IRVING, Texas (AP) -Dallas Cowboys linebacker Greg Ellis didn't sound very optimistic about his chances of finally playing. That was before he practiced for the second straight day Thursday.
``I think you need to talk to him again,'' coach Wade Phillips said after the two-hour session. ``He practiced and he seemed to be confident after practice. ... He practiced more.''
Phillips said it was ``probably 50-50'' that Ellis would play Sunday for the Cowboys (3-0) against the St. Louis Rams (0-3). Ellis hasn't played since he ruptured his left Achilles' tendon in a game in November.
Ellis wasn't available after practice, but didn't sound as confident about playing when he talked in the locker room beforehand.
``I know it's not there right now,'' Ellis said. ``I can do nothing without getting some pain.''
Cornerback Terence Newman was limited again in practice, but Phillips said it wasn't because of the heel problem that forced Newman to miss the first two games. Phillips said Thursday that Newman is now bothered by tendinitis in his knee.
``His foot's a lot better. That's the good news,'' Phillips said. ``He does have some tendinitis, and that's what is holding him back more than anything. I think we got pretty close to getting the foot OK, and then he's come up with his knee bothering him a little bit.''
On Wednesday, Ellis went through his most extensive practice since getting hurt.
Ellis said he felt some pain Thursday, but it wasn't unbearable like when he tried to return for the start of training camp in July. He really wants to play, but wants to make sure he's ready.
``The hard thing, you've got to be smart. You want to get out there, especially when your team is doing real good,'' Ellis said. ``The older you get, the more wisdom comes in, and has to factor in your decision-making.''
Ellis hasn't had any big setbacks since returning to workouts two weeks ago. He went through team drills for the first time Friday.
What about playing Sunday?
``I don't rule it out, I don't rule it in,'' he said before practice. ``I can say I'm making progress, definitely. ... You get to see why people say it's kind of a year deal from the time when I was first having problems in training camp to right now. It's a huge difference. Still, it's not all the way back.''
Ellis is the longest-tenured Cowboy, in his 10th season since the team drafted him eighth overall in 1998. The 32-year-old Ellis started 130 of 133 games before getting hurt and missing the final seven games last season.
Newman, who started all 64 games his first four seasons, made his season debut playing in nickel situations for the Cowboys in their 34-10 victory over Chicago on Sunday. He's likely to be in that role again Sunday.

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