Just Won't Look Right

directed toward an injured Allen in the second half of a shutout loss in Tampa Bay in 2003. There was Parcells continuing to leave Allen off the injury report despite the guard's continuous battles with a leg problem toward the end of the season.  

Then in 2004, there were reports that Allen would be traded, with Detroit and the Raiders both rumored to have interest. Instead, the Cowboys kept him and Allen continued to be, well, Allen.  

He was dominating when he wanted to be. He had a few lapses here and there that certainly drew Parcells' ire. But all in all, Allen was a top-flight player from the start to the end of his career here in Dallas.  

So why did it end? Good question, and one even owner Jerry Jones probably still ponders from time to time.  

While cutting Allen did save the team some serious cash against the salary cap this season, the Cowboys not only lost their only link back to the glory days of the mid-1990's, but a football player who can still play among the best at his position.  

"This decision is a tough one for me personally," Jones said back on March 22, the day Allen was released. "Larry has been the best in pro football for a long time. We are grateful for his contributions. But we have come to a crossroads with respect to the immediate and long-term financial structure of our team."  

Basically, the Cowboys needed to get younger on a line that already has veterans Flozell Adams and Marco Rivera in place. So they figured it was time for Allen to go.  

Now it's still too early to tell if Kyle Kosier will be an adequate replacement at left guard. He's not as strong - but who is? And he's not as experienced, but he's more versatile and might allow the Cowboys to run more sweeps, pulls and screen passes that Allen had a hard time getting out in the flats to block.  

And while Allen is supposedly doing well in San Francisco these days, he probably will continue to have the same problems moving laterally. Side to side is no longer his thing anymore. But I would imagine he still can dominate just about anything in his direct path.  

Yeah, there will be a few changes come Saturday night. Allen no longer wears No. 73, donning the No. 71 in memory of his former teammate, the late Mark Tuinei. But the biggest change of all won't be the new number he's wearing, but rather the color of the jersey. Whether it's a triple-XL Tracy McGrady tank top or maybe a throwback Ronnie Lott jersey, it just never looked right to see Allen in a red jersey.  

With the 49ers not expected to play in Dallas until 2008, this could be the last time Allen plays a game in Texas Stadium.  

But it certainly won't be his last visit.  

Larry Allen has a spot in the Ring of Honor waiting for him. The Cowboys will just have to wait until he's ready to hang up the cleats and helmet.  

Oh, and that odd-colored uniform, too.                  

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