Guys Know Special Teams Must Improve

no one thinks he's here except for a look and to take some wear and tear away from McBriar.

Yes, but, says the veteran Aussie punter. "I'm the only one of the specialists who's got someone in camp who's playing the same position, so I wouldn't say I'm not competing against anyone. And there are other guys around the league you're competing against as well. If I have a form slump or something goes miscue, they'll bring someone in. It's not like you're out there by yourself. I mean, don't take it wrong. When they signed me to a long-term contract I felt wanted. Still feel that way. But it's not like you don't have to go out there and do a good job. Otherwise, I'm not only letting down myself, I'm letting down the team and the organization."

And we're back full circle to Saturday night in San Diego. Perhaps Bill Parcells agonized to excess over special teams minutiae. Sometimes when Parcells started waxing rhapsodic over the intricacies of the Number Four on kickoff coverage, you wondered why this man knew so much about it and if it wouldn't be a teensy bit healthy for him to take a break, watch a few "Sopranos" reruns, listen to a little Sinatra. Something.

But when you watch even a preseason game like Saturday night, red flags go up. A fumbled punt return, a muffed kickoff return, poor punting, a personal foul on a gunner on a punt, a few double-digit punt returns, next thing you know you're losing a game where you had more yards and more offensive plays than the other guy.

Next thing you know, the head coach, who is loath to publicly criticize influenza, is describing the special teams work for the night as "poor."

Next thing you know, the owner is recalling a punt return by the Giants that proved a momentum swinger in a playoff loss. You do not want this owner recalling such things.

That's why there's been a hue and cry about the work of the special teams in what was simply a preseason opener. And why you'll have to get out the saltshaker this week, because they'll be kicking at altitude in Denver Saturday night. Folk, working at driving the ball, knows that.

"That's why practice here (Oxnard) has been important," he says. "You're at sea level, it's not too hot, the air's a little heavier."

"Perfect conditions here," adds McBriar. "You kick all right here, you're doing fine."

Unfortunately, no Cowboys games this season will be played at River Ridge in Oxnard. Everyone's going to have to do a little better in A Stadium Near You.

Beginning with practice game Number Two Saturday night.

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