Duck, Missiles Incoming

a six-letter word: 

Health. 

That's the bottom line - proving you are healthy enough to play. 

Now you might ask, how do you do you prove your strained hamstring has healed? 

Easy. Practicing! Pretty damn simple. Practicing! 

Why is that so hard to understand? Because there are folks subscribing to this gigantic tug-of-war going on between Bill and T.O. stemming from Bill demanding his players practice if they are going to play in a game? Wow, what a novel concept. 

Look, tell me this: When Owens came back first after missing those 14 days of practice, what happened? Five practices later he was out again. Re-strained the hamstring. 

So, engage me here. Say Owens can't practice before the Sept. 10 Jacksonville game. That means he will not have practiced for 21 consecutive days. But you telling me, after merely rehabbing for 21 straight days, you come to me on Sept. 10 and tell me you're ready to go and I'm going to play you? 

I'd have to be out of my mind. 

Play you? Play you? 

How would I know you're healthy enough to play, because last time I put you out there, you didn't last five practices without re-injuring yourself? 

Look, if you're healthy enough to play on Sept. 10, don't you think you would be healthy enough to "show me something" on, say, Sept. 7 or 8? Come on, do you really believe in miracles? 

Plus, we are not talking about a player who in Game 8 is injured, and can't practice during the week but is well enough to play on Sunday. We're talking about a player who has not played in a game since Oct. 30. Does anyone remember that? 

So you telling me if you had just paid the guy $5 million, and you knew he had not played in a game in 10 months, and had only practiced like a baker's dozen times during that span - and the last time nearly three weeks ago - and he had not been tackled once in 10 months, you would play the guy? Expect him to give you four quarters? Possibly sacrifice the season so he could play the first game? 

Maybe I'm missing something here, or maybe I'm just not purposely trying to stir a rift between Parcells and Owens that someone might have predicted from the start. Or maybe I've hit that age where you can tag me with what I once many moons ago tagged my mother with: Old-fashioned. But I'm not playing the guy. 

Plus, let's take this one step further. Since Dec. 19, 2004, Owens has played in only eight games of meaning. Eight games now in 22 months, 22 days. That's nearly two full years. And without seeing him go through any practices for three weeks, I'm going to trot him out there? 

Hut-not. 

"If that's one of his rules," Owens said of having to practice before you play in a game, "then I have to abide by that. I'm not going to combat them. I think everybody is trying to make it me vs. Bill or Bill vs. me." 

See, this is not about Parcells disrespecting Owens' ability or his knowledge of the offense. It's not about Parcells worrying about the lack of chemistry between Owens and Drew Bledsoe. It's not about Parcells needing Owens to prove he still can play the game or being reassured by looking at "10 years of film." This is not about Parcells trying to "show" Owens who's boss. 

"There is absolutely no underlying test of wills," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. 

This is about a healthy hamstring. 

Look, what if Parcells takes Owens' word for it, that he can play on Sept. 10 without seeing "something" between now and then. What if he counts on Owens to the point he takes only four receivers to the game and Owens aggravates the hammy the first series and can't play? Now what, three receivers? 

Or, because you're just not convinced he's healthy, you take like one more receiver to the game than you need and Owens is able to play start to finish, but because of not knowing for sure you short-change yourself at another position? Wasteful. 

And then there is this: 

"If he doesn't practice at all, would I play him in a game, how could you?" Parcells rationalized. "Think about it. Think about the question you just asked me. A guy doesn't practice all the time and you think all of a sudden I'm just going insert the guy in, in the whole package. You think

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