Matt Mosley: Bickerstaff finds some room to run 08:02 PM CDT on Monday, May 31, 2004 By MATT MOSLEY / The Dallas Morning News Cowboys running back Erik Bickerstaff was standing on the Valley Ranch practice field two weeks ago when he saw Bill Parcells making a beeline toward him. For a player clinging to a roster spot, it qualified as a Maalox moment. Parcells lifted his arms and twice shouted, “What are you going to do?” A startled Bickerstaff eventually realized that Parcells was referring to Troy Hambrick’s release. And he wanted to find out how Bickerstaff would respond. “I told him I’m going to take advantage of the opportunity,” Bickerstaff said. “I’m the only big back we have left.” Bickerstaff, who was basically brought in as an extra body during last year’s training camp, has a chance to join a rotation that could include rookie Julius Jones and Richie Anderson. When he got the call to come to San Antonio last August, he was serving as a janitor at Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium. An unheralded player at Wisconsin, Bickerstaff missed his senior season for academic reasons. He benefited from injuries to running backs ReShard Lee and Michael Wiley in training camp and showed enough talent in preseason to stick around. Even though he often had no clue where to go, he got there fast. And when he got demoted to the practice squad during the season, he took his frustration out on the first-team defense in practice. Late in the season, Bickerstaff was brought up to spark an anemic running game. This off-season, Bickerstaff sought advice from Anderson on dieting. He’s discovered that lettuce isn’t just something you take off a hamburger. He’s now weighing a lean 235 pounds. Bickerstaff hasn’t taken much of a pounding over the past few years, mainly because no one has given him the ball. His one carry in college went for two yards. “I feel so fresh,” Bickerstaff said. “I could run for days. I hope they see that.” Bickerstaff shows up at 10 a.m. each day at Valley Ranch because he likes working out with the receivers and defensive backs. He believes that working out with those players has made him faster. “I try to keep up with [cornerback] Terence Newman,” Bickerstaff said. “My goal is to always finish in the top two in conditioning drills.” On off days, Bickerstaff joins backup quarterback Tony Romo at Valley Ranch to work on catching passes. It’s something he never had a chance to do at Wisconsin. In the afternoons, he sits in a Valley Ranch film room by himself and watches Washington’s Clinton Portis and Baltimore’s Jamal Lewis. He loves watching Lewis’ record-breaking game against Cleveland. “It’s good for me to watch big backs, because I want to be a punisher,” Bickerstaff said. “But I also like watching Portis. I wish I could do the things he does.” Everyone assumes that Jones will get the majority of the carries this season, but Parcells has talked about using a running back-by-committee. Bickerstaff isn’t looking to chair the committee. He’d just like a spot at the table.