News: Mosley:Parcells on O'Neil: 'Watch out for him'

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    Parcells on O'Neil: 'Watch out for him'

    03:56 PM CDT on Friday, August 6, 2004

    By MATT MOSLEY / **************

    OXNARD, Calif. – Second-year linebacker Keith O’Neil took advantage of a second opportunity. The former Northern Arizona player forced his way onto the team by making big plays on special teams.

    But after he got hit for a couple of costly penalties early last season, O’Neil was deactivated for the Detroit game Oct. 19.

    Parcells, who once coached O’Neil’s father in the NFL, decided to give him one last shot. And O’Neil responded. He finished the season with 17 special teams tackles (9 solo).

    Now, O’Neil is making an impact at linebacker. When Parcells mentions a player’s name during his daily news conference, it’s usually a good sign.

    “Watch out for him,” Parcells said Friday of O’Neil. “He’s going to be a pain in the butt.”

    And that’s about the nicest thing Parcells could say.

    Parcells thinks Hunter will start: Parcells gave his most definitive answer regarding the starting right cornerback spot Friday. He said he thinks Pete Hunter will start, but he expected Jemeel Powell and Bruce Thornton to also be in the mix. The third-place finisher will become Terence Newman’s backup at left cornerback.

    Parcells said Donald Mitchell would be an “independent operator” at the nickel cornerback position. In Parcells speak, that means Mitchell doesn’t have a backup.

    Johnson still showing rust: Asked if receiver Keyshawn Johnson had shaken off the rust from missing the final six games of last season, Parcells quickly said no.

    “He needs to go down to Ace Hardware and get a little Rustoleum,” Parcells said.

    Johnson has made some spectacular catches downfield, but he’s also dropped some easy ones.

    Holder needed: Parcells doesn’t appear to have a clue as to who the team’s holder will be. Last year’s holder, punter Toby Gowin, is gone and new punter Mat McBriar has struggled early in camp.

    McBriar said he has no trouble catching the ball, but he’s having some trouble with timing. Kicker Jonathan Ruffin is not getting any elevation on his kicks, and incumbent starter Billy Cundiff is missing relatively short kicks.

    Parcells will probably give his backup quarterbacks a crack at the job at some point.

    Shorts: Offensive tackle Kurt Vollers landed a hard right on defensive end Ryan Wingrove. The problem is that Wingrove was wearing a helmet. The brief skirmish occurred during an inside running drill…Quarterback Tony Romo was sharp during the morning practice. He threw a 25-yard pass to Randal Williams that landed just between the linebacker and safety. He also hit tight end Jason Witten in the back of the end zone during a goal line drill. Witten had the ball bounce off his chest.

    E-mail mmosley@**************

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