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Coming Off Bye, Cowboys Hope Health Is Enough to Salvage Season

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Jerry Jones said that night: "You get people knocking each other off, and we've still got a shot. If you thought sailing this boat that you were going to have easy sailing, you weren't being realistic. At least with the players we're getting back, we'll at least have the talent. I'm disappointed we've got ourselves in this position up against the wall, but I understand why. That's the NFL. The decisions we've made, the money I've spent, I'd do it all again."

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Others in and around the league also think the arrival of reinforcements will aid the Cowboys greatly.

"With Dallas, you have to get back the quarterback," Charley Casserly, the former general manager of the Redskins and Houston Texans who now serves as an NFL analyst for CBS, said by telephone yesterday. "They need to get the quarterback and some other people back healthy, and that can still be a good team."

But others around the league say that if the Cowboys are convinced that the play of fill-in quarterbacks Brad Johnson and Brooks Bollinger was the only thing holding them back recently, they might be fooling themselves. Their downward spiral began with Romo still in the lineup, with losses to the Redskins at Texas Stadium and at Arizona.

Wide receiver Terrell Owens hasn't had a 100-yard receiving game all season. He hasn't even reached 40 yards in any of the last four games.

The Cowboys traded for wideout Roy Williams last month on the same day that the NFL suspended cornerback Adam Jones indefinitely for violating the league's personal conduct policy. But Williams has had little impact, with three catches in three games since the trade.

Now Romo and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett face the task of getting Owens, Williams and tight end Jason Witten, who is playing with a broken rib, all involved in the passing game while still creating opportunities in the running game for tailbacks Marion Barber and Felix Jones. Owens said he is confident it all can work out.

"It's a combination of everything," Owens said after the Giants game. "Injuries have been key. We give ourselves a better chance if we have our starters back. . . . It's a long season. Last year we pulled away and [the Giants] came back and won it all. . . . It's not how you start. It's how you finish."

From the outset, it has felt like the Cowboys' season could unravel completely if things started to go wrong. Things certainly have started to go wrong. Now the Cowboys are trying to avoid the unraveling completely part of that equation.

"You scratch your head a little bit," Owens said. "But I don't think anyone in this locker room has given up hope. I'm at the top of that. I think we can come back strong in the second half of the season. We just have to start with one game."


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