PRESEASON games don't count, but they matter

Friday, August 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ There's no game plan, it doesn't count in the record and getting out of it without injuries is one of the main things on the coaches' minds.

But when the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints meet Saturday night, there will be a lot more being decided than the final score.

Halfway through the preseason schedule, coaches are busy sorting out talent, and that puts even more pressure on some of the players.

``Every minute counts for us,'' said Tim Carter, a rookie free agent from Tulane trying to make the Saints. ``Every time you get on the field you need to show the coaches something. Practice is important, but these preseason games are where you can really shine.''

Running plays on the practice field, hustling, studying the playbook, all help. Carter has looked good in those areas. Saints coach Jim Haslett has singled Carter out for praise several times during training camp. But that doesn't mean Carter has locked up a spot on the roster.

``I've said all along, Tim's a talented guy,'' Haslett said. ``Now, can he play this year? I don't know. That's kind of what will tell in the next couple of weeks.''

The Saints (0-1) will also be watching Jeff Blake and Aaron Brooks, as the quarterback race winds down.

Blake was New Orleans' starter last year until he wrecked his foot and Brooks stepped in for the playoff run.

Against the Vikings in the Saints' first preseason game, Brooks completed 10 of 10 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. Blake completed 4 of 9 for 41 yards.

``I'm just going out there and do what I can do,'' Blake said. ``I don't think it's decided yet. I think there are still things to prove for both of us.''

The Cowboys (0-2) know who their starting quarterback will be. But they hope Saturday night's game will show them if Quincy Carter can make his mark quickly.

Better yet, they're hoping Carter and wide receiver Joey Galloway will show signs of giving Dallas the deep threat that's been missing since Michael Irvin took his play-making ability into retirement.

``We've got work to do, and a short amount of time to get it done,'' Galloway said. ``We just need to be able to work with each other, talk things through. We're going to do everything we can to prepare.''

The Cowboys normally use their second-to-last preseason game _ which would be next Monday night in Mexico City against the Oakland Raiders _ as their ``dress rehearsal,'' for the season. But concerns about the weather and field conditions for that game, could mean that coach Dave Campo will try to get more done than he normally would against the Saints.

``We'll probably try to get accomplished in two games what we normally would in one,'' Campo said. ``If we have to play our guys into the third quarter again to make sure when we walk on the field opening day we are ready to go with the guys who are going to start, we are going to do it.''