IRVING, Texas - Dean Hamel finished getting taped for his
first practice as a Dallas Cowboy Wednesday and walked the
100 feet or so to his cubicle in one wing of the locker
More than 1,000 miles away were the reasons he had been
traded from the Washington Redskins. There were the bruised
feelings with coach Joe Gibbs and the battered closet door in
Gibbs' office to prove it; there were the lawyers trying to straighten
out a $75,000 lawsuit with a Virginia woman he allegedly
punched three years ago; there were the emotions associated
with his wife Dianne's recurrence of thyroid cancer.
All of that, plus the emergence of third-round pick Tracy
Rocker, contributed to the 6-foot-3, 285-pound defensive
tackle's decision to walk out of the Redskins' camp Aug.
7 and, ultimately, his trade - a trade that nearly was made
five days ago but was nixed when Gibbs feared trading with
an NFC East rival.
"You could come back and haunt us, they told me," said
the 28-year-old Hamel, a former University of Tulsa player.
"(Gibbs) talked to me personally and said this: `I don't
want to see you across the line from us. I don't want to
see you on kickoffs nailing our returners. I don't want
to try to find someone to block you on kickoffs.'
"I just took it like it ain't going to happen. I felt like
I'd wind up in Buffalo or Detroit."
Tuesday morning, Hamel awoke to learn he had been traded
to the Cowboys for a mid-round 1990 draft pick. The Cowboys
hope Hamel can help at a position that has been marked by
injury, inexperience and uncertainty.
With Randy White retired and Mark Walen out for the season
with a knee injury, the Cowboys are desperate to find someone
to play next to right tackle Danny Noonan. Current starter
Willie Broughton had five tackles against Denver while his
competition, Dan Sileo and Rhondy Weston, combined for one
Sileo and Weston since have been released and the Cowboys
have traded for Hamel and sixth-year pro Chuck Ehin, acquired
from Indianapolis last week.
Hamel is an intriguing acquisition. Despite his size, he
has been effective on kickoff coverage units for the Redskins
and was expected to replace retired Dave Butz this year.
Nicknamed "The Tasmanian Devil" for his aggressive play,
Hamel has been a good pass rusher (two sacks in '88) and
a big-play man (made a key tackle in the 1987 NFC championship
game with the Vikings at the Redskins' two-yard line).
However, he's not strong against the run - where the Cowboys
have proven exceptionally vulnerable this summer, allowing
an average of 125.0 yards a game - and his production has
declined since making 63 tackles and six sacks as a rookie
12th-round pick in '85.
"I haven't practiced in 2 1/2 weeks so I'll be a little rusty,"
Hamel said. "I'm just going to fly around and make plays.
That's the only way I know how to play."
Coach Jimmy Johnson said he plans to keep three tackles
and a total of six or seven defensive linemen. Ends should
be able to play tackle, Johnson said, but added he has no
plans to try either Jim Jeffcoat or Ed Jones at tackle.
The Cowboys on Thursday claimed fifth-year linebacker Jack
Del Rio on waivers from the Kansas City Chiefs.
A third-round draft choice of the New Orleans Saints in
1985, he played two seasons with the Saints but was traded
to the Chiefs in 1987 for a fifth-round draft choice. Del
Rio started 10 games for Kansas City last season. . .
In other development, the Cowboys announced they have reached
an injury settlement with Todd Fowler, clearing the way
for the Cowboys to waive the veteran fullback. Fowler, slowed
by a badly pulled hamstring, did not carry the ball during
the exhibition season and was not a factor in the Cowboys'
Because NFL rules prohibit the release of injured players,
the Cowboys would have had to put Fowler on injured reserve
to prevent him from counting against the roster limit. Instead,
they chose to buy out his contract.