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A Man For All Reasons

who now may get a chance to earn his letter playing in the nickel and rushing the passer. Meanwhile, at exactly the same moment, Al Singleton almost slinked around the mob to reach into his locker for clothing and telephone, virtually unnoticed. 

Singleton is used to unnoticed. He was a valuable starter on Tampa Bay's Super Bowl XXXVII defense, but the attention went to Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber and John Lynch. Safety Dexter Jackson was the Super Bowl MVP. No one knew Singleton until he left.  

This off-season, while he rehabbed his broken shoulder, Singleton watched Dallas draft Carpenter with the 18th pick. 

"I heard and read about how he was supposed to maybe take over by midway through the year," Singleton shrugged after practice Wednesday, and that was even before Ellis was moved full time. "But I learned some lessons in Tampa Bay. 

"One was from coaches like Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli, that it's not a right to get play in this league, it's a privilege. You have a job to do. It doesn't matter what that job is or what the team wants it to be. You do your job." 

You do your job, and you do it without bitterness if it's not what you think it should be. 

"Why would I be bitter?" Singleton asks, truly puzzled. 

He knows that won't get him anything, and he knows it because he watched older players when he was a young Buc. Veteran defensive end Regan Upshaw was a good player with a less than perfect attitude and some off-field baggage who an impressionable Singleton watched struggle. 

"I learned not to approach it like that," he says. 

What does Al Singleton think about what happens next? 

"I know no one of us is going to be Greg Ellis," he says. "Bobby's getting better, and I'm ready, and we're just going to try to go help the team any way we can." 

Probably even Zimmer and Parcells aren't completely sure what they'll do without Ellis. What it is Sunday might be different than what it is a month from now. There are candidates, Carpenters and Akin Ayodeles and Junior Glymphs and someone out there somewhere working out, who might line up and try to pressure a quarterback. If the Cowboys are fortunate, Carpenter will glom onto this chance and become in the second half of the season the contributing player you expect a top pick to be. 

Wednesday, the owner agreed, saying, "You'd have to expect your top pick to play more" than Carpenter has. But Jones also volunteered that Carpenter showed up in the exposure he got in the fourth quarter chasing Matt Leinart. 

But while they're sorting all that out, the Cowboys can thank their stars that they didn't act in penny-pinching, off-season haste with Al Singleton. And had someone pushed hard in the summer, and been willing to take on the salary, they might have anyway. 

But as history teaches, things have a way of working themselves out. The Maytag just broke down. Fortunately, the repairman lives right upstairs.                                     

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