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By DENNE H. FREEMAN
AP Sports Writer
IRVING, Texas (AP) - Don't try to sell the Dallas Cowboys on the idea
that the Carolina Panthers are some helpless expansion team.
``We don't think of them as an expansion team,'' Dallas coach Barry
Switzer said Monday. ``They've beaten San Francisco three out of the
last four times they've played them.
``And there's talk about their quarterback (Kerry Collins) being
inexperienced. I remember a Dan Marino who went to the Super Bowl his
rookie year. Carolina has talent. Without a doubt, they will be the most
balanced team we have played this year in all three phases.''
Switzer said besides a veteran defense, the Panthers have special teams
that can more than hold their own with the Cowboys.
``Their special teams are the best statistically in football, and that
matchup itself will have a dramatic impact on the game,'' Switzer said.
Switzer raved about the Panthers' veteran defense, which includes
linebackers Kevin Greene, Sam Mills and Lamar Lathon.
``They are fourth in takeaways in the NFL and the leader in sacks with
60,'' Switzer said. ``Football is a game of third downs, and they are
No. 1 (in the NFL) by allowing just 32 per cent of third down tries
Even though the Cowboys are a field-goal favorite in the NFC divisional
pllayoff game at Charlotte on Sunday, Switzer calls the Panthers a huge
``Some of the guys on their defense have Super Bowl rings,'' Switzer
said. ``We don't expect the success we had against Minnesota.''
The Cowboys offense got untracked in a 40-15 wild-card win over the
Vikings on Saturday.
Dallas has never played Carolina, so assistant coaches have been burning
up the telephone lines trying to get any scrap of information they can
on the Panthers.
``Our coaches are calling some friends on other staffs who will share
something with us, and that's about as much as I'll say about that,''
Dallas' players were off Monday, and planned to begin full-scale work
today. The Cowboys don't leave for Carolina until Saturday.
Owner Jerry Jones joined in on the ``We respect Carolina'' theme.
``I don't understand why we are favorites,'' Jones said. ``We know
Carolina offers a big challenge.''
Offensive tackle Nate Newton said Carolina is no cakewalk.
``Sam Mills, that golden-haired guy (Greene), I can't think of his name,
Lamar Lathon, (Eric) Davis ... they got some veterans,'' Newton said.
``They've been in big games, Super Bowls and championship games. They're
obviously looking to explode, too.''
Newton added, ``It's time for the ring now, baby. Now, everything is a
bonus, baby. I've got to finish furnishing my house.''
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By JOE MACENKA
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - When many people think about the Carolina
Panthers, their first impression is of an inexperienced team making its
first foray into the NFL playoffs.
Twenty-six players on the second-year expansion team's roster have been
to the postseason and have taken part in a combined 118 playoff games.
Twelve Panthers made it as far as the Super Bowl with other teams. Six
of those players have won it all.
``It definitely makes a difference having that kind of experience,''
said linebacker Carlton Bailey, who was with the Buffalo Bills for three
Super Bowl appearances. ``The most important thing is that you don't get
in awe of the playoffs.''
Bailey and the rest of Carolina's postseason veterans are taking it upon
themselves to counsel some of the younger players as the NFC
West-champion Panthers get ready for their first playoff game Sunday
``There might be a tendency for a younger player to let outside
distractions get the best of you, but you can't let that happen,'' said
cornerback Eric Davis, who will be making his sixth consecutive
postseason appearance and is one of the Panthers who has played for a
Super Bowl winner. He joined Carolina in the offseason after spending
his first six years with the San Francisco 49ers.
``Guys who have been there understand what a loss would mean,'' Davis
said. ``Nobody wants that feeling. It's a bitter, bitter taste. And
nobody wants that taste this time of year. The more people you have on
your squad who understand that, the better off you are.''
Carolina's playoff veterans are surrounded by 20 Panthers who are either
in their first or second NFL season and are making their first trips to
The heaviest concentration of playoff experience is on defense, where 15
players have been in 83 playoff games. Nine of Carolina's defensive
starters have been in a combined 72 playoff contests.
On offense, nine Panthers have been in a total of 29 playoff games, and
two Carolina special-teams players have appeared in six postseason
The Carolina player with the most postseason experience is Bailey, 32,
who was in the playoffs six consecutive years - five with Buffalo and
one with the New York Giants.
Sunday's contest against the defending Super Bowl-champion Cowboys will
be Bailey's 16th postseason game. He likens the difference between the
regular season and the playoffs to the difference between the exhibition
season and the regular season.
``You remember how in August you don't play every down and then when you
get to the regular season, everything kind of picks up a little bit,''
he said. ``Well, it's the same thing now. The intensity level is higher,
and that's because everybody is fighting to achieve that one thing, and
that's to become world champions.''
Nose tackle Greg Kragen, 34, played in three Super Bowls with the Denver
Broncos. Sunday's contest will be his 14th playoff game.
``I'm kind of in a comfort zone,'' he said. ``I've been here before in
this situation, so I know not to get too high or too excited too soon.
You just go about business as usual and get ready to play on Sunday.
Hopefully, the younger guys see that and it catches on.''
Odd Man In
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - Texas coach John Mackovic says receiver Mike Adams,
offensive guard Dan Neil and nose tackle Chris Akins are questionable
for Wednesday's Fiesta Bowl against Penn State.
Adams has been hampered by groin and hamstring injuries; Akins has been
bothered by knee injuries; and Neil is also plagued by a strained
``It's conceivable we could be without all of them on Wednesday night,''
Mackovic said. ``We'll have to see how they warm up.''
Mackovic said they were all lingering injuries that have bothered the
players throughout the season.
LET THE TRASH TALK BEGIN: Texas cornerback Bryant Westbrook, the
Longhorns' top trash talker, says let the talk begin for Wednesday's
``I've been ragging on my teammates for three weeks and I know they are
getting tired of it,'' Westbrook said.
When asked what some of his favorite lines are for opposing receivers,
he smiled and said, ``I can't let them out right now, kids might be
watching or listening.''
DUAL SPORT WONDER: Texas running back Ricky Williams is having his
college education being paid for by the Philadelphia Phillies, who
drafted him in the eighth round in 1995.
Williams said Jason Kirschner, a pitcher who plays with Williams in the
Phillies farm system, will be at the Fiesta Bowl to support him on
Williams has already earned $50,000 from the Phillies and earns $1,200 a
month when he plays for their minor league teams during the summer.
``Some of my teammates want me to take them to lunch because I'm getting
paid,'' Williams said. ``They ask me why I'm still playing football
because I'm making money playing baseball, but I hope to play both one
Williams says his two-sport career is going pretty well so far.
``People look at my batting average and say I should stop playing
baseball,'' he said. ``But I'm getting better every day and I can see
myself making huge strides.''
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