Saturday, August 14, 2004

Henson's back where NFL career started

By Mark Babineck
The Associated Press

HOUSTON - Drew Henson is returning to the place where his pro football career started, however fleeting that might have been.

It was six months ago that Henson gave up on his sputtering baseball stint with the New York Yankees and resumed his career as a quarterback. With the Texans holding his rights from the 2003 draft, he showed his wares in a public audition Feb. 12 across the street from Reliant Stadium.

The Dallas Cowboys won the sweepstakes, trading a third-round pick in 2005 for Henson. Now he is set to make his professional debut Saturday back in Houston, when the two teams kick off their preseason.

"That is ironic," said Henson, who threw a touchdown pass on his first attempt in an intrasquad scrimmage last weekend. "It will be nice. They did a lot for me helping me get here, and I do appreciate that. It will be nice to go there."

Henson and Texans general manager Charley Casserly saw it as a symbiotic deal: Henson got his pick of NFL suitors, unheard of for young players, while Houston moved up three rounds from the selection they used on him.

The game will mark Henson's first live action since the 2001 Citrus Bowl. Back then, the Michigan junior was primed to have a big senior season, and his name was mentioned as a possible No. 1 overall choice in the 2002 draft, which would have gone to the Texans.

Instead, Henson signed a $12 million deal to be the Yankees' third baseman of the future, and Houston chose David Carr as its quarterback of the future.

Only one of those commitments panned out.

"The fans love this game and I love this game, because I was a fan of the 'Boys growing up," said Carr, who celebrated his first regular-season NFL game two years ago with a stunning 19-10 upset of the Cowboys on national television.

Needless to say, Carr no longer is attached to the silver and blue.

"That was awesome," he said. "If I stopped playing right now, that's the thing I would remember the most about the first couple of years - playing those guys and beating them. It was the first win in franchise history and my first start. It was sweet."

Carr, now firmly established after two seasons, will play just a series or two since coach Dom Capers wants to give backups Tony Banks and Dave Ragone plenty of snaps.

Similarly, veteran Vinny Testaverde is the Dallas starter after the surprise release of incumbent Quincy Carter earlier this month. Coach Bill Parcells' task will be getting action for backups Henson and Tony Romo, because neither has played a regular-season game.

"Without Quincy being here, I know Vinny is going to have to play, so I'm going to do what I think is necessary for him," Parcells said. "He's going to get some work. It's a good situation for us. Playing three quarterbacks in the first couple of games is a good thing to do. Now I don't have any choice."

Three high draft picks also will share the spotlight Saturday. Cornerback Dunta Robinson and outside linebacker Jason Babin, the Texans' first-rounders, will get their first chance under the lights to show they belong with the first unit.

Ditto for Cowboys running back Julius Jones, selected in the second round out of Notre Dame.

"That's my first game," he said. "All of the practice we've been doing, I finally get to put it to some use and go out there and play my first game, get out there and see how it goes."

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Henson's back where NFL career started
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