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Saturday, April 26, 1997
When Aikman speaks, Lacewell listens
An AP Sports Analysis
By DENNE H. FREEMAN AP Sports Writer
IRVING, Texas (AP) - Larry Lacewell walked to the refrigerator
to get a diet Pepsi (what else at Valley Ranch?), came over and
allowed himself to be interviewed.
It was draft day after the first round and owner Jerry Jones'
gag order had been lifted. Jones and his scouting department had
put up more smoke screens than a World War II ship convoy on the
Jones even planted a story the team would be, alas, trading
out of the first round like it did the last two years to save
However, agent Leigh (Show Me The Money) Steinberg, broke the
code of silence (you can't gag agents) to predict the Cowboys
would move up in the draft for a tight end, likely Tony Gonzalez
of California, one of his clients. Steinberg has good sources.
Another client is Troy Aikman, who went on a caravan to pass to
the likes of Gonzalez and David LaFleur of Louisiana State.
How could the Cowboys move up if they had salary cap problems?
The Cowboys salary cap is a deeper mystery than the Hale-Bopp
comet. Now you see the money and now you don't. It's hard to follow
and Jerry wants to keep it that way.
But back to Lacewell, the Dallas Cowboys scouting director
who had iffy drafts since Jimmy Johnson left. The only impact
player of any note was offensive lineman Larry Allen in 1994.
You remember that year, it was the one where they traded up to
get defensive end Shante Carter, who has been your basic bust.
In Lacewell's defense, he had to wait until the second round
the last two years before his suggestions were considered. So
far, Dallas has only had average results for the average players
"I'm really excited," Lacewell said about the selection
of LaFleur, an imposing physical specimen who seems taller than
his listed 6-foot-7 and bigger than his posted 280 pounds. "This
kid has the entire package. I think our tight end situation is
going to be in good hands for years to come."
Hands? Do you say hands?
Without Jay Novacek last year, Aikman had balls skipping off
fry pans disguised as hands. Eric Bjornson never got into the
flow after he sprained both ankles and couldn't have caught a
ball dipped in honey.
LaFleur has hands. Aikman threw balls high, low, and behind
LaFleur and he caught them all. You have to see the NFL combine
film where balls were coming at LaFleur from all angles. He caught
Block? Do you say block?
He made a lot of impressive blocks for the Bengal Tigers last
year to spring running back Kevin Faulk.
The Cowboys wanted LaFleur so bad that they traded up to get
him. Some critics say the Cowboys might have overvalued LaFleur
and didn't need to give up the two draft picks it cost.
"If you see somebody you want why not go after him,"
Lacewell said. "We had no guarantees he would be around.
The Cowboys couldn't run a two tight end offense last year
because Kendall Watkins suffered a season-ending injury in training
camp. There was no Novacek (who could retire soon and free up
$1 million cap money) and a crippled Bjornson.
"Now, we can run some two tight end offense," Lacewell
said. "This is going to make Troy a happy camper. What a
target LaFleur is going to be on third down."
Aikman told the Cowboys that he liked LaFleur better than Gonzalez
and that LaFleur was the one receiver he wanted them to get.
When Aikman speaks, Lacewell listens.
Training camp will tell, but being aggressive in the first
round for the first time in three years could pay big dividends
for the Cowboys this time.
All content copyright 1997,
AP, KRT, The Abilene Reporter-News
and Reporter OnLine