What you noticed about Ed Jones against the Steelers was that the Too Tall one was invisible. "You're right," said a man paid by the Redskins to judge Jones' work. "Jones didn't do anything tonight." Then, quickly, as if Too Tall might fall on him for the slight, the Redskins' man added. "But he's made big plays in all three games up till now."

Larry Brown is the Steelers' offensive tackle who went one-on-one with Jones all night. "He's still a good football player," said Brown, a 10-year-man who has seen Jones too closely for too long to be too harsh.

"But he didn't get past you," someone said, "and he seemed to be no factor at all."

Bronw blanched. "Don't you print that," he said. "Ed's one of the better defensive ends there is."

The idolators who would have the Cowboys succeed even without Roger Dodger are dreaming of a revivified Too Tall Jones. Danny White can become a bsket case, the dreamers' reasoning goes, and the Cowboys will do okay anyway because Too Tall Jones will make the defense the tool of doom it used to be. With a reborn Too Tall on the left end and Harvey Martin on the right -- a pair of monsters flanking Randy White and Larry Cole/John Dutton -- the Cowboys seem invulnerable to the run and terrifying to any who pause to pass.

Which, in fact, they are. The Redskins' intellegence agent and the Steelers' old warrior are agreed: Too Tall may have had one night of invisibility, but by midseason he will be a guy you should speak kindly of, lest he pick up Nebraska and whack you on the noggin.

A devil's advocate would insist that a year of prize fighting is no way to prepare for football. They are vastly different disciplines. A fighter builds long muscles in the upper body, reaching for maximum flexibility and quickness. He lifts no weights. A defensive end lifts weights by the ton and eats anything that doesn't moo. He wants bulk and strength. A fighter runs slowly to build endurance, but an end needs sudden agility.

The devil's advocate reminds the Dallas dreamers, too, that when Ed Jones quit football he was quoted saying he had trouble getting up for games. Why should we believe now that he is excited about going back to the drudgery from which he sought escape?

Bobbing and weaving, the devil's advocate put these arguments to Jones.

"I'm a lot stronger now," Jones said. "In boxing, you want lean muscles, not bulk. I lost 32 pounds, down to 236. It took me seven months of roadwork and sit-ups and dieting. I lifted some weights, but only light ones to keep in tone.

"All the roadwork made my legs stronger. When I decided in March to come back, I started lifting football weights again. I ate stuff to beef me up. It only took me 2 1/2 months to get back to 268. That's where I am now."

"How about the quickness, Ed?" the devil's advoacte said.

"I'm quicker than before."

"When you left the Cowboys, you said you hadn't always been inspired for games . . . "

"I never said that."

"Er . . ."

"I've been misquoted so many times it's unbelievable," Jones said.

"Er . . . the image of you is 'playoff player," the d.a. said.


Silence. Dark silence. The d.a. ventured, isn't that the same as not 'getting up' for ordinary games?"

"I've been very consistent in my performances over the years," Jones said evenly. I've made big plays during the season, too, but if you make them in playoffs, everbody remembers them better."

Jones stood up from a seat by his locker. The Cowboys say he is 6-foot-9. The cowboys lie. When Ed Jones stands, small planes ask to be vectored around Dallas.

"I've been consistent," he said from up there. "You've got to have some home run hitters."

Jones says that with boxing out of his system he is more relaxed at football. Students of the Cowboys say Jones has become a vocal team leader instead of the detached, moody loner of old. The team's defensive coordinator, Ernie Stautner, says, "He's made up his mind to be a great defensive end. It shows in his work."

Though he accomplished little in six fights other than the advancement of pacificism (with five victories and a draw against stumblebums), Jones said he was satisfied with his progress in the ring and quit only because of "personal family reasons."

"I learned a lot from fighting," Jones said. "And I feel like after experiencing what I've experienced, and concentrating only on football now, I'm all-pro material. I'm very excited this year."

The home run hitter said that very firmly.

The devil's advocate said thank you very much and left the locker room very happy he was not an offensive tackle.