Texas -- When left guard Larry Allen limped to the bench during the Washington game, Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells didn't talk to him.

Owner Jerry Jones did.

Allen was in and out of the lineup the rest of the game, as he did the week before. Yet the Cowboys continue keeping him off the injury list.

If there's any gamesmanship involved, it's with Allen, not opponents.

"All I'm telling you is he's able to play and we'll play him for as long as we can," Parcells said. "If it doesn't look like he can play, we'll sit him. That is all there is to it."

While Jones' encouragement might have helped Allen get back into the game, Parcells said the owner won't be expected to fire up the five-time All-Pro.

"I coach him the best I can," Parcells said. "I'm doing the best I can."

Parcells had the 6-foot-3, 335-pound Allen lead the team in sideline sprints during training camp and joked then about calling him "Secretariat." When Allen began riding a stationary bike, there was teasing about him getting ready for the Tour de France.

The laughs have turned to serious concerns. Allen, who collected a $12 million signing bonus before last season and is signed through 2007, played a career-low five games last season because of injuries. While he hasn't missed a full game this season, it's been tough to rely on him every down.

Can he go an entire game? That question is especially important because of the caliber of defenses Dallas is about to face. Buffalo is ranked third against the pass, New England is sixth against the run and Miami is second against the run.

Parcells acknowledged that Allen's on-again, off-again status could put the team at a disadvantage.

"But at this point, it hasn't yet," Parcells said. "I'm just hoping that things can improve."

Quarterback Quincy Carter said he still has faith in Allen.

"I think Larry is going to be all right," Carter said. "He's toughing it out. He knows how to do that. He knows how to play hurt."

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^OL OPTIONS:@ How much Larry Allen can play is only one of the Cowboys' concerns about the offensive line.

Right tackle Ryan Young missed the last game because of a knee problem and is questionable this week. Kurt Vollers has done a solid job as his replacement. Torrin Tucker also has seen action.

Gennaro DiNapoli was sharing time at center with Matt Lehr, but is out for the season with ankle problem. Former Buffalo center Bill Conaty was signed this week and could be active Sunday. That would allow Tyson Walter to focus on backing up Allen at guard.

"I think I know where the contingencies are now," coach Bill Parcells said. "You do what you have to do. We worked out a couple of other guys, one of whom I think could play for us if we needed him, and that's good to know."

Conaty played six seasons in Buffalo and went to training camp with New England. All he needs to pick up on is Dallas' terminology. He said that shouldn't be a problem.

"A lot of this offense is similar to what I've been in before," he said.

Young's injury, which does not involve ligaments or cartilage, causes the knee to get sore and tight.

"Ryan is doing everything he can do," Parcells said. "He gets treatment every day. He's mentally super tough. So we've got to try to help him get through it."

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^CAN HAMBRICK HOLD ON?@ From the time Bill Parcells arrived until the fourth game of the season, Troy Hambrick always held the ball tightly.

"Troy did not fumble one ball all summer in training camp in any practice," Parcells said. "He didn't football in any preseason games. That's a lot of carries for a guy in practice and the games, so I don't think Troy Hambrick is a guy who fumbles the ball."

Since then, he's dropped four balls, losing three. He had two against Washington.

Parcells has little tolerance for fumbling. It's part of the reason returner Zuriel Smith has been inactive lately despite having made big plays earlier this season.

Parcells also isn't big on excuses. But he made one for Hambrick's slip-ups against the Redskins, saying humidity might have left Hambrick's arm wet.

"If we get another day like that you need to put something on their arm to keep it dry," Parcells said. "They have these little pads with kind of coarse stuff that you can put the ball on it. Maybe something like that helps."

Dallas' five lost fumbles is tied for the most in the league.

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^REPLAYING STANCE ON REPLAY:@ Bill Parcells threw the red flag last Sunday in hopes that officials would change their mind about Troy Hambrick's first fumble. The review showed their initial call was accurate.

Parcells said during training camp that he would use the red flag only when he was pretty confident of winning. That's proven to be the case. The Hambrick play with the first challenge Parcells has lost.

Parcells was against replay when he coached the Giants. He changed his mind after going into broadcasting and seeing all the different camera angles that fans see.

"Quite frankly, I am glad we do have it," he said.

Parcells pays attention to which crew will be working Dallas games. He warns players during the week about what those officials are likely to call and what they might ignore.

After kickoff, he doesn't focus on the zebras.

"I quit worrying about that a long time ago," he said.

As for his attempts to make Dallas less penalized: The Cowboys have 47 flags for 382 yards, both among the 10 lowest in the league. It's an improvement from 51 for 506 through eight games last season.

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^ENDQUOTE:@ "When I can't sleep at night, he's not sleeping either. I like that." -- Bill Parcells talking about defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index