Ferguson a classic model Parcells likes in the middle

Friday, August 18th 2006, 4:14 pm
By: News On 6

OXNARD, Calif. (AP) _ Jason Ferguson let out one of his hearty laughs when the Dallas Cowboys nose tackle heard Bill Parcells was comparing him to a classic car, specifically a 1948 Packard.

``If he would have said '78 Impala or something like that, I think I would have known. That's too far back for me,'' Ferguson said. ``Whatever he says. I hope that car runs good. I still have some gas in mine.''

That's certainly what Parcells has in mind when referencing the bulky sedan from before Ferguson's time.

``I try to keep it on the road running ... If you park cars like that, the fenders come off, the wheels come off and it'll be stripped down to nothing,'' Parcells said.

Ferguson is going into his 10th NFL season since being drafted in the seventh round by the New York Jets when Parcells was the coach there. This will be his second with the Cowboys, this time without six-time Pro Bowler La'Roi Glover at the same position.

``I'm going to need more from him,'' Parcells said. ``Jason can do this. He'll be able to do this just about as long as he wants to.''

Glover was released for salary cap reasons in March and signed a three-year deal with the St. Louis Rams. That left Ferguson, a prototypical nose tackle at 6-foot-3, 310 pounds, to man the middle of the defense Dallas is depending on to get back into the playoffs for the first time since 2003.

When Parcells was restructuring the Dallas defense to primarily three-man fronts last year, he needed players familiar with the system. Ferguson fit the bill and got a $21.5 million, five-year free agent contract that included a $9 million signing bonus.

``He always tells me it's hard to play when you're rich,'' Ferguson said. ``I'm like, 'Hey, man, I ain't like you. I just got my money.' I'm still hungry, and I still want to get some things done. I'm not trying to shut it down because I've got money. I'm still trying to work hard, and trying to go the playoffs.''

The least-experienced depth on defense is behind Ferguson at nose tackle. Pepper Johnson played in only two games as a rookie, and there are also two first-year players in camp, though Parcells may eventually move one of his ends inside.

``That's a position I'm not certain how that's going to happen yet,'' Parcells said.

Except for Ferguson, who has played in all but one game since missing all of 2001 because of a torn right rotator cuff.

Slowed by a sprained ankle in his first Cowboys training camp, Ferguson still played in all 16 games, though he didn't start until the final five. His 42 tackles were second-most among Dallas defensive linemen, and 16 more than Glover had before he went to another Pro Bowl.

Ferguson may miss having Glover around, but he realizes the benefits.

``I'm playing more, just doing what I do really. Just trying to go out there and stop the run on first and second down, and get some negative plays hopefully,'' Ferguson said. ``The main thing is just getting me the opportunity to lead more. You can lead when you play. If you ain't playing, you can't lead.''

Parcells anticipates Ferguson playing on more than half the defensive downs, or just about everything outside of nickel coverages.

``Nickel coverages and everything, you usually have 450 or 500 (plays) of those during the course of the season,'' Parcells said. ``So, if I could get say 550 out of him, I think we'd be in pretty good shape.''

Ferguson said he doesn't mind piling on the mileage.

``I'll ride with him,'' Ferguson said. ``I definitely can't be satisfied (with 2005) because we didn't go to the playoffs and do the things we were supposed to be doing.''