Williams' appeal to be heard Wednesday; Romo's thumb feeling better
IRVING, Texas -- Tony Romo took it easy on his bruised right hand Tuesday, throwing nothing more than lobs during practice. During all his down time, he might have gotten a good laugh by looking at the merry-go-round playing out in the Dallas Cowboys' secondary.
On the next play, Davis was with the first team, with Williams waiting in the wings.
Williams was told Monday that he has to sit out Dallas' game Saturday night against Carolina as punishment for his third "horse-collar" tackle this season. He appealed Tuesday and a hearing was set for Wednesday. While the delay gave his defenders more time to prepare their case, it left coach Wade Phillips with less time to prepare his defense. He's already hampered by a shorter-than-usual week.
"We're in a little bit of limbo here," Phillips said. "We just need to get it settled."
This practice was only a walkthrough as Phillips didn't want to push his players too hard two days after a game. Tuesday is normally their day off.
Romo was limited because of an injury to the thumb on his passing hand. He didn't take snaps and might only take them out of the shotgun Wednesday, even though he'll likely have a new center. Starter Andre Gurode hurt his left knee and probably won't play against the Panthers.
Romo didn't speak to reporters Tuesday, but he was seen after practice with his right hand wrapped with ice and a stimulation machine.
"He said he felt better," Phillips said, adding that the bruising and swelling had gone down.
Tight end Jason Witten has no doubt Romo will play Saturday.
"Oh yeah," he said. "He's really tough. I'd be shocked if he didn't."
Romo, Witten and Gurode were among 11 Cowboys chosen Tuesday to the NFC Pro Bowl roster. It tied a team record and was the most among all NFL clubs. Dallas has seven starters and four backups, including Marion Barber, who doesn't even start for the Cowboys.
Phillips called the Pro Bowl announcement a nice mood-lifter for a club dealing with injuries, the Williams suspension and lingering disappointment from a 10-6 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday.
Dallas already has locked up a first-round bye, but no longer has a cushion over Green Bay in the chase for home-field advantage in the playoffs. The Cowboys and Packers are both 12-2, although Dallas holds the tiebreaker. Still, the Cowboys must win the last two games to guarantee themselves the No. 1 seed; otherwise, they may face a trip to Lambeau Field in late January.
Thus, the trip to Carolina is no longer playing out the string. Dallas also wants to get back to playing at a high level, something it hasn't done the last two games. Phillips' challenge is to figure out how to do that while also trying to set up contingency plans at so many positions.
Besides Williams, Romo and Gurode, Dallas probably will be without Pat Watkins, a backup safety and special teams standout, because of an ankle injury. Then there's Terry Glenn, who hasn't played all year because of two knee operations but is close to returning.
Williams has known since early October that another horse-collar might cost him a game, which could explain why he was angrily bouncing up and down after being flagged for doing it again Sunday against Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb.
Then again, the violation is known as the Roy Williams Rule because it was put in following his takedown from behind of Terrell Owens in 2004. Owens broke his leg and tore ankle ligaments on that tackle.
Since the move was outlawed, Williams has been fined $10,000 in October 2006; $12,500 in September and $15,000 in October. He also was told the last time that if he did it again, he might be fined and suspended. This suspension, if upheld, would cost him his weekly salary of $35,000.
"He's been given so many warnings, plus the rule was put in place for him," Cowboys receiver Patrick Crayton said. "That'd be a red light flashing in my head."
Williams' defensive teammates were far more supportive, saying the tactic is far less dangerous than cut blocks that are legal for offensive linemen.
"It's a dumb rule," linebacker Akin Ayodele said. "It handicaps him being an aggressive safety. He sees someone running by him, what's he supposed to do? Stop? It's a split-second decision."
Linebacker Greg Ellis said it's wrong for the league to take away a starter for a game that has playoff implications over something like this.
"Obviously I'm biased, but if it was another team, I'd say that's a bad way to enter a critical game off a guy trying to be aggressive and trying to make a play," he said.
Phillips tried to avoid giving a direct opinion, but made it pretty clear he doesn't like the rule or the ruling. He also noted that McNabb wasn't hurt and that none of the other people Williams has taken down this way the last two years have been, either.
"Roy's been in on 105 tackles now and three of them have been on that variety," Phillips said. "Where is the line as far if you hit them too hard or have a helmet to helmet -- are we going to suspend them? ... But we have to go by the rules, whatever those rules are. They've been basically fining people to keep them from doing these things. They evidently thought it got to the point with Roy where they felt like they needed to do more."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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