Wednesday, December 2, 1998
Kevin Smith out 2-4 weeks
By DENNE H. FREEMAN AP Sports Writer
IRVING, Texas (AP) - Coach Chan Gailey's decision to have
cornerback Kevin Smith return punts against Minnesota came back
to haunt the Dallas Cowboys.
Smith was hit in the back on an 11-yard punt return against
the Vikings in the first half and an MRI on Tuesday showed there
was muscle damage.
"Kevin will be out two to four weeks," said Gailey,
who defended his use of Smith as a punt returner because Deion
Sanders and Chris Warren, normally the punt returners, were injured.
Wide receiver Jeff Ogden, who is a capable kick returner, also
was unavailable because of injury.
"He was the only guy on the team who had ever returned
a punt and I didn't have a choice," said Gailey.
Terry Billups, freshly activated off the practice squad, was
pressed into duty against Minnesota in the 46-36 loss on Thursday.
Because of the injury, both Dallas cornerbacks will miss Sunday's
game in New Orleans.
Gailey has all but ruled out Sanders, who has a sprained left
big toe, "unless there is some miraculous recovery."
With four weeks to go and leading the NFC East by two games,
the Cowboys are stuck with a patchwork secondary that may last
until the playoffs.
"The guys coming in will just have to play well,"
Gailey said. "Everybody will have to shoulder the load.
Everybody has a star on his helmet. At least we know our problems
and can work on them."
After the Saints, Dallas is at Kansas City and finishes the
season at home against Philadelphia and Washington. The magic
number to clinch the division title for the Cowboys is two -
any combination of Dallas victories or Arizona losses.
Gailey said he hoped Kevin Mathis, who has missed the last
month with a broken right arm, will be able to work at one cornerback
spot. Mathis, who also returns kicks. is wearing a soft cast
on his right forearm.
Charlie Williams - who played in place of Sanders last week
- will also work at corner along with
Kenny Wheaton and rookie Billups. Billups played for Smith
last week after the punt return injury. Billups had spent seven
weeks on the practice squad.
"Billups did pretty good last week," Gailey said.
"It's not like he was a bust."
Gailey said he thinks he knows what kind of game plan New
Orleans will execute.
"I'm sure they'll try to take advantage of what they
see as a weakness in our team, that's all part of the game,"
Dallas dropped to 23rd in pass defense in the NFL after Randall
Cunningham threw four touchdown passes, three of them to Randy
Moss, in the Vikings' victory on Thanksgiving Day.
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AP, KRT, The Abilene Reporter-News
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