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Japan Player in 1st Cowboy Workout

July 28, 2000

WICHITA FALLS, Texas (AP) _ Masufumi Kawaguchi wants more than a feel-good appearance in his homeland for the Dallas Cowboys. The linebacker from Japan wants to get noticed by the NFL, even though he knows how difficult it could be.

``That’s why I came here,″ Kawaguchi, 27, said Thursday after his first workout with the Cowboys. ``If I get beat up so bad here, then I will realize I must retire, but not right now.″

Kawaguchi and receiver Masato Itai, two Japanese players who have played in NFL Europe, both have joined the Cowboys for what is supposed to be only a one-game stint.

The two will be in uniform, and could play, when the Cowboys take on Atlanta in the American Bowl in Tokyo on Aug. 5. Their appearance on the roster is part of the deal for the overseas game, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.

At 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, Kawaguchi isn’t a prototype linebacker, but wants at least a chance to make an NFL practice squad after four years with the Admirals in NFL Europe. He knows he might have to make his impression on special teams.

``Maybe I’ve never played football that much intense which I will be on game day if they put me on special teams,″ Kawaguchi said. ``It would be a lot better if they put me in as linebacker. If they put me in on a kickoff, I will play real hard.″

This will actually be Kawaguchi’s second NFL game. He played for the Green Bay Packers against Kansas City in the 1998 American Bowl.

Itai was the first Japanese player to catch a touchdown pass in NFL Europe when he caught a 12-yard TD pass from Admirals quarterback Jim Kubiak in week 9 of the 2000 season. On Thursday, he was taking passes from Troy Aikman and Randall Cunningham.

``It was a very good experience. The only difference is the speed. I missed some balls,″ said the 29-year-old Itai, whose goal is to have a catch in the American Bowl.

Cowboys coach Dave Campo said the two players have distinguished themselves in NFL Europe. But to what extent they will play for the Cowboys in the American Bowl can’t yet be determined.

``It’s a little difficult from the standpoint of not having a lot of practice time, the number of snaps they get is difficult,″ Campo said. ``We’ll try to get them used to a couple of things they feel comfortable with, like routes that the receiver would feel comfortable with.″

This is not the first time the Cowboys have added an international player for a specific game.

``One year when we played in Mexico we had a Mexican player play with us, a receiver,″ Jones said. ``This is good. There is a pretty active American football participation in Japan.″

Notes: The Cowboys only practiced once Thursday, and cut the scheduled two-hour practice several minutes short. That is the result of a fast tempo evident throughout camp so far. ``We want to give them the feeling that we are a speed team and we want to do things in a fast way,″ coach Dave Campo said. ... RB Emmitt Smith (strained left big toe), DB George Teague (strained glute) and TE David LaFleur (strained groin) were held out of practice again Thursday. ... The Cowboys will honor the late coach Tom Landry this season by wearing an image of his famous fedora hat on their jerseys. ``We thought it would be very appropriate. He didn’t need a name, he didn’t need any initials. The hat says it all,″ Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.

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