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Ellis’ absence might be linked to potential new role with Dallas Cowboys

IRVING -- Dallas Cowboys linebacker Greg Ellis was absent from organized team activity practice Wednesday.

He didn't give an explanation, saying only that "I'm in town," via a text message.

The Cowboys refused to offer a reason. Owner Jerry Jones and vice president Stephen Jones refused to comment specifically, while reiterating that the workouts are "voluntary."

But as linebacker Bradie James jokingly added, "It's the off-season, so you know Greg is upset about something."

This time Ellis has made no secret of his disappointment/distrust over how it seems the Cowboys are planning to use him in 2008.

His repetitions in practice have been limited in an attempt by the Cowboys to get 2007 first-round pick Anthony Spencer more work and to extend Ellis' career.

The Cowboys have informed Ellis that they would like to make him a pass-rush specialist and use Spencer on first and second down.

From the Cowboys' point of view, it's an effort to get the maximum out of every player in what they hope is a run to the Super Bowl in 2008.

Ellis, however, doesn't trust the Cowboys' motives and thinks something bigger is at work.

Ellis is coming off the best season of his career and had hoped to build on it in 2008. He had a career-high 12.5 sacks in 2007 and was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time. He won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award after being sidelined in 2006 with a torn Achilles tendon.

For Ellis, it's the old adage of "just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they're not trying to get me."

For the past four years, Ellis has worried about his job security with the Cowboys. He wondered aloud when former head coach Bill Parcells moved from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense. Ellis said he was too small to play end in the 3-4 and figured the Cowboys were trying to move him out.

The next season he was moved to linebacker and questioned that move. He thought it was another way the Cowboys were trying to move him out.

And then last season the Cowboys drafted Spencer in the first round when Ellis was recovering from the torn Achilles tendon. Ellis figured it was another sign that the Cowboys were trying to replace him. Of course, Ellis not only had the best year of his 11-year career but he has admittedly thrived since moving to linebacker.

Yet, the merry-go-round continues this off-season.

Because he is due salaries of $3.3 million in 2008 and $4.1 million in 2009, he believes the Cowboys' increased use of Spencer means they want to do something with Ellis' salary.

Jerry Jones said there is no connection at all.

"I don't know anything about the football stuff or what they are trying to do with Greg," Jones said. "It's voluntary."

Spencer said he didn't know anything about Ellis being upset or about a possible change in the starting lineup.

He just knows the Cowboys plan on using him more.

"They are talking about more playing time, but we will see when the season starts," Spencer said.