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PECOS, Aug. 29 - Dove hunters will be waiting for sunrise on Sunday to
arrive, along with the start of the 1996 hunting season in West Texas.
An early Labor Day this year means hunters will only have two days of
their traditional three-day season opening weekend to get in their first
hunt of the year, while the remains of hurricane Dolly are expected to
make the hunt a little tougher than it was expected to be two weeks ago.
Texas Parks & Wildlife officials said in late July that mourning dove
hunting in the area should be better this year. Between 35 and 50
million mourning doves were expected to be produced across Texas this
"If there is seed on the ground, dry weather usually makes it easier
for the doves to feed. They prefer feeding on open ground where they can
get to the vegetation and they like to land on dry ground near tanks and
lakes when watering," TP&W wildlife division deputy director Ron George
said last month.
However, the past week's worth of rains have created many new water
holes in the area, and the continued forecast of showers means the doves
will be more spread out than hunters might have hoped for.
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Nearby, Emmitt Smith was writhing in pain, his left leg a victim of
340-pound teammate Erik Williams, who had fallen on it in a tangle of
bodies at the end of a running play against the Denver Broncos.
For five minutes Aikman didn't move as Smith was being treated. He knew
the 1996 season hung in the balance.
Of all the bad things that happened this summer to the Super Bowl
champions - free agent defections, the Michael Irvin sex and drug
scandal and suspension, Shante Carver's suspension, and the loss of two
starting offensive linemen - this could have been the killer blow.
Finally, slowly, Smith got to his feet and walked to the sidelines.
``It was a big relief,'' Aikman said. ``Everybody knows what Emmitt
means to this team. That was a scary moment. It was exciting to see him
walk away from there.''
The Cowboys have played and won without Aikman. But they've played
miserably when Smith, a four-time NFL rushing champion, was out of the
lineup. Dallas has won three of the last four Super Bowls by being a
running team first and a passing team second.
Smith, who suffered a strained knee ligament and sprained an ankle, was
expected to be ready for the Sept. 2 regular-season opener against the
The world champions walk a very thin line these days. Without depth
because of free agency, a few injuries can bring the Cowboys' talent
level even with the rest of the NFL.
``This is the thinnest we've ever been,'' says Dallas coach Barry
Switzer. ``We have very little depth.''
What depth the Cowboys do have is there because of the return of three
prodigal sons who are willing to play for the NFL's version of the
minimum wage, $275,000 and all the free Pepsi they can drink in the pop
machines at Valley Ranch.
Herschel Walker, Tony Casillas, and Kelvin Martin have come back in the
hopes of winning a Super Bowl ring and getting playoff bonuses.
``It really helps having those guys,'' Switzer said. ``Herschel can play
tailback, fullback, wide receiver, and tight end and help out on the
special teams. Tony gives us much-needed depth in the defensive line and
Kelvin has been one of the best third-down receivers in the NFL.''
``Los Tres Caballeros'' lighten the sting somewhat of all the
defections, injuries and moral misjudgments hounding owner Jerry Jones'
Dallas lost Super Bowl MVP Larry Brown, Robert Jones, Dixon Edwards and
Russell Maryland from the defense to higher bidders.
Irvin will miss the first five games because of his sex and drug scandal
suspension, and defensive end Shante Carver will miss six games because
he violated the NFL's substance abuse program.
Injuries did you say? Pass the Ben Gay.
Besides Smith, tight end Jay Novacek and defensive end Charles Haley
have bad backs and cornerback Kevin Smith, offensive linemen Erik
Williams and Ray Donaldson and linebacker Godfrey Myles are coming off
Tight end Kendall Watkins, a devastating blocker, and defensive lineman
Darren Benson are gone for the year with knee injuries. Offensive
linemen Mark Tuinei and George Hegamin have knee ligament sprains.
Strong safety Roger Harper, who played for Atlanta last year, broke an
arm in the Cowboys' Blue-White scrimmage in July.
There are new Cowboys on defense working with coordinator Dave Campo,
including former Green Bay linebacker Fred Strickland, former Minnesota
linebacker Broderick Thomas, and former Packers defensive back George
The Cowboys defense was 16th in the NFL last year, but the team still
won a Super Bowl. It will have to get better this season.
It could be better this year even if Deion Sanders plays wide receiver
some of the time.
The return of Kevin Smith at cornerback after rupturing an Achilles heel
rupture in the first game of 1995 is a key. He's played well in the
preseason and it will free up Sanders to play more offense.
How much offense will Sanders play? Switzer says as much as he can
``Deion is going to substitute himself and we'll never know how many
plays he will play,'' Switzer said. ``He will manage his own number of
It will be much the same with Haley, whose back problems come and go
like a weak signal from a border radio station.
``Charles will let us know when he can be in there,'' Switzer said.
This is going to be a year where the Dallas defense must step to the
front while the Irvin-less offense finds itself.
``Without Irvin and Novacek I may not be completing 65 percent of my
passes early in the season,'' Aikman said. ``We may not be quite as
methodical with our drives as we've been in the past. We may have to
make a few more big plays to compensate for some of the things we're
going to be missing.''
It sounds like the 1996 Cowboys are going to be very human.
(Copyright 1996 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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State and Regional Sports Pages--San Angelo Standard-Times
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