SHREVEPORT, La. - What's worse than having your starting left tackle on this unproven offensive line rusty throughout training camp following last year's knee surgery?
Having your starting left tackle limp off the field after the 10th play of a preseason game here on a hot and muggy Monday night when you thought he was on the upswing of his recovery.
After running back Marion Barber completed an 11-yard run during the Cowboys' first series of this 30-7 win over the New Orleans Saints at Independence Stadium, Flozell Adams walked slowly off the field with what appears to be a left calf contusion. Apparently, Adams said he was kicked in the lower leg during the play.
Before the game, Cowboys owner-general manager Jerry Jones ironically made a point of saying one of his biggest hopes for the game was to leave here without any injuries.
Adam's calf will be rechecked Tuesday for a more conclusive diagnosis, but head coach Bill Parcells said he's not too worried at this time.
"[Flozell's] left calf tightened up so we erred on the side of caution, but I don't think that it's anything that too, too serious," Parcells said after the game.
Parcells shared Jones' goal of leaving Louisiana injury-free.
"We got out of this game relatively injury-free - I'm happy about that," he said.
Interestingly, the last time the Cowboys visited Independence Stadium was in 1998 in a scrimmage, also against the Saints. Then-Cowboys defensive tackle Leon Lett sprained his left knee in that scrimmage and missed the remaining three preseason games.
After Adams left the game, he was replaced by rookie tackle Pat McQuistan, a seventh-round pick from Weber State. McQuistan's performance could've been better, but could've been worse, Parcells said.
"We had to put McQuistan in there with that first line," the head coach said. "I was a little worried about [protecting Drew]. He had a couple not-too-good plays. But we'll see."
Cowboys kicker Mike Vanderjagt did not play Monday night against the Saints after not feeling 100 percent during warm-ups before the game. Vanderjagt said his groin was sore, but that he could have played if this game counted.
"I just wasn't comfortable enough," said Vanderjagt, who has been nursing a sore groin now for nearly two weeks. "If it was a regular season game . . . at this point, there's no point in rushing back if you're not 100 percent. Hopefully it's ready by Saturday so I can kickoff and kick field goals."
Parcells said this past week his plan was to have Vanderjagt handle kickoffs during next Saturday night's preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers at Texas Stadium, but was expecting him to kick field goals Monday night.
Vanderjagt did not practice kickoffs at all while in Oxnard, Calif. at training camp, and now hasn't attempted any field goals since hitting from 21 yards in the first preseason game against Seattle.
Backup kickers Shaun Suisham and Tyler Fredrickson made the most out of their opportunity, Suisham good from 24 and 42 yards and Fredrickson nailing a 49-yarder.
Suisham handled all but one of the kickoffs, and all but one landed inside the five.
"I thought our kickers, the ones that kicked, kicked pretty well today, both field goals and kick offs," Parcells said.
Surprise! You're Starting
Rookie safety and training camp standout Pat Watkins started Monday night, a game-time decision that surprised him.
"I thought I was going to play the second half like I did last week," Watkins said. "It caught me off guard."
The starting defense was not on the field long during the first half, getting in only 19 plays. Watkins, a fifth-round draft choice from Florida State, said since his teammates were doing so well there really wasn't much left for the free safety to do.
"I don't think I missed too many assignments, if any," he said. "I didn't make as many plays as I thought I could, but our defense played so good that it's kind of hard for guys down the field to make plays. I played my coverage like I was supposed to, and I'll let everything fall as it may."
Despite shorter-than-expected playing time, Watkins was still pleased with starting.
"It gave me a chance to go in there and see what I could do, what kind of job," he said. "And I think I did pretty well . . . It was my first ever NFL game (to start), even if it is the preseason. I just have one under my belt."
Defensive end Marcus Spears played in his first game since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery at the beginning of training camp this summer. Spears did not play during the first exhibition game in Seattle.
Spears returned to camp practice this past week working with the third team, but by time the Cowboys broke camp, he was back working with the first team at left defensive end and started the game Monday night.
"It's good to be back out there playing, but it was the first time. I've still got a ways to go," said Spears, who was credited with two tackles.
For the majority of the game, especially in the first three quarters, the Cowboys' time of possession far outweighed that of the Saints. In the first quarter, the split was lopsided in favor of the Cowboys, 11:51 to 3:09.
For the game, the Cowboys had the ball for 37:48 and the Saints 22:12.
Parcells said it's a good problem to have, but in preseason this didn't allow his defense the kind of repetition it needed.
"The defense didn't get enough work, particularly the first half," he said. "I think we only had 12 plays, 13 plays, whatever it was (19). It wasn't enough. So . . . .
"I'll take that every week. I mean, I'll take that every week, but . . . I thought I was gonna play them a third, but I left them in there the half because I wanted to get them a little more work."
Good Luck, Sean
The meeting with the Saints marked the first time Parcells has faced his former aide, now Saints head coach, Sean Payton. Parcells worked with Payton from 2003-05 when he was his assistant head coach, quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator for the Cowboys.
"I wish Sean well with his team, and we'll see him later down the road. I hope that things go well for him," Parcells said, knowing the Cowboys have a Dec. 10 home game against the Saints this year.
If the Cowboys players and members of the organization didn't get a chance to say hello to Payton at the game, they received a second chance at the airport later that night, the Cowboys heading one way down the corridor through security back to Dallas and the Saints the other heading back to Jackson, Miss., to continue training camp.
- The Cowboys had nine players who did not play Monday night, including quarterbacks Drew Henson and Matt Baker, guard Stephen Peterman, wide receiver J.R. Tolver, linebacker Carl-Johan Bjork and tight end Erik Jensen, who were all in uniform. Kicker Mike Vanderjagt and wide receivers Terrell Owens and Patrick Crayton did not play because of injuries.
- Rookie wide receiver Miles Austin followed up a solid week of practice Monday night by hauling in a 48-yard touchdown on his only catch of the night. But the undrafted rookie from Monmouth also helped his cause on special teams, recording a pair of tackles.
- Rookie linebacker Oliver Hoyte also had two tackles on special teams.
- After not playing last week with a minor groin injury, linebacker Ryan Fowler was credited with a team-high four tackles, along with a forced fumble on the goal line.
- The Cowboys' defense did not record a sack Monday night, quite a drop-off from last week when the defense registered six sacks on Seattle quarterbacks.
- Rookie wide receiver Skyler Green continues to get every opportunity to become the team's punt return specialist. With four more returns (37 yards, 9.3 yard average), Green now has retuned every punt for the Cowboys in the first two preseason games. Green did have one kickoff return for just 13 yards. Safety Abram Elam had the only other kick return for 15 yards.
- Slow night for punter Mat McBriar, who had just one punt for 39 yards, which was downed at the 7-yard line.
- The Cowboys have not only outscored their two preseason opponents 43-10, but out-gained both the Seahawks and Saints 739 to 478.
- The Cowboys are averaging 50 percent on third-down attempts in the first two games, converting 14-of-28 attempts.
This game Monday night marks the first time an NFL game of any kind has been played at Independence Stadium here since 1970 when the Terry Bradshaw-era Pittsburgh Steelers played the Boston Patriots . . . Parcells was worried about coming from such a temperate climate in California to muggy, hot Shreveport to play a football game. It happened to begin pouring rain at halftime, however, which was God-send. Amazingly after working in the cool climes of Oxnard, Calif., for the past 3½ weeks, the Cowboys didn't suffer any cases of dehydration.