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Who Has Time For The Cowboys?

Thu., Jan. 12, 1995

The 49ers, as you might imagine, are still reeling from the news out of Texas that this time the Cowboys are going to play tackle football.

Cowboys safety James Washington issued his warning that if Steve Young tries that naked bootleg stuff again Sunday, “He’ll pay for it, pay in the worst way.”

And what way would that be? By revolving credit?

The Bootleg Warning is all part of the fun as the 49ers’ weirdest season is coming to a weird climax in a weird place, suburban Arizona, formerly desert, now one mammoth shopping mall.

As the Bay Area reeled under an assault of Biblical weather, the 49ers simply flew off to drier ground. It’s a logical move, and yet strange.

Back home, livestock and entire neighborhoods are bobbing down swollen rivers, and here I’m driving around in a rented Mustang, top down.

Not that it’s really warm here, or even completely dry, but at least you don’t need a snorkel to find your car. The 49ers are having a swell time working out at the Arizona Cardinals’ complex, where Blusterin’ Buddy Ryan’s B.S. has kept the grass emerald green.

What’s it like here? Quiet. Almost serene.

“There’s a sense of calm,” Brent Jones said. “It comes from feeling good about what you’re trying to accomplish.”

What does that mean? I have no idea, but it sounds mellow. Probably it means that this little excursion hasn’t blurred the 49ers’ focus. Rather, it has allowed them to escape the “distractions” back home - rounding up tickets for relatives, doing chores, stocking up on flotation devices.

I was kidding when I said the 49ers are worrying about James Washington and his implied threat.

In fact, I think the 49ers, behind closed doors, are laughing themselves silly about Washington’s threats. This naked bootleg thing, it’s one little play that the 49ers might never use again, and yet it has thrown the Cowboys into a full dither.

The Cowboys were burned last time by the bootleg, it really rankled them, and they vow not to be embarrassed again by this kind of trickery, and that means they will have to make changes.

“If they spend all their time taking one thing away,” says 49ers’ guard Ralph Tamm, “they leave themselves vulnerable to something else, and it won’t take us long to figure out what that will be.”

If the Cowboys order defensive end Charles Haley not to bite on the run because Young might be bootlegging, that is simply splendid news for Ricky Watters. If the Cowboys tell Washington to pay extra heed to the bootleg, who’s going to help the cornerbacks cover Jerry Rice and John Taylor?

And if Young barely blinked when he was crunched head-on by Chicago’s 300-pound Alonzo Spellman last week, do you think Steve is going to call in sick Sunday because James Washington is in town making a frowny face?

Really, the 49ers are too busy fine-tuning their nuclear warhead of a team to worry about the Cowboys. The only Cowboys news that might interest them would be any word on Emmitt’s hammie, and even the Cowboys aren’t getting news on Emmitt’s hammie.

Cowboys lineman Nate Newton said none of the Cowboys ever talks about his injuries, not even to one another. Wouldn’t be manly, he implied. Newton said he hasn’t even asked Emmitt Smith about his injured hamstring, even though it carries the Cowboys’ hopes and dreams.

“I won’t ask him nothin’ till he walks out on the field,” Newton said.

I won’t either, because I’m hammied out. Emmitt’s hamstring is such a major deal that everyone but Boris Yeltsin has checked in with an opinion or theory. I have heard, unsolicited, many personal and terrifying hamstring-injury stories, and I feel that Emmitt will be lucky if he can put off the amputation until after the game.

The 49ers are so focused, frankly, that they don’t care if the Cowboys bring back Tony Dorsett.

This strange outing to the desert, in terms of distraction, isn’t even a pimple on the 49ers’ ear. They say, if anything, that it is an opportunity to do a little football guy bonding.

And you don’t have to worry about the 49ers getting into any kind of mischief here. This team is like a Boy Scout troop working on its Super Bowl merit badge.

They’ve come too far to blow their date with destiny. Besides, entertainment options are limited out here in the suburbs. Sure there is night life, but how much hell can you raise at Jack-in-the-Box?


 
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