BY TIM COWLISHAW
The Dallas Morning News
(KRT) - There is precedent for a team winning a Super Bowl while one of its offensive stars maintains a code of silence. Could what happened long ago in Dallas take place this season in Philadelphia?
Roger Staubach and Calvin Hill, members of that Super Bowl VI championship team, have their doubts.
In 1971, Duane Thomas decided that the only way he could accept playing for the Cowboys at what he considered to be an undervalued rate, was to turn himself into The Quiet Man.
The second-year running back didn't speak to the media. He didn't speak to coaches during meetings, going so far as not to answer roll call. He didn't speak, for the most part, to teammates.
"I was able to talk to him in the huddle, and he always practiced hard and he always played hard," Staubach said. "So it wasn't a distraction. But he never spoke to me off the field that year. It was a little weird."
In Philadelphia, center stage of the NFL's soap opera, both wide receiver Terrell Owens and quarterback Donovan McNabb said last week they could play the entire season and be effective without talking to each other. Is that really fathomable, given Owens' penchant for blasting management, teammates and anyone else he cares to skewer through the media?
Staubach and Hill say no, and they point out two distinctions between the Cowboys' situation with Thomas and the Eagles' mess with Owens. Both began with contract problems, but that seems to be where the similarities end.
Hill cited the round-the-clock cable and network coverage invested in today's NFL. The best teams, in particular the Eagles, aren't so much covered as they are kept under media surveillance.
"We didn't have to be on national TV every night talking about Duane," Hill said. "If we had been, then it would have been a distraction."
In addition, many or perhaps even most Cowboys teammates sympathized with Thomas' campaign for more money. Star players and leaders of that team, including Lee Roy Jordan and Bob Lilly, had battled general manager Tex Schramm for dollars.
And, generally, they had lost.
Owens has taken his displeasure far beyond a squabble with management, calling out McNabb ever since last year's Super Bowl loss and making it personal with the team's popular and highly successful quarterback.
"If I was Donovan McNabb, I couldn't play with him on my team," Staubach said. "I think Donovan is a hell of a quarterback. For T.O. to call him a hypocrite, it doesn't make any sense. Owens is a great receiver, but he has gone way too far in sensing the value he has to his teammates.
"I would never tolerate a player on my team questioning my integrity. I don't think Donovan should have to, either."
There is also the problem that even if Owens were to return and not speak to McNabb or to teammates, you know he would eventually speak to the press. That's no way to communicate with teammates.
"Owens talks to the press," Hill said. "Duane talked to nobody. He really didn't intend to call attention to himself, even though that's what he did. And I think the players understood that."
It wasn't until after the Super Bowl (where Thomas broke his silence by famously asking CBS' Tom Brookshier, "If it's the ultimate game, why are they playing it again next year?") that Thomas became a distraction.
It was the next season that Thomas stopped going to meetings, stopped listening to coaches and eventually forced his way out of town.
He was never again the same dominant runner he had been his first two seasons with Dallas, which saddened Staubach.
"To this day, I don't really know what happened with him," Staubach said. "When he tried to make a comeback with us a few years later, I was pulling for him. He wasn't the same player, but everybody still liked Duane Thomas."
That's another thing you probably can't say about the Eagles and Owens today, which leads you to believe this won't be a case of history repeating itself.
What worked in Dallas in a different era has no chance to succeed in Philadelphia.
© 2005, The Dallas Morning News.
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