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December 13, 2012

Callahan says Parnell has rare ability to play both left and right tackle, and rotation with Free will continue

Offensive line coach Bill Callahan said backup Jermey Parnell has a rare ability to play both right tackle and left tackle.

“Usually, you come into the NFL and you’re either a right tackle or you’re a left tackle,” Callahan said Thursday at Valley Ranch. “But he’s certainly capable of playing both, and he’s done well. And every game that he gets on the field and every time he steps on the field, that experience is invaluable. To his credit, he continues to improve. He’s going to get better.”

The Cowboys alternated Parnell with starter Doug Free at right tackle in last week’s game at Cincinnati. The team went with Free down the stretch, and he finished with 58 snaps to Parnell’s 15. On Thanksgiving, Parnell played the entire game at left tackle in place of Tyron Smith, who had an ankle injury.

Parnell and Free are splitting reps at practice, and the rotation plan will continue.

“I think it was a good game for Doug, and obviously Parnell continues to get better,” Callahan said. “So I think we’ve got great competition at that spot. That will continue this week, and we’ll let it play out from there. But during the game, we just had a sense of where we were later in the game and we made the decision to stay with Doug and ride out the remainder of the game. So be it. We had a lot of success that way.”

Callahan said he told Free about the rotation plan on Tuesday of game week.

“I don’t throw any curveballs at them. I let them know exactly what the situation is,” he said.

Callahan said he is still high on Free, but that improvement was needed at that spot. Free has allowed seven sacks and has five holds. Parnell has allowed two sacks and has a hold in limited playing time.

“No one loves Doug Free more than I do,” Callahan said. “I think he’s a consummate pro. Every day he comes to work. He’s the first in. He’s the last out. He’s great for the room. He provides great leadership and example in our room. He studies as well as any pro I’ve ever been around. He’s well-prepared, well-versed. He has the answers to the questions before I even finish the sentence.

“Again, it’s tough. But again, we’re doing the best thing in terms of what we need for our club and for our ball team. So these are tough decisions, but I think it helps everybody. I think it provides a little more competition, and you get a little bit more heightened awareness at your spot. I think he’ll tell you we’ve got to get better and we’ve got to have a little more production from that side. So we’re just trying to improve it any way we can. To his credit, he’s stepped up and played well.”

-- Carlos Mendez

Twitter @calexmendez

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