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Monday, September 8, 2008
Barber's ribs, Romo's chin look OK after Sunday's injuries

ESPN.com news services

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys rolled to victory on Sunday, but running back Marion Barber and quarterback Tony Romo had the injuries to show that it wasn't as easy as it looked.

Barber
Barber

Tony Romo

Romo

Barber suffered bruised ribs, and Romo took a shot to the chin that required stitches.

On Monday, Barber did his usual best to avoid reporters, but was seen moving through the locker room swiftly enough that his ribs didn't appear to be bothering him. Coach Wade Phillips said Barber may not even be limited in practice this week.

Romo was seen in the training room with a butterfly bandage on his chin and white tape on the middle finger of his left hand. He asked someone how long the stitches will last and didn't show any reaction when told they'll fall out after 10 days.

The injury news also was good for guys who didn't play in the opener.

Cornerback Terence Newman said he would play "for sure" against Philadelphia on Monday night. Phillips said receiver Miles Austin and linebacker Anthony Spencer would return to practice Wednesday, too. Receiver Sam Hurd ditched the boot on his ankle and may practice later this week, too.

Barber gained yards and dished out more punishment than he took, justifying the Cowboys' confidence in making him their featured back. When he went to the locker room in came top draft pick Felix Jones. All he did was run 11 yards for a touchdown on his first carry. A shoelace tackle kept him from going 67 yards for another touchdown on his next carry.

Then, when it was time to run out the clock, Dallas turned to another rookie, Tashard Choice. On five straight carries, Choice did exactly what was asked -- holding onto the ball, staying inbounds and gaining the first downs the Cowboys needed to seal a 28-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns and a 1-0 start to the season.

As good as the running backs were, they were only part of what went right for Dallas in the opener.

Actually, hardly anything went wrong.

The offensive line blew open holes for all three running backs and gave Romo all kinds of time, even with a backup playing left guard. Romo, in turn, completed his first nine passes and finished with 320 yards. Terrell Owens, Jason Witten and Patrick Crayton were so sure-handed that the injured backup receivers weren't missed.

The defense was solid, too, keeping Cleveland from passing or running. The Browns went three-and-out on their only two drives in the third quarter, when the game was still within reach, and finished with 39 yards passing the entire second half.

Yes, there were some untimely penalties and too many flags overall, including one on T.O. for a touchdown celebration. And there were the injuries -- Barber's ribs and Romo's chin getting split open, needing 13 stitches to close. All things considered, though, the Cowboys showed in their first game why so many people are picking them to still be playing in the final game of the season, the Super Bowl.

"I think it's a credit to our guys that with all the hype, or the supposed distractions, that they went out and played our kind of game," Phillips said Monday. "That was really pleasing to me that they are disciplined enough not to let other things bother them. I think that was an important step."

In that case, Phillips should like this response from safety Ken Hamlin: "It's one game. We showed we can do things, we executed pretty well, but we have to improve."

Another positive in opener was how Adam "Pacman" Jones conducted himself.

Jones made some good plays (two pass breakups, including one he nearly picked off and probably would've returned for a touchdown) and some bad ones (a muffed punt, a penalty that helped set up the Browns' only touchdown) in his first NFL game since December 2006.

But the most important thing might have been his nonviolent response after being squeezed between the legs by Cleveland's Nick Sorenson during the scrum following the muffed punt.

"I told that dude, 'Man, you're lucky I'm trying to do better, because I would have got 15 yards for kicking your [rear]," Jones said, adding that he wouldn't have showed such restraint back before his yearlong suspension for an accumulation of acts requiring police intervention. "It's the first time I've been violated and not retaliated."

As for Owens' celebration, it was pretty mild -- a fake sprinter's start as a tribute to Usain Bolt. Officials said the flag was thrown because Owens touched the ground, a wrinkle Phillips didn't know was against the rules.

"It's my fault we didn't know about it," Phillips said. "I don't know why they won't let you have fun. He wasn't making fun of anybody. It wasn't an outlandish display of taunting the other team. After it happened he obviously wasn't going to do it again. He didn't know because I didn't know."

Also Monday, the Cowboys signed quarterback Brooks Bollinger, giving them a better third option than Crayton (a college quarterback) should Romo and backup Brad Johnson both get hurt. Teams can dress a third QB without counting him toward the 45-man game-day roster, but Dallas played without that safety net last season.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.