Wade Phillips will be back as coach of the Dallas Cowboys next season, and Jason Garrett will remain in charge of the offense, regardless of whether the team makes the playoffs, team owner Jerry Jones said yesterday.
And he said it vehemently.
"The coaches are in place. I've said that. How can I be any clearer?" Jones said. "Look, I've said that our coaching staff, as far as I'm concerned, is in place. I just want to make the statement rather than answer questions, because your questions imply certain things that I don't want to imply."
Still, the questions continued because this team that went 13-3 last season and owned the No. 1 seed in the NFC is now 9-6 and trying to grab the last available wild card into this season's playoffs. The Cowboys will get it with a win tomorrow against the Eagles. If they lose, there's been speculation that Jones would fire Phillips. There's long been speculation that Phillips might be pushed aside and Garrett promoted from offensive coordinator next season anyway as Dallas moves into a new $1.1 billion, 100,000-seat stadium.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo seems to be over the midweek illness that caused him to miss a day of practice.
"I think he's feeling all right now," Phillips said yesterday. "He was maybe a little weak yesterday, but he's doing a lot better today."
Romo was sent home with medicine to treat flu symptoms Wednesday. He returned to practice Thursday, and worked out again yesterday as Dallas finished preparing for tomorrow's game.
Phillips said running back Marion Barber would remain a game-time decision because of a dislocated toe that's limited him to 2 yards on 10 carries over the last two games. He also missed the game before that. He was listed on the injury report as doubtful after being limited in practice.
Tight end Jason Witten was limited, too, because of a sprained left ankle, but is among several players listed as probable.
The Cowboys put receiver Isaiah Stanback on injured reserve because of a shoulder problem. Tight end Rodney Hannah moved up from the practice squad to take his place.
Chicago safety Mike Brown will miss the rest of the season because of a calf injury, leaving the defense without one of its emotional leaders heading into tomorrow's game at Houston that could decide whether they make the playoffs.
It's the fourth trip in five years to injured reserve for Brown, who left the game against Green Bay on Monday night.
Losing him is a big blow to the Bears (9-6), who need to beat or tie the Texans to have a shot at the NFC North title or a wild-card spot.
Miami linebacker Channing Crowder expects to play against the New York Jets tomorrow, despite a knee injury that limited his practice time this week.
"I'll play this week," Crowder said yesterday. "I'll be out there. I feel 100 percent today."
Crowder sat out Sunday's 38-31 win at Kansas City. He and cornerback Will Allen, who hurt his groin against the Chiefs, were limited in practice yesterday. They participated in individual drills Thursday, after missing practice the previous day.
Crowder and Allen were listed as questionable for tomorrow's game. The Dolphins (10-5) will win the AFC East if they beat New York.
Carolina could be without both starting defensive tackles for tomorrow's game at New Orleans, perhaps enticing the pass-happy Saints to run the ball.
Damione Lewis missed practice for a third consecutive day with a shoulder injury and was listed as doubtful. Maake Kemoeatu practiced on a limited basis and is questionable with a sprained right ankle that kept him out of last week's loss to the New York Giants.
If they can't play, former Eagle Darwin Walker is expected to start at one tackle spot. The other position would be filled either by rookie Nick Hayden or J'Vonne Parker. Hayden was on Carolina's practice squad last week. Parker was signed Tuesday off Atlanta's practice squad.
The injuries come as the Panthers (11-4) prepare for a critical game. They need to beat the Saints (8-7) to guarantee the No. 2 seed in the NFC, a first-round bye in the playoffs, and a second-round home game. A loss, combined with an Atlanta win over St. Louis, would drop the Panthers to the No. 5 seed and would force them to play at Arizona in the first round next week.
New England linebacker Tedy Bruschi is expected to miss tomorrow's game against Buffalo because of a knee injury, and defensive end Richard Seymour is questionable with a sore back.
Bruschi was listed as out on the injury report yesterday, putting him on the sideline for the third consecutive game. Seymour hasn't practiced all week.
The Patriots can win the AFC East with a win over the Bills and a Miami loss.