Emmitt wants to practice to know if sprained knee is ready for play

Thursday, November 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

IRVING, Texas (AP) _ Emmitt Smith says he won't be comfortable trying to play Sunday unless he gets some practice time to test his sprained right knee.

``Obviously I want to know where my leg is at. I want to know if I can make a certain cut,'' Smith said. ``I need a little bit of practice. How much practice, I don't know.''

The Dallas Cowboys have listed Smith as questionable for Sunday's game at the New York Giants. The decision on if he plays may not be made until just before kickoff.

Coach Dave Campo said he was hopeful that Smith could return to practice by Friday, after spending Thursday with team trainers. But the coach said practice wasn't required for Smith to play if he's ready on game day.

``The urgency is not there from a mental standpoint for him to be out there because obviously he knows what we're doing,'' Campo said.

Tests this week showed Smith has a ``relatively mild'' ligament sprain in his right knee. He was hurt during the Cowboys' 17-3 win over Arizona on Sunday when he was tackled after a 1-yard gain.

Smith has played in 176 games in his 12-year NFL career, and missed only two games because of injury. His 15,564 career rushing yards are 1,162 behind Walter Payton's NFL record.

Smith said swelling in his knee had gone down drastically and that he was able to walk without any significant pain. The knee was covered with a thin wrap as he walked around the team's practice facility Wednesday.

``It feels a whole lot better than it did on Monday,'' he said. ``The past few days I've been able to increase my walk and walk almost close to normal and my pace in my walk has picked up.''

He said he won't make any decision about playing until he has a chance to go through some running and agility drills.

If he doesn't feel right, he plans to sit out the game. But if he plays, he expects to start.

``If I have any doubts or feeling something that's not truly comfortable for me, I probably will'' sit out, Smith said. ``If I'm in a position where I can play, then I'm going to play. I haven't thought about taking a backup role because I'm still faced with the same situation regardless if I start or play the backup.''

Smith has started 30 straight games since sitting out Nov. 14, 1999, against Green Bay because of a broken bone in his right hand.

The only other game he missed because of injury was the 1994 regular season finale against the Giants because of a strained left hamstring. But the Cowboys had already clinched a playoff spot, and Smith played in both postseason games that season.

Troy Hambrick would start at tailback and Johnny Huggins, primarily a tight end, would fill in at fullback if Smith doesn't play.