Vinny's Real Purpose By MICKEY SPAGNOLA DallasCowboys.com Columnist June 24, 2004, 5:30 p.m. (CDT) IRVING, Texas - Yo' Vinny! Whattaya doing here? You're 40 years old, turning 41 in November. You've played in the NFL for 17 years. Been around the block a time or two, first with Tampa Bay, then Cleveland, then the New York Jets for the past six seasons. You grew up in Elmont, N.Y., a deep throw from the Jets' training complex in Hempstead, and you still reside on the Island with your wife and three kids. You've made all the money you can ever spend, and the Cowboys only ante-upped $1.1 million, plus playing incentives, but not even a signing bonus to cover moving expenses, for you. Why you have been doing this so, so long, gosh, I can remember back like 18 years when your No. 2-ranked Miami Hurricanes were playing Barry Switzer's No. 1-ranked Oklahoma Sooners at the Orange Bowl, and you had that play that just broke the Sooners' will when you scrambled to and fro, hither and yonder, for what seemed like an eternity back there before breaking like three tackles for an 11-yard gain and an all-important first down in what turned out to be a Canes' victory on Sept. 27, 1986. But you still want more? Want to play that 18th NFL season? And to do so, you are willing to move to Texas, which for most New Yorkers is no different than moving to Bulgaria? What's up with that "gramps," as the guys in the locker quickly transitioned from calling the 35-year-old Darren Woodson to Vinny in a matter of mini-camp days? "I feel like I can still play, and that's why I'm doing this," Testaverde says. "I knew I wasn't enjoying what I was doing in New York. Felt like I was just there collecting a check. I'm not made that way. "Whether I'm on the field playing or on the bench, I'll feel like I am helping, whether it be Quincy, Drew, Tony or Chad out there. Then I'll feel better about depositing that check. Last year, I didn't feel like I really helped that team." That should tell you all you need to know about Vincent Testaverde, the first pick in the 1987 draft by Tampa Bay, and no matter what you think of him, he did have a 21-1 regular-season record at the University of Miami during his two years of starting and did win the 1986 Heisman Trophy. He's here to help - anyway he can. Who cares what his inner motivation is to play an 18th season. Maybe deep down he thinks he'll end up with the starting job. Maybe you never have enough money to turn your back on another cool mil. Maybe he truly is the nurturing type, willing to impart 17 years worth of wisdom on these quarterback puppies the Cowboys have gathered. Or maybe he's so beholdin' to Bill, that he's doing the guy a huge favor, since he trusts Parcells and obviously Parcells trusts him. Who cares? The fact is, he's here, giving the Cowboys a veteran backup for only the second time in the past seven years. Think about it, ever since Wade Wilson moved on in 1998 to the Raiders, the Cowboys haven't had a backup quarterback who had been around the block as a starter but one season. That was Randall Cunningham in 2000, and the truth of the matter is, he really didn't want to play, even when he had to, you know. But for the past three seasons, the Cowboys have been flying by the seat of their pants. Some would say at both the starting and backup quarterback positions. At least now, if nothing else, they have a quarterback these young guys should listen to if they have the sense they were born with. "He has tremendous experience, extraordinary ability as a passer," Parcells says. "But I think he'll be a good mentor for these guys. He's a stable guy. I think it's worth it. "I know Vinny is not the long-term future here, he knows that. But he can be of value to the organization. We'll see how it goes, I don't know. Only so much tread on those tires." That gives you some idea of what Parcells was thinking about when signing Vinny instead of trying to convince a veteran quarterback like Kerry Collins or Kurt Warner or Jeff Garcia to sign with the Cowboys. First of all, those guys still have designs on being a starter, which translates into designs on receiving a contract meeting those desires. Secondly, and maybe most importantly, those guys would not have a vested interest in helping out Carter or Henson - the Dallas Cowboys - as the ball cap-wearing veteran quarterback if that indeed ended up being their role. "Here's the difference between Vinny and somebody else," Parcells said. "I don't think Vinny stops progress. I think we still make progress with our young players, and still have Vinny here. In fact, he will add to that . . . . "I don't think he's going to be someone inhibiting the progress of our young (quarterbacks)." Parcells then is hoping to get the best of both worlds: Not only tap into Vinny's experience, but also have a guy who can bail out a team with playoff aspirations if the starter gets hurt, falters or needs to be replaced. Plus, have a guy who understands his station on the team, no matter if he still has the desire to compete for a starting job. Hey, what's wrong with that? I mean, that's exactly what you what, a guy with fire still in his belly after all these years, but not burning to the extent of singeing the team. "Because once you stop trying to prove yourself, it's time to hang it up," Testaverde said when asked about the competition that might be waged during training camp. "To play the game, you need the emotion and competitiveness and drive to play. "I still think I have a lot to prove. Prove to my teammates, to the coaches, to myself - and to the people who think that the age of 40 is too old to play." Yeah, that's right. Let's give Vinny a double yo' for that. MICK SHOTS Has there been any more cursed position on this team over the past six years than wide receiver? Today's scheduled foot surgery to repair recently-signed Dedric Ward's fractured fifth metatarsal only highlights this black hole which has engulfed the likes of Michael Irvin, James McKnight, Joey Galloway, Rocket Ismail, Ernie Mills, Wane McGarity, Jermaine Copeland and Anthony Lucas. Interesting to note that in the Forbes list of the top 50 paid male athletes, only eight are football players, and at that, five are ranked no higher than 35th. Needless to say, none of the eight are members of the Dallas Cowboys. But not surprisingly, Indy's Peyton Manning is the top-earning football player over the past year and No. 3 overall, raking in an estimated $42 million in salary, bonuses, endorsements, prize money and appearance fees. And before any of you accuse me of being lazy next week when you notice no updates in Spagnola's Corner or Mick's Mail, understand I'm out for the week, and that's not to be confused with the hard work on my trip to Cabo with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.