BRONCOS might use coin flip to determine which 1,000-yard rusher gets start

Saturday, August 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

IRVING, Texas (AP) _ Denver coach Mike Shanahan might just flip a coin to determine which 1,000-yard rusher will start in place of Terrell Davis when the Broncos play their preseason opener at Dallas.

Davis won't play Saturday night because of swelling in his surgically repaired right knee and tightness in his hamstring. Mike Anderson and Olandis Gary, both with 1,000-yard seasons since Davis was the NFL's 1998 MVP, will instead split the time.

Shanahan's plan is for Anderson and Gary to alternate series through the first half, and possibly into the third quarter. The only decision is who will get the first carry.

``We'll probably flip a coin to decide who will start,'' Shanahan said. ``But both of them will get some playing time.''

Davis has missed 24 games since his MVP season, when he ran for 2,008 yards and the Broncos won their second straight Super Bowl. Davis tore his anterior cruciate ligament four games into the 1999 season and missed 12 games last year because of a stress fracture in his left leg.

Shanahan hopes Davis can return to practice Monday.

Dallas running back Emmitt Smith will also sit out Saturday night, but he's not injured. The Cowboys are just protecting the 32-year-old Smith, who is preparing for his 12th season and a run at Walter Payton's NFL career rushing record.

The Cowboys, despite losing eight straight preseason games and 15 of 16, won't jeopardize the health of Smith or top receivers Joey Galloway and Raghib Ismail, who are both being handled with care after knee injuries last season.

``Again, it's an evaluation game, but I want to win,'' Cowboys coach Dave Campo said. ``We want that kind of enthusiasm, we want that kind of an effort level. But I'm not going to compromise the health of the football team to win.''

With Galloway and Ismail out, the Cowboys also have more opportunities to look for the receivers who will back up the top two. Returning players Chris Brazzell, Jason Tucker and Damon Hodge should get most of the work, while returner Wane McGarity is out with a sprained ankle.

The last preseason win by Dallas was a 22-12 victory over the Broncos two years ago. The Cowboys lost their preseason opener 21-14 at Oakland last weekend.

The preseason game matches former Super Bowl champions and one-time opponents in the big game.

Dallas won the first of its five Super Bowl titles when it beat the Broncos 27-10 in the 1978 Super Bowl, and won four more by the end of the 1995 season. Denver lost four Super Bowls before winning in 1997 and `98.

Denver will get its first test of the defense installed by new coordinator Ray Rhodes, one of five new coaches on Shanahan's staff.

``I think every guy on this defense wants to play hard for Ray because he's brought a scheme that everybody likes,'' linebacker Al Wilson said. ``We're in attack mode. We're having fun flying around, we're making noise. That's what you want with a defense.''

Two of the Denver defensive ends are former Cowboys returning to Dallas for the first time. Kavika Pittman left Dallas after the 2000 season, and Leon Lett joined the Broncos this year.