Originally created 12/25/96

Cowboys prepping for playoffs



IRVING, Texas - The Dallas Cowboys started defense of their Super Bowl title Tuesday with their first playoff workout, and coach Barry Switzer was excited that tight end Eric Bjornson planned to be in attendance.

The Cowboys sleep-walked through a 37-10 loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday, resting their regulars for Saturday's divisional playoff game with the Minnesota Vikings at Texas Stadium.

Coach Barry Switzer then gave the team another day off, scheduling practices for the Vikings to start today.

"We have a lot of respect for the Vikings and we'll start getting ready for them," Switzer said. "I believe resting our top players against the Redskins is going to do us worlds of good."

This is the first time the Cowboys have hosted a wild-card game since 1983, and it has met with lukewarm response for the fans. There are still some 3,000 tickets available, and public relations spokesman Rich Dalrymple said sales on Monday "were brisk. This is kind of a new thing for this generation of fans to have to buy tickets over Christmas week at short notice. Usually, we've had a first-round bye."

Dalrymple said a blackout wouldn't be imposed until the close of business on Thursday if there's still no sellout, and he said he doesn't anticipate that happening.

Switzer said Bjornson, who has played hurt most of the season, could be the biggest benefactor of being held out of the Washington game.

"Eric will practice, and that will be the first time we've had him for the first day of practice in several weeks," Switzer said. "We need him in our offense."

The Cowboys won't have veteran tight end Jay Novacek or defensive end Charles Haley available because of back injuries.

"Troy Aikman said if there was any chance we'd have Novacek for the game, he would be here now," Switzer said.

Novacek said last week his back was feeling better.

Haley, who had an operation a month ago, is working toward playing sometime in the playoffs.

"I think if we get to New Orleans (Super Bowl), Haley will want to suit up," Switzer said.

The Cowboys last faced the Vikings in 1995, winning 23-17 in overtime. It's the first time Dallas hasn't had a first-round bye in the playoffs since 1991.

The biggest fallout from the Washington game was the 483 yards surrendered by the defense, which cost them the top ranking in the NFL statistics. Dallas finished third behind Green Bay and Pittsburgh.

Defensive coordinator Dave Campo said resting the regulars against the Redskins in a game that meant little was the right thing to do.

"It meant nothing losing the defensive No. 1 statistics," Campo said. "We were executing our plan - that's all that means. It was critical going into the stretch run that we rested all of our players."

Green Bay allowed 4,156 total yards to 4,362 for Pittsburgh. The Cowboys allowed 4,382 and were second against the pass and 10th against the rush.