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May 09, 2005

Cinco de Mayo not too early to talk free safety (again)

10:21 PM CDT on Thursday, May 5, 2005

by Matt Mosley

Just got back from celebrating Cinco de Mayo at one of Dallas’ finest Tex-Mex restaurants, Mia’s. For the out-of-towners, Mia’s is the place where Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson holed up soon after striking a deal to take over the Cowboys in 1989.

An intern with The Dallas Morning News photography department was quickly summoned to capture the moment, and the rest is history. All that to say Butch’s Brisket Tacos may be the best thing on earth.

Now, it’s time for that weekly column in which we try to address some of your most pressing questions regarding the Cowboys. Want to know if rookie Rob Petitti is the answer at right tackle? Does TCU receiver Reggie Harrell have a shot at making the team? Will the Cowboys make a change at mascot?

All that and more in this week’s Mailbag:

Chris from Monticello, Ill., is coming on strong lately with the e-mails. Like many of you, he’s trying to figure out the Cowboys’ situation at free safety. Chris thinks former San Francisco safety Zack Bronson, who is recovering from ankle surgery, might be the answer. Bronson underwent the season-ending operation after signing with the Rams in 2004.

For now, though, the Cowboys are going to take a long look at their young players. They want to see how much progress Keith “Killer” Davis has made during the veterans’ mini-camp May 27-29. They already know what they have in safety Lynn Scott. He’s a reliable backup and spot starter. From what I’m told, the rookie from Ball State, Justin Beriault, is very, very raw. I would be shocked if he won the starting job.

Davis is a terrific special teams player who deserves a shot at playing free safety. He always seems to make something happen when he’s on the field.

You guys are trying to sign every player in sight today. Carlos Rojas thinks former Bears and Broncos defensive tackle Keith Traylor (6-2, 240) would provide more depth in the Cowboys’ new 3-4 defense. Traylor was released by the Patriots on Wednesday, but I don’t expect to see him in Dallas. And according to the Cowboys, La’Roi Glover and Jason Ferguson will rotate at nose tackle in the 3-4 scheme. They can probably do without Traylor.

Trey in Austin thinks the Cowboys should have released running back Erik Bickerstaff instead of ReShard Lee. Trey, you have to pace yourself. We’ve still got almost three months until training camp begins. If you’re already bent out of shape about the release of a third-string back, you may be peaking too early.

Bickerstaff has worked liked crazy to recover from a devastating torn Achilles’ tendon injury. Lee, who did have some talent, never earned Parcells’ trust. He was OK when the ball was in his hands, but his inability to pick up the blitz kept him on the sidelines. Lee may have more upside, but Bickerstaff is the guy Parcells trusts. And that’s why he’s still here.

What’s the deal with all you Pennsylvania folks chiming in this week? You should know that my editor was raised just outside Pittsburgh and will approve any e-mail from that part of the country. Well, anyway, a Pitt fan wants to know if sixth-round offensive tackle Rob Petitti has a chance to start. Well, the answer is yes, but anyone walking around Valley Ranch who has ever played offensive tackle is in that same boat. The competition is wide open. I can tell you that new offensive line coach Tony Sparano likes Petitti. He just had a hard time getting him to relax during last weekend’s mini-camp. Maybe it had something to do with him lining up across from first-round defensive end Marcus Spears.

Tom Griffin, our No. 1 e-mailer from Florida, is baffled by cornerback Pete Hunter’s stance against moving to free safety. Tom, I know Hunter and his agent pretty well, and I still haven’t heard one good reason for him not embracing this move. You’ve got a former mid-round draft pick from a small school who has the opportunity to compete for a starting job. Yet he would rather stay at cornerback, where the best he can do is be the fourth guy. In some ways I guess you have to admire the kid for sticking to his guns. But it could end up losing him a chance at some pretty decent money.

A TCU graduate wants to know if undrafted rookie Reggie Harrell has a chance to make the team. Well, Harrell has good size and speed and could’ve been drafted in the later rounds. That said, he dropped way too many balls in the recent mini-camp. He’ll get another chance, but with my apologies to the Frogs, the kid from Celeste, Texas, Jamaica Rector, has a better shot of sticking than Harrell. Now, it should be noted that on very rare occasions, I’ve been known to be wrong.

Craig Sadowski, a longtime subscriber from Quakertown, Pa., gets the final word:

“With the addition of Anthony Thomas, I am definitely seeing a positive trend with the Cowboys. Players like Randal Williams are finally getting pushed out the door for lack of performance. With Thomas coming in, it spells doom for Lee and Bickerstaff. These guys are fine individuals but haven’t contributed enough to the team. So they are finally getting pushed out the door. I’m glad to see the Cowboys are now managed by a hard-nosed coach who isn’t giving third and fourth chances to players rather than a softy owner who believes in nine lives.”

E-mail mmosley@dallasnews.com .

Posted by Garrett Queen at 08:35 PM