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Cowboys: Kitna to start vs. Birds, if he's able

Jon Kitna will be the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys in their finale against the Eagles on Sunday if his strained abdominal muscle heals enough.

Jon Kitna will be the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys in their finale against the Eagles on Sunday if his strained abdominal muscle heals enough.

It's not likely, though, so second-year backup Stephen McGee probably will make his first career start in the 4:15 p.m. game at Lincoln Financial Field.

"We have to see what Jon's availability is throughout the practice week and see what he is able to do," interim coach Jason Garrett said yesterday. "Can he play? Can he practice well enough to play in this game on Sunday? So that's the No. 1 consideration. If he's not able to do that, we will play Stephen. But if he's able to do that, Jon will be our quarterback."

The Cowboys believe an injured Kitna would give them a better chance to beat the Eagles than a healthy McGee.

Kitna has gone 4-5 since replacing Tony Romo and has been hailed for his leadership. His stats are on par with Romo's.

But Kitna is 38. The Cowboys already are planning on him being Romo's backup next season. So why not start McGee against the Eagles no matter what, just to find out what they have - especially since Kitna certainly won't be at full strength?

"There's probably a lot of different reasons," Garrett said. "We just feel like it's best to give Jon a chance to come back and play if he is healthy enough to do it."

McGee made his NFL debut Saturday night after Kitna was hurt during the second quarter against Arizona. He rallied the Cowboys from an 11-point deficit to a late lead, only to see the defense blow it in the final seconds. He completed 11 of 17 passes and didn't have any turnovers.

His biggest concern was not fumbling his first snap. The more he played, the better he felt. To appreciate how much of a step up in competition this was, he hadn't played a game that counted since he was at Texas A & M, and he had never thrown to Jason Witten and Miles Austin.

He'd had only three series with the first-team offense, despite being the No. 2 guy the past 9 weeks.

"Being out there and playing, getting those snaps, those are priceless, a confidence boost," McGee said. "Hey, I've got that out of the way. I've taken snaps. I've played. There are a lot of plays from that game I can draw from and use this week to really focus on and get better."

Dallas added another quarterback yesterday, signing Chris Greisen to the practice squad. Greisen, 34, has never taken a snap in the NFL despite being Arizona's No. 3 quarterback from 1999-2001.

In other Cowboys news, team owner Jerry Jones said he has been refining his list of coaching candidates and it includes fewer than the 10 he interviewed in 2007 when he hired Wade Phillips. He said he has not contacted any. Garrett seems to be near the top of the list.


* San Francisco team president and CEO Jed York is turning to his uncle, former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., for advice on how to fix the underachieving franchise. DeBartolo will serve as a consultant in the process of finding a general manager, and York also plans to talk to Patriots president Jonathan Kraft about what works so well for New England. Only after a GM is in place will a new coach be hired, and there's no timetable.

Jim Tomsula will coach the 49ers for Sunday's finale against visiting Arizona. The promoted defensive-line coach took charge of the 5-10 team after the 49ers fired Mike Singletary late Sunday upon returning to team headquarters following a 25-17 loss at St. Louis that eliminated San Francisco from playoff contention. Also fired were pass-rush specialist coach Al Harris and inside linebackers coach Vantz Singletary, the former coach's nephew.

* Washington defensive lineman Joe Joseph was arrested on charges of driving under the influence early yesterday morning in Leesburg, Va., less than 24 hours after making his NFL debut in Jacksonville. Joseph was booked after deputies responded to a report of a single-vehicle accident shortly after midnight. Joseph and the Redskins had returned from Jacksonville following a 20-17 win.

* Pete Carroll says the Seattle Seahawks are moving forward with Charlie Whitehurst as their starting quarterback for their division title-deciding matchup with St. Louis on Sunday, but the coach is leaving open the possibility of Matt Hasselbeck playing. Hasselbeck underwent an MRI yesterday for an unspecified injury to his hip/lower back area.

* Chicago long snapper Patrick Mannelly and defensive tackle Matt Toeaina agreed to multiyear contract extensions.

* Former Miami Dolphins tackle Eric Laakso, a member of two Super Bowl teams in the 1980s, died at 54. Laakso, who had battled heart disease, was found dead at his home Saturday, the Broward Medical Examiner's Office said.