Hambrick Felt Uncomfortable In The End BY MICKEY SPAGNOLA DallasCowboys.com Columnist June 25, 2004, 5:30 p.m. (CDT) IRVING, Texas - Say this for Troy Hambrick. He might have changed teams. He might have laid low for a while. But he sure hasn't lost his gift to gab. Hambrick, released by the Cowboys in early May and signed by the Oakland Raiders within a week, surfaced at the Raiders' mini-camp this week in Alameda, Calif., and immediately addressed why he basically angled for his release from the Cowboys after they selected running back Julius Jones with their first draft choice this spring, a second round pick: "It was like being a nun in a nightclub." You go, Troy. In true family tradition, and who would ever forget his brother Darren's infamous line when explaining his quarterback-school absence, "What do voluntary mean?", just a little interpretation is needed. Hambrick basically is echoing what agent Jordan Woy said nearly a month ago, that his client just didn't feel comfortable any longer at The Ranch. That he felt out of place. More than anything, Hambrick probably saw the writing on the wall after producing just 972 yards and five touchdown on 275 carries during his first season to be a full-time starter in the NFL. The four-year veteran started taking roll, and figured the room was a tad crowded for a veteran guy scheduled to make $628,000 if he was no more than a backup. "I got attached to the Cowboys, and it's hard to shake that bond with the guys I was involved with," Hambrick said. "I just thought maybe it was time to move on. They were going in a different direction." So to move on, Hambrick pushed one of Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells' hottest buttons: He discontinued participating in the team's off-season workout program a week after the draft, even though Parcells said he would have no problems bringing Hambrick to training camp. But it was Hambrick who wanted out. He has been around long enough to understand a team's first draft choice will get every opportunity to win a starting job. He also knew Parcells was counting on fullback Richie Anderson to be the third-down back, and possibly even take some carries as a tailback after being asked to shed 10 pounds in the off-season. And at the time, Hambrick also knew the Cowboys had two young running backs, Erik Bickerstaff and ReShard Lee, they were envisioning as grooming candidates for the third guy - not to mention Aveion Cason returning from knee surgery. (Bickerstaff since has been lost for the season, tearing his Achilles in an on-field practice session.) Hambrick didn't like his chances to make the squad, not as a starter and certainly not as a utility backup or possible backup fullback since the Cowboys already had Jamar Martin, traded for third-year veteran Darian Barnes - a special teams player, too - and signed rookie free agent Lousake Polite. "I didn't feel the energy," Hambrick said. "I just said to my agent, 'You know, after going through a Bill Parcells training camp, I think it might be time to go to a more veteran squad where they treat the players better.' Training camp with Parcells is rough and ragged." Well, whatever. But some things apparently don't change. Hambrick missed the Raiders' first mini-camp practice on Tuesday for personal reasons, head coach Norv Turner said, and evidently has shown up a tad out of shape, causing Turner to remark, "I've had the chance to see him firsthand (with Dallas). He's a physical back with good vision. He's not in as good a condition as we would like him to be, but he has a month before camp. We just need to emphasize that with him." While Hambrick might have signed for the four-year minimum of $535,000 with the Raiders, and was given a $25,000 signing bonus, he did not arrive without a crowded field at the running back position. The Raiders suited up eight running backs for Wednesday's two practices, and that did not count veterans Tyrone Wheately, Zack Crockett and J.R. Redmond, all excused from the workouts by Turner. The Raiders also have Justin Fargas, a third-round pick last year, and free-agent signee Amos Zereoue. So it's not as if Hambrick will have an easy time earning a starting job, let along making the Raiders' 53-man roster as even a backup. "He sees himself as a tailback," said Turner, the former Cowboys' offensive coordinator (1991-93). "We're going to give him every opportunity to play tailback and see what he does best. We have a bunch of guys who see themselves as the starting tailback. When you have that kind of competition, it gives you the opportunity to come up with a featured runner. That's our goal." Without Wheatley, Crockett and Redmond at the mini-camp practice, Hambrick was given the opportunity to work with the first-team offense at the morning practice, take a few handoffs and catching a few passes from quarterback Rich Gannon, who by the way was working with the Raiders' first-team offense despite the off-season acquisition of Kerry Collins. Hambrick will also need to be a productive special teams player to earn a roster spot if he does not emerge as the team's starting tailback. And he does have somewhat of an edge there, since former Cowboys special teams coach Joe Avezzano now holds the same position with the Raiders and knows Hambricks' kick-coverage capabilities. "I just want to come in and compete and show someone I can play right, productive football," Hambrick said. "I'm just here to help. Being a backup is not a problem."