Gurode, Walter "Not As Bad" But Results Not Official Nick Eatman DallasCowboys.com Staff Writer Sept. 13, 2004, 5:57 p.m. (CDT) IRVING, Texas -- There has been a cloud of uncertainty hovering over this Julius Jones situation here the past week. Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells said his rookie running back was "sore," and that's why he didn't play in the preseason finale last week against Kansas City. Parcells said Jones is still sore, and even as of Thursday, didn't give a definitive answer whether his second-round draft choice will be ready for Sunday's season opener in Minnesota. Of course, ask Jones himself and there is a totally different answer. "No, I'm playing," Jones said on Thursday. "I'm tough. I'll be ready to go. I'm not missing this one." Jones missed last Thursday's game against the Chiefs with sore ribs, and appeared to draw the ire of Parcells, who said his rookie had "to learn to suck it up and be ready to go . . . If this were the regular season, there would've been more pressure on him to play." Well, guess what? The regular season is now here, and yes, it seems there is more pressure on Jones to play. But will he? Parcells said again Thursday he hasn't decided yet, and probably won't until Sunday when he must name his third quarterback and seven inactive players before the game. In fact, the Cowboys did place Jones on the injury report Thursday for the first time, listing him as "probable" with a chest injury. "He's practicing, but it's just a question of whether I think I can play him with confidence," Parcells said. "He's taken some turns - not all obviously. He's running some scout team to just to see where he is. That's just the way it is. "That's probably a game day thing - what I'm going to do. He's doing alright. I can't really list him (on the injury report) because he doesn't have anything specific except a bruise and he is practicing, so it's just a question of whether we think this guy gives us the best chance to win on Sunday. That's really what it comes down to." Well, Jones says he's playing; Parcells says he's not yet convinced. Now certainly, we all know who has the final call on the matter, but maybe Parcells is psychologically working behind the scenes here. Just maybe Parcells is testing Jones' willingness to play with a few bumps and bruises, and Jones telling one reporter this week "I wouldn't miss the game for anything" might be the magical words Parcells has been waiting to hear. Remember, Parcells said he simply "didn't like the look on his face" when referring to Jones last week and why he held him out of Thursday's game. Then, too, those bruised ribs might have been real, though Parcells said Jones would have played if the game had counted. "These guys, they're all the same," Parcells said of rookie running backs. "They're all the same. They need to learn how to play with pain sometimes. But believe me, they're all the same. But they'll learn. They will. Julius has done a good job for us. But he needs to learn some things." And so just maybe this entire situation is just a learning process for Jones, who, despite missing the final preseason game, did lead the Cowboys in rushing during the preseason. "You learn something every day," said Jones, who carried the ball 30 times in the preseason for a team-high 142 yards (4.7 average) and one touchdown. "I'm learning a lot from (Parcells) and all the coaches just about what it takes to be here. That's part of it." But if Jones were Parcells' only viable option at running back, maybe there wouldn't be so much doubt on his playing status. But the Cowboys do have more backfield options, including one with 10,009 career rushing yards. Although Eddie George hasn't given Cowboys fans much to get excited about during the preseason, Parcells hasn't given up hope there still is gas left in this veteran tank. "Yeah, I think I can," Parcells said of getting more from George. "But whatever we do, I'm going to run different guys. I really am. I learned that over the years. It's the best way to do it, if you can do it. It's better for them in the long run if you can mix and match, if you have the ability to do it." Parcells then pointed out that most of the Cowboys' preseason opponents, as well as other teams in the league, are also going to the running-back-by-committee approach, although he has said several times he dislikes using the phrase. "I think the Raiders are going to use (Tyrone)Wheatley and (Amos) Zeroue," Parcells said. "And (Zach) Crockett will be their short yards back. Kansas City won't use Priest Holmes every down. I think that kid (Derrick) Blaylock will play some. I think he'll be involved in the mix. He'll provide some relief. "I don't think in Denver, that (Quentin) Griffin will get it every time. Now, San Diego (LaDainian Tomlinson) might be a different story. But in Pittsburgh, it's going to be (Duce) Staley and (Jerome) Bettis. In Philadelphia, I know it's going to be at least two guys. In Buffalo it's going to be (Willis) McGahee and (Travis) Henry. "Just look around. It's going on. That' what you're seeing. There's very few teams going into the season saying, `OK, this guy is getting all the carries.' There's still a few teams that are going to do that. And at the end of the year, Priest Holmes is going to have a lot of carries. But you have to give some guys some relief." However, one big difference with the Cowboys is that Parcells has yet to establish which player is getting the bulk of the carries and which guys will be the relievers. So far, it's quite obvious Parcells wants Richie Anderson to carry the ball, despite turning 33 next week. And while Anderson won't get an overload of touches, he showed even last week he can make things happen, rushing for 46 yards on four carries. And let's not forget about ReShard Lee, a first-year player who is at least expected to be active since Parcells said he will be part of the kick-off return unit. Lee also is expected to be used on coverage units as well. Lee could also get a few carries - especially if Jones is not active - having flashed some potential at running back by scoring two touchdowns in the preseason, including a dazzling 28-yard run last week against the Chiefs. "I think we've got some guys to run the ball," Parcells said. "I'm not worried about that. I think when we want to, we'll be able to run the ball and run it successfully. So we'll just have to wait and see what happens." And we've been waiting to see for a while now, so a few more days probably won't hurt.