Randy White has graduated from Manster to just plain man, which was bound to happen when he grew out of his 20s.

At 34, White must step aside for the newest Dallas Cowboys defensive phenom, someone named Danny Noonan. Once the heir to Bob Lilly, White is in the second-to-last year of his contract and handling demotion gracefully. When the Cowboys play the Washington Redskins here Sunday, Noonan -- a first-round pick with nothing better to do than lift weights -- will lug in and replace White on most short-yardage situations, and White will slap his hand when leaving.

White's not exactly proud of this, but he's not complaining, either, which could explain why he's one of the few Cowboys to escape the current wrath of Dallas fans. They boo quarterback Danny White just because he's Danny White, and they boo running back Tony Dorsett because he called Randy White "Captain Scab" for crossing the picket line. Randy White, they love.

Actually, the replacements still are more popular in Dallas than the regular players (because they won), and Randy White was a part of that. That's why the fans spare him. One Dallas columnist says the Cowboys would sell out their final home game against St. Louis if they used replacement quarterback Kevin Sweeney, who's undefeated as a starter this year. Fans chant for Sweeney all the time.

(Yesterday, 18,000 tickets remained for the Cardinals game, and a team-record attendance low is possible).

White, the former Outland Trophy winner from Maryland, admits it's been a different last couple of seasons. Last year was rough because he played with a damaged right shoulder and never told a soul about it, including Coach Tom Landry. He had surgery in the offseason and joined a martial arts program to strengthen himself, but he's been banged up again this year with a sore hamstring.

In training camp, he had said he was in his best shape ever, yet he only has five sacks (his lowest total since 1979). He's not having an awful year statistically, what with 60 tackles, one forced fumble and an interception, but no one calls him Manster anymore (half-man, half-monster).

He's playing less and less, too. Landry says he platoons White and Noonan "by feel," and he admits he'll probably feel like playing Noonan a lot on Sunday.

"We're going to try to win every game we play," Landry said the other day, "but we're still going to have players in there playing that'll help our future.

"Randy's done well for us. Being 34 years old, he gets nicked a lot more than he used to when he was younger. But we think we have an excellent player in Danny Noonan. Danny's been spelling {White} an awful lot and playing in his position and really doing well. That's helped {White} a whole lot. He doesn't have to play 60 minutes anymore."

White still is the Cowboys' captain, though he said after he crossed the picket line that he'd step down if his teammates wanted him to. Before the strike, he explained to them that he definitely was going to cross, though he wouldn't tell them why. He just hoped they'd respect his decision.

They didn't at first, but it was learned later that White crossed to save an $8 million annuity. Plus, he stood to lose $31,000 a week had he been on strike.

"I think when everybody first came back {after the strike}, there was a little bit of grumbling or animosity there," White said yesterday. "But, we, as a team, realize we're in this to win and one way to do that is work together. It's not an issue anymore at this point."

Word is, though, that he and Dorsett do not speak.

Actually, White doesn't speak to many other Cowboys, because he's an introvert who gets verbal only when on the field. Critics of the Cowboys say the team needs a vocal leader off the field, and White isn't the man for the job. In the old days, middle linebacker Lee Roy Jordan would slam guys against a locker if they messed up, but White's not that way.

As for his play this season, White says he prefers not to evaluate himself.

"I still enjoy the game," he said. "I still enjoy the Sundays. Hey, I wish I could go back and start it all over again. I really do. I haven't lost any enthusiasm for the game. No, I'm not looking forward to that {retirement} day. And until then, I'll do whatever I can to help."

Of course, Redskins players aren't about to take White lightly, even though he's 17 pounds lighter than Noonan. White's a guy the Redskins love to beat. The replacement Redskins got to face the Cowboys earlier this year, and most of the striking Redskins watched the game quietly in a restaurant. About the only time they cheered was when guard Darrick Brilz pinned White to the ground on a block.

They know Sunday is their only shot at White this season, and they better get him now, because he'll be gone soon.