N.F.L. H A W A I I A N S

Tuinei ready to test
his injured knee

May return to practice Thursday

Star-Bulletin wire services

IRVING, Texas - Dallas Cowboys left tackle Mark Tuinei was in a brace, but on the field. Center Ray Donaldson was on the field, but not in pads. Guard Larry Allen was in pads, and back at his usual position after a foray into the unknown territory at tackle.

The Cowboys' potential starting offensive linemen were all over the place yesterday. Maybe by Thursday they will be back together.

That is the day Tuinei, the former Hawaii star, said he is most likely to return to practice, although he did not rule out the possibility of an appearance tomorrow. Tuinei has not practiced since spraining his right knee Aug.12 in the Cowboys' third preseason game.

He hopes to play Monday night when the Cowboys open the regular season against the Chicago Bears.

"I'm real optimistic," Tuinei said yesterday. "Monday night will put it at three weeks. That's pretty good time for it. I'll probably know more after Thursday and Friday, after someone is coming at me and I try to move him.

"I feel good walking around and jogging on it. Now, it's just a matter of going out and testing it at the end of the week and pushing on somebody. That's the last test I have to give it."

Tuinei's reappearance would solve one of the Cowboys' problems on the offensive line: It would reunite the five Pro Bowlers who constitute one of the best offensive lines in football.


Former University of Hawaii wide receiver Darrick Branch was picked up by the Denver Broncos yesterday and placed on the developmental squad.

"They liked the way he returns kicks," said Branch's agent, John Wilbur. "He could be added to the active roster as soon as this week."

Branch was originally drafted by Tampa Bay in 1993. He also was cut by Buffalo and most recently by the San Francisco 49ers, due in part to back spasms.

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