Switching sides for Browns, Cowboys

Friday, September 17th 2004, 8:16 pm
By: News On 6

IRVING, Texas (AP) _ This has been one of the longest weeks for coach Bill Parcells, the week after a season-opening loss.

Parcells realizes Dallas is just one of 16 teams that started the season with a loss. But that didn't ease his own anguish or keep him from wondering if the Cowboys will even win a game.

``It's a tough week. It's not much fun, and you do wonder,'' Parcells said. ``Right now, we've got some problems here with injuries and personnel and everything. It hasn't been comforting.''

Neither is looking at the next opponent: Cleveland, a team that started its week with a victory party at new quarterback Jeff Garcia's home.

The Browns won their first season opener since their rebirth in 1999.

``It's one of those things where you have to have a short-term memory,'' Garcia said. ``We're on to the next fight. We're anxious. We're excited.''

For the first time since 1994, the Browns play Sunday in Dallas, where the Cowboys are an NFL-best 32-12-1 in home openers.

When Cleveland last played there a decade ago, Butch Davis and Dave Campo were coaching for the Cowboys, and Vinny Testaverde was the Browns quarterback. They've all switched sides.

As usual, Parcells isn't worried about sentimentality. He's concerned about his team.

Richie Anderson, the team's third-down back, and offensive linemen Andre Gurode and Tyson Walter all came out of the season opener with sprained knees. Gurode is the most likely to miss the game, and would be replaced by Walter _ if he's healthy.

If Anderson isn't available, rookie Julius Jones would be a candidate to take over some of his duties. But Jones missed the opener _ and the last exhibition game _ with a bruised rib.

Testaverde, the 40-year-old quarterback, threw for a league-high 355 yards in his Dallas debut. But Parcells doesn't like throwing 50 passes, especially when the spread offense they used takes running back Eddie George out of play.

And the defense that was top ranked in the league last year gave up 415 yards and struggled all day. Even with the addition of pass-rushing end Marcellus Wiley, the Cowboys got no pressure on Daunte Culpepper and provided no help for their suspect secondary in a 35-17 loss at Minnesota.

``I'm not wondering any less than I did (last year). I do have more confidence in the ability of the people that I have,'' Parcells said. ``What was a certain way may have changed a little bit and you just have to get a feel for that and see if your judgment about those things is accurate.''

Parcells won't make that determination after just one game.

The Cowboys also lost their opener last season, then responded with a five-game winning streak. They went on to win 10 games and get back to the playoffs after three straight 5-11 seasons under Campo.

While the Cowboys certainly don't want to start 0-2, they are careful to avoid labeling Week 2 a must win.

``It's too early in the season to say that, but it's pretty dang close,'' tight end Dan Campbell said. ``I don't want to go to Washington on a Monday night 0-2. Just being 0-2 period is bad. It sure would be nice to win this.''

Cleveland, meanwhile, is riding high after a rare opening win.

The Browns may get a boost with the return of Lee Suggs, the running back who missed the opener because of a neck stinger. Plus, Garcia should be settled in at quarterback.

After spending five seasons in San Francisco, Garcia said he was very nervous before his Browns debut _ a 20-3 win over Baltimore in which he passed for a touchdown and ran for another.

``It was one of those things where I do put a lot of pressure on myself. The expectations of the fans in Cleveland are high and they deserve to have those,'' Garcia said. ``I wanted to go in and show the fans and the city of Cleveland that I am going to give my all for this team and that is why I am so hard on this team. I am not going to settle for mediocrity out of myself or my teammates. I strive to be as good as possible.''

So far, he's undefeated in Cleveland.