Troy Aikman doesn't want Emmitt Smith to play against the New York Giants in the Dallas Cowboys' regular-season finale if the running back is putting personal goals ahead of the team.
Smith, who pulled his left hamstring Monday night against New Orleans, wants to at least make a token appearance in Saturday's game at Giants Stadium just to keep alive his 82-game streak of not missing a game because of injury.Smith also comes into Saturday's game two touchdowns shy of John Riggins' NFL single-season record of 24, and that might be a tempting target.
But Aikman, in a telephone conference call with the New York-area media, was emphatic that the Cowboys' goal is to win a third straight Super Bowl and a healthy Smith is vital.
"I really don't know what his status is," Aikman said, when asked if he expected Smith to play this weekend. "I would hate to see him try to come back for any individual reasons, and put the team's future at risk going into the playoffs.
"Having said that I don't know how his hamstring is going to feel come game time," Aikman added.
Cowboys coach Barry Switzer again seemed to change his position on Smith's playing status. The first-year coach said Monday night that Smith probably would not play Saturday, but he indicated Tuesday Smith would have a say in whether he played.
Switzer said Wednesday that Smith was somewhat better but that the coaching staff will determine whether he plays.
"We're going to make that decision, not him," Switzer said. "Right today, he can't play. He is in the training room getting treated. We went out and did a walk through at 11 o'clock and he was not out there. We only have two days to prepare and two days to practice, and he's not going to be out there."
Switzer acknowledged that Smith has had miraculous recoveries, and has been able to play with tremendous pain. Last year, he played with a separated shoulder in the final game and led the Cowboys to a 16-13 overtime win that gave them the NFC East title
"This type of injury is different than the one he played the Giants with a year ago," Switzer said. "It affects the wheels and I don't see how he can be a factor in this game. I think he is very questionable and I don't see how he can play."
If Smith doesn't play, former Jet Blair Thomas will replace him and Lincoln Coleman will be his backup.
Some Giants still expect Smith to play.
"I know Emmitt," Giants linebacker Corey Miller said. "He's close to breaking John Riggins' record. My anticipation is he'll play, even if it's on the 1-yard line, he's going to come in there. The guy definitely makes that team click."