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COWBOYS owner predicts 10 wins, contenting for playoffs


IRVING, Texas (AP) _ Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones insists he's not just talking when he predicts his team will win 10 games and contend for the playoffs.

``I want to be as real as I can from my perspective, and I think we have a legitimate chance of being that kind of football team,'' Jones said Tuesday as the Cowboys continued their final minicamp before training camp opens July 21.

No, Jones hasn't forgotten that the Cowboys were 5-11 to finish fourth in the NFC East a year ago, lost quarterback Troy Aikman to retirement and haven't made any significant personnel overhauls.

``I base that on the fact that the last four teams that have played in the Super Bowl were last in their division, or next to last, the year before,'' Jones said. ``We've got a young team. We've got a lot of talent.''

The Cowboys missed the playoffs for the second time in four years, and haven't won a postseason game since the 1996 NFC wildcard game.

Last year's 5-11 mark was the team's worst record since going 1-15 in 1989, the first season Jones owned the team.

``The early years, we knew we had some work to do. So even though we had lesser records, those still weren't as hard to take,'' Jones said.

Emmitt Smith, who is third on the NFL career rushing list, and defensive back Darren Woodson are the only players remaining from the Dallas teams that won three Super Bowls in four years _ after the 1992, 1993 and 1995 seasons.

``We've been in the winner's circle and we are anxious to get back there,'' Woodson said. ``He has a lot of faith in his organization. The way the league is set up, there aren't a lot of strong teams. Teams down in the past have a chance to get back.''

Aikman, who missed five games last year and was knocked out of three others, retired in April. The Cowboys waived him March 7, a day before they owed him a $7 million bonus and seven-year contract extension, after he suffered four concussions his last 20 starts.

``Now that Troy has left us, that's no reason to say automatically that we can't be successful. We can be successful this year,'' Jones said. ``There's no reason we can't have some real consistent quarterbacking and have a lot better record than people think we will.''

Tony Banks, a five-year NFL veteran who was Trent Dilfer's backup when the Ravens won the Super Bowl in January, signed a one-year deal with the Cowboys in March to replace Aikman. The Cowboys used their top pick in the April draft to get quarterback Quincy Carter from Georgia.

Receivers Joey Galloway and Raghib Ismail are both back on the field after season-ending knee injuries a year ago. Galloway was injured in the season opener, while Ismail had several nagging injuries before his knee injury in November.

Coach Dave Campo said he sees no reason to argue with Jones' bold prediction.

``I'd probably say the same thing. I'm optimistic at whatever I do, and there's not much difference between the teams in this league,'' Campo said. ``Look at the weapons we have on offense. If we have our best 11 out there, I feel really good about that.''

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