May 13, 2004, 5:55 p.m. (CDT) IRVING, Texas - Mama once said be careful what you wish for. Too bad Troy Hambrick wasn't around to hear her. Not unlike some genie in a bottle, the Dallas Cowboys granted Hambrick two wishes. One didn't turn out so swell. The other remains to be seen. See, Hambrick wished out loud in 2001 and 2002 for more carries and to become the Cowboys starting running back, a position of royalty in this franchise's history. Problem was, Emmitt Smith was in the midst of making his final push to become the NFL's all-time leading rusher. But he was granted that wish in 2003, starting 16 games and carrying the ball 275 times. The results were glaring - 972 yards rushing - and galling enough for the Cowboys to draft a running back in the second round last month. Then Hambrick wished as hard, but with a little more subtlety over the past three weeks, for his release from the Cowboys, knowing his days in Dallas were numbered after the club had selected Notre Dame running back Julius Jones with that second-round pick. Again his wish was granted, the Cowboys releasing Hambrick Thursday afternoon, a little annoyed at his less-than enthusiastic workout ethic these past few weeks, but also recognizing the inevitability of the situation. Two wishes. Two granted. Too unemployed. "This was probably in everyone's best interest," said agent Jordan Woy, who picked up Hambrick as a client this off-season when the four-year veteran entered into restricted free agency. "I'd say this was mutual." Even though the Cowboys attempted to trade Hambrick during and immediately after the NFL Draft, head coach Bill Parcells said during the rookie mini-camp two weeks ago he'd have no problems bringing Hambrick to camp - allowing him to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster. That would be the only fair thing to do, although, chances are there weren't very good odds for the guy who basically convinced the Cowboys to select a running back the first day of the draft. "I told him if I could find a spot that is better for him, then we would do that," Parcells said of a possible trade. "We got to a point where we decided not to do it, then I go by what I see and how he performs when he comes in. "Troy's been in all season. He's been working pretty good, to his credit. He's got to do that. He knows that. So that would just be down the road." That was then, and evidently the Cowboys and Hambrick didn't get very far down the road. While T-Ham, at times, did not judiciously choose his words while toiling as a backup to the NFL's all-time leading rusher - suggesting he should be the guy repeatedly in 2001 and 2002 - he's no dummy. He could read the three-inch headline on the wall. Teams don't draft a guy with their first pick and sit him on the bench. Especially running backs, who seem to have an easier transition into the NFL than most positions. That is, if they can play. Teams don't usually hand out six-figure signing bonuses, either, and not give that player every benefit of the doubt. And while Hambrick stalled signing his $628,000 restricted free agency qualifying offer, not doing so until nearly a week after the draft, the 27-year-old back knew if he was not the starter there would be no way the Cowboys would keep him around for $628,000 when guys with his three years of service in the league could be paid a $455,000 minimum. So if a trade could not be completed, and it obviously couldn't - the Cowboys would have taken whatever - then Hambrick decided he wanted out. And he let the Cowboys know that by reversing his workout dedication. Oh, I saw him working out in the weight room late last week, but evidently he was not meeting the requested four weekly workouts any longer. "I thought he should really go over there and work his tail off," Woy said. " I told him, yeah, they drafted Julius Jones, but who knows, he might be the next Emmitt Smith or the next Sherman Williams. Or they just might find out (Jones) is not ready. "People can say anything they want (about Hambrick), but he did rush for 972 yards and that's better than a lot of backs in the league." Hambrick didn't agree, and exhibited his disenchantment by no-showing for workouts. Parcells doesn't put up with a lot of junk from guys, and he darn well does not tolerate a no-shows. So what Hambrick had going for himself, in Parcells' mind, by continuing to work hard, turned into the last straw when suddenly he 180-ed his effort. On purpose. "He said he felt he didn't belong there anymore," Woy said of Hambrick's sudden workout reticence. "Said he just didn't feel right. "It's a strange situation, and I've dealt with a lot of players, but sometimes players who don't feel comfortable where they are, they'll run away from what makes them feel uncomfortable." Hambrick should have run so well when he had the ball. Unfortunately, when he finally got his wish to be the guy, the opportunity exposed his weaknesses. When averaging like five to eight carries a game, Hambrick was a pretty intriguing running back, so much so many of you were calling for him to replace Smith in 2001 when he averaged 5.1 yards a carry. But when that number jumped to 17 carries a game in 2003 after the Cowboys basically handed the lead running back role to Hambrick, it became painfully evident his feet were not nifty enough, his balance was lacking, even at 235 he was not powerful enough to run over tacklers and, maybe most of all, be it head down or eyes closed or lacking gifted ability, he could hardly make a blocking dummy miss. Now had the Cowboys sported a more efficient offensive line, Hambrick would have surely rushed for at least 1,000 yards, and possibly even 1,200. Most of those aborted runs for no yards or less were not his fault, but of that same leaky offensive line so many wanted to hold responsible for Quincy Carter's struggles. T-Ham never got the benefit of the doubt. But still, the Cowboys had seen enough, and knew if this team was to get better they had to get significantly better at the running back position. So they took a stab by drafting Jones, and remained upfront with Hambrick. "When I talked to Parcells," Woy said of the conversation after the draft, "he said if Troy was not going to have an opportunity or if he was not going to give him a shot, 'Then I'll either trade the kid or just let him go.'" This then becomes Hambrick's gamble, betting that turning his back on what little chance he probably had to actually make this team will land him a much better opportunity to make another team. The dice, though, still are tumbling. Remember, no one wanted to even give up a conditional seventh for Hambrick, and at $628,000, nearly $200,000 more than a team would be required to pay him, it's doubtful he and his contract will be claimed on waivers. "But I think there will be a spot there where someone will say we have some competition at the running back position and that no one is the guy, but that if you want to compete we'll bring you in and give you that chance," Woy said. That then must be Hambrick's next wish. But if this third one doesn't pan out, he needs to find him a better genie. Hambrick's release has to put some jump in the steps of Erik Bickerstaff, Aveion Cason and ReShard Lee. Because if Jones is the guy and Anderson becomes Parcells' stated all-purpose back - fullback, nickel back and fullback - then the club likely will need a viable third running back on the roster. Hambrick made a business decision, and there didn't seem to be any animosity at The Ranch. Said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, "Troy gave us good effort for all of his time with the Cowboys. We appreciate his contributions and wish him the best as he explores his future options in the NFL." Since teams are operating under a Top 50 salary cap, meaning only the top 50 salaries on the roster count against the cap, Hambrick's release actually puts another $323,000 into the Cowboys' cap. His $628,000 comes off and a guy at $305,000 now jumps into the Top 50.