Thought to be out for the season because of a neck injury, Jones
returned to practice Wednesday and is expected to play Saturday
night, both at cornerback and returning kicks, after missing only
"It surprised everybody," coach Wade Phillips said. "He's got
nine lives. Maybe he's got 18 lives."
Jones was injured two Sundays ago against Pittsburgh in his
first game after a six-week suspension for violating the league's
personal conduct policy. Tests showed a herniated disk and there
was talk of shutting him down for the season.
The Cowboys didn't put Jones on injured reserve just in case he
healed. Sure enough, doctors checked him out again this week and
discovered he was healthy enough to play, prompting speculation
this wasn't a new injury; perhaps he already had the herniation and
it was merely aggravated against the Steelers.
"It just wasn't as bad as we thought," Phillips said. "Once
it was treated, it was better. ... They said he's ready to go. He
Said team owner Jerry Jones: "Our initial diagnosis there
wasn't that encouraging that he'd get back this quickly. We're
really excited about having him; we need him. I don't know that we
could have added anything personnel-wise that gives a lift like
having him in the secondary."
Dallas (9-5) plays Baltimore on Saturday night in a game between
teams vying for wild-card berths in each conference. Having Jones
back helps because it frees cornerback Anthony Henry to play more
at safety, where the Cowboys are running out of healthy players.
Starter Ken Hamlin didn't practice Wednesday and may not all week;
he didn't practice last week, but played in the game. Fellow
starting safety Keith Davis is fighting a variety of injuries, and
their only backup, Tra Battle, strained a hamstring in the last
Romo went through most of the workout and Phillips said Romo
improved as he went along. Everyone seems confident he'll be ready
to play against the Ravens in what also will be the Cowboys' last
game at Texas Stadium.
"I'm sure it will be fine by Saturday," Romo said on a
conference call with Baltimore reporters. "I think it's just part
of playing football. Everyone gets banged up this time of year, and
you get back out there and you play."
Barber was injured on Thanksgiving and missed the Pittsburgh
game. He was a game-time decision Sunday night against the Giants
and wound up gaining only 2 yards on eight carries. Phillips said
Barber likely will be a game-time decision again.
"I think he's feeling better than he was last week at this
time. That's a positive sign. But it's still early in the week,"
Jones was among the league's best cornerbacks and punt returners
in 2006 with Tennessee, but his off-field problems got him
suspended for 2007 and eventually traded to Dallas.
He started at cornerback four of the six games before his latest
suspension, and was the primary punt returner. After the
suspension, he played in formations requiring extra cornerbacks and
was used to punt and kickoff returns.
Jones averaged 4.6 yards per punt return this season and 16
yards on his three kickoff returns, far below others. Yet Phillips
wants him back there because he's proven he can get loose. His
career averages are 11.2 yards on punts and 26.2 yards on kickoffs.
"Early in the year on the punt returns he was real close to
having some big ones," Phillips said. "He's got a knack for
running with the football, so I think you have to put him in there
some to give him that opportunity and us that opportunity."