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Thursday, September 8, 2011
Breakfast links: Practices are dangerous

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

It's getting to the point where I'm worried I'm going to injure my knee just by writing about these teams. Every day, a new knee injury in this division. Wednesday brought two, both in Dallas. Fact, I'm going to go put a brace on before I finish writing today's links, just in case...

Dallas Cowboys

Cornerback Mike Jenkins and rookie right tackle Tyron Smith both suffered hyperextended knees in practice Wednesday, calling the status of both players into question for Sunday night's season opener against the Jets in New Jersey. Reports earlier in the day indicated that Smith could be out 2-to-4 weeks, but Calvin Watkins is saying now it's possible the injury wasn't as serious as originally thought and that Jenkins and Smith could practice Thursday. That'd be good news for the Cowboys, but it's also the kind of thing a team wouldn't mind having out there publicly if it were very thin at cornerback and offensive line and was trying to bring in some players to help offset fresh injuries to those positions. Just saying.

Mac Engel has a radical idea, and he says he's serious: Bench Tony Romo for Week 1 because the Jets' defense is so fearsome and the Cowboys are too banged up in too many spots to protect Romo from serious harm. Basically, Mac's saying sacrifice the first game of the season (and maybe Jon Kitna's health) to save the final 15. I can see his point. I just don't think things are that dire. And what kind of precedent would it set? (Hint: Bad one.)

New York Giants

Rookie Greg Jones was the most popular guy in the Giants' locker room when it opened for media access Wednesday. Jones appears to be in line to start at middle linebacker in the wake of the injury to Jonathan Goff. He says he's ready, his teammates express confidence in him and the Giants insist that, while the knee injuries that have wracked their defense this preseason have shaken them up, they believe they have enough depth on the roster to handle them. We'll see. My thought is that Greg Jones may be very talented and a very good middle linebacker someday, but that taking a rookie who had no offseason program and making him your starting middle linebacker four days before the season starts is a recipe for trouble.

Devin Thomas said he's looking forward to playing against the Redskins and Mike Shanahan on Sunday, but that he harbors no ill will toward Shanahan for cutting him last year. Shanahan and Thomas spoke highly of each other Wednesday, with Shanahan saying he believed Thomas had the talent to be a star and Thomas saying the speech Shanahan gave him while cutting him helped inspire him to work harder.

Philadelphia Eagles

High hopes are one thing, and maybe even justified. But John Smallwood writes that the Eagles aren't even the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl yet. John ranks them behind the two teams playing tonight.

Worried the team may not have enough quarters left in the piggy bank for a DeSean Jackson contract? Don't. Word is, the Eagles are still about $8 million under the salary cap, even after all of their offseason moves. I don't think that counts the new contract Joselio Hanson signed Wednesday, but there's no way he's eating up very much of it. Remarkable work Joe Banner does there in Philly with that cap.

Washington Redskins

Rich Campbell wonders whether this flare-up LaRon Landry had with the team's training staff over the hamstring setback that will keep him out of Sunday's opener represents a trend with the Redskins. Rich cites a list of ill-timed muscle pulls over the past year and says it's something to keep in mind.

Rick Maese checks in to see how John Beck is coping with losing out to Rex Grossman for the Redskins' starting quarterback job. Not surprisingly, Beck is upbeat, positive, optimistic and eager to talk about it. He's also surely smart enough to know that he's likely to get his chance at some point this year if he shows any kind of improvement week-to-week in practice.