Huge Blip On Radar Screen

hurt, or was he not willing to put himself - and his reputation - on the line in meaningless (we thought) preseason games? 

Well, Parcells said he kicked in practice this week, and the plan was to have him take the first kickoff and then handle the field goals. After making the 22-yarder, he kicked off to start the second half. The ball landed at the 12. 

Then the overtime debacle. 

Good grief, he would have been better if Lucy had just pulled the rug out from underneath him. 

When asked about his level of concern with Vanderjagt, Parcells said, "Well, I don't know. We will have to think it over. You know I have not seen very much so we will see." 

Not seen very much? As in attempts or production? 

Parcells has been stewing over the possibility - now probability - of having to keep two kickers, knowing Shaun Suisham might have to handle kickoffs. He might be wondering now if Suisham might have to handle place kicks, too, until Vanderjagt either gets himself healthy or his mechanics straighten out. 

There is no way the Cowboys can simply give up on Vanderjagt, who has classified himself as a slow starter, and went as far as saying after the game, "It will be fine, it's just preseason. I have the ability to turn it on when it counts." 

Well, he had better go find the switch. 

OK, these didn't count, but you know what, they sort of did, and in the back of my mind, this is exactly why Parcells didn't go for two with just 17 seconds left in the game to prevent overtime, win or lose. He wanted to see his team handle the pressure of overtime, and you got to think he wanted to see, if possible, his veteran kicker working under pressure. 

He can't like what he saw. 

There just might be a moral to this story: Practice matters. 

Nothing amused me more than all the know-it-alls wondering why the hell Parcells was trying to get Owens into practice, saying a guy of T.O.'s stature didn't need no stinkin' practice. Contended Parcells was just trying to show Owens who was boss. 

Just let him sit, then start him Sept. 10, even if he hadn't practiced but five times since Aug. 19 and did nothing between Aug. 2 and Aug. 16. Or if he hadn't played in a real game since Oct. 30 of last year. 

The craziest thing I ever heard, and I don't care who you are. 

So maybe it does matter that Vanderjagt has kicked so little since Aug. 16. Maybe practice, with apologies to A.I., does matter. 

Here is a 36-year-old, nine-year veteran who missed as many field goals in Thursday night's preseason game as he missed in all of 16 regular-season games last year (23 of 25), and the guy is in what must be called a slump. 

How come? Hurt still? The missed 46-yarder last year to close the Colts' 21-18 loss to Pittsburgh in the playoffs still haunting him? Lost his confidence? 

Or, hasn't practiced enough? 

Practice? Who needs practice? 

So how ironic was it that Terrell Owens was the one who put an arm on Vanderjagt's shoulders on the sideline after his first miss. Consoling him? Giving him pointers? 

"He was critiquing my form," Vanderjagt said, trying to inject some levity in what is heading toward a grave situation. "Said I didn't finish." 

Ha-ha. 

But you know what, that's what it looked like in training camp, Vanderjagt seemingly just trying to toe the ball through, not swinging his leg with authority, thus pushing everything right. 

Now the focus shifts to Vanderjagt. Even the boos from what was left of an announced crowd of 60,299. 

"They felt like I was the answer to their prayers, so to speak," Vanderjagt said. "They had every right to boo." 

Answer to their prayers? 

Now their on their knees, and he's the reason why they are praying.                         

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