Dallas Cowboys coaches and officials are planning for next season as if inside linebacker Dat Nguyen, limited to eight games in 2005 because of a neck injury, is still planning to not be a part of it.
Owner Jerry Jones reiterated at practices for this weekend's Senior Bowl college all-star game that Nguyen, who finished the 2005 season on injured reserve, will retire. Nguyen is expected to make his retirement official sometime after Super Bowl XL. Cowboys coach Bill Parcells first broached the subject of Nguyen's retirement in November.
"Nothing has changed with [Nguyen's] situation," Jones said.
A seven-year veteran, Nguyen, 30, led the Cowboys in tackles in 2001, 2003 and 2004. His career-best 172 tackles in 2001 represent the third-best single-season total in club history and, Nguyen averaged 132 tackles 2001-2004, despite playing just eight games in 2002 because of a broken wrist.
Nguyen started the first four games in 2005, then suffered a neck injury that sidelined him for three games. He returned to the field as a backup for four more contests. His final appearance came in the Thanksgiving Day overtime loss to the Denver Broncos, after which he met with Parcells and acknowledged he might retire, given that the neck injury prevented him from playing up to his usual standards.
The Cowboys then placed Nguyen, who had 31 tackles and a sack in eight appearances, on injured reserve for the balance of the 2005 season.
A third-round pick in 1999, and a onetime Texas A&M star, Nguyen had 657 tackles, six sacks, seven interceptions and 27 passes defensed in 90 games and 65 starts. One of the few men of Vietnamese ancestry to ever play in the NFL, he overcame questions about his size and mobility to be one of the NFL's top run defenders during his league tenure.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.