Cowboys, 49ers stay on track

January 11, 1995|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

Emmitt Smith won't be running on the practice field when the Dallas Cowboys go back to work today to start drills for their NFC title match Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

Meanwhile, the entire 49ers team won't be running on their practice field.

While Smith can't practice at the Cowboys' complex in Irving, Texas, because of a sore hamstring, the 49ers decided not to work on their practice field in Santa Clara, Calif., because it has been inundated with rain.

The 49ers flew to Phoenix, Ariz., last night and are going to practice at the Arizona Cardinals' facility in Tempe, Ariz., today and tomorrow.

For the 49ers, it's just an inconvenience.

"I don't care where we go," wide receiver Jerry Rice said. "We can go to Mars as long as we can get the work in."

Center Bart Oates said: "It's a distraction, but we're all big boys. We should be able to accept it and adjust to it and realize it's for our own good. We're going to go down there for a couple of days of good preparation that we wouldn't have had at home."

There may be fewer distractions for the 49ers on the short road trip than there would be at home. They'll return for a practice session at home on Friday.

Smith's hamstring problem could spell doom for the Cowboys' hopes of becoming the first team to win three straight Super Bowls.

"I don't know how the team is, but Joe Brodsky's miserable," the team's running backs coach said. "My heart goes out to Emmitt. But Emmitt Smith will be here Sunday, and he'll play as long as he can."

Officially, the team lists Smith as questionable, which is supposed to mean he has a 50-50 chance of playing.

The odds are that Smith will try to play. But nobody knows how long he can before aggravating it again.

Despite having three weeks of treatment, Smith was able to carry just seven times before he was injured again Sunday in the 35-9 divisional playoff victory against the Green Bay Packers.

Smith is getting virtually round-the-clock treatment. Bob Haas, an intern trainer with the Cowboys, is spending most of the week at his home.

But medical science hasn't come up with a speedy way to cure a tender hamstring. Rest is the only cure, and Smith has just seven days.

"I will be out there. I think I will be out there. I'm feeling pretty good," Smith said between treatment sessions.

"My goal is to make it through an entire game. I feel like I've got a chance to get back on the field and be effective," he added. "I think it will happen, but some folks have to realize that a hamstring is definitely a muscle that generates a lot of power for an athlete, and when you are pressing off that muscle, it can give at some point in time. Even a healthy hamstring can give.

"It's not like I'm running a 10K or anything and jogging or turning corners very slowly. I'm actually stopping and starting up again and cutting and doing all the things I need to do on the football field, which definitely can re-strain my hamstring."

The Cowboys are trying to put the best face on things even

though they have lost all six games that Smith has missed or has carried fewer than seven times.

"In the team meeting, I told them we're going to win the thing with or without him," coach Barry Switzer said. "That's the way we'll prepare, regardless of who's the tailback."

Smith has been so dependable that the Cowboys haven't put much emphasis on getting him a reliable backup. The player filling that role, Blair Thomas, was a late-season pickup after being cut by the New England Patriots.

Smith said he doesn't expect to practice before Friday when the team goes to San Francisco.

It won't help Smith if there's a sloppy track at Candlestick Park. Another storm system is expected to arrive Saturday in the San Francisco area, which could mean it will rain during the game.

Bill Buckley, Candlestick's head groundskeeper, said he expects a soggy field even though it will be covered this week.

Buckley's plan is to spike holes into the damaged turf and then apply a clay surface on top that will help absorb water and keep the holes open for drainage.

It helped that about a quarter of the field was resodded in mid-December, and it's not supposed to be as bad as it was two years ago in the playoffs.

After the 49ers beat the Washington Redskins in a quagmire in their first playoff game after the 1992 season, the NFL brought sod expert George Toma to San Francisco to supervise a resodding of the field and the Cowboys had a good track when they beat the 49ers in the NFC title game. This time, they don't think it's bad enough to call on Toma.

With Smith ailing and the 49ers having the advantage of a wet field, the oddsmakers are listing the 49ers as 7 1/2 -point favorites.

Naturally, San Francisco coach George Seifert doesn't like that line.

"We know that Dallas has a heck of a football team. I'm a little

shocked at us being a seven-point favorite or 6 1/2 or whatever it is," he said. "We are playing the world champions. I feel our club is better than we were a year ago. At the same time, Dallas has the same strengths they did a year ago, so I'm sure it's going to be a tough game."

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