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DALLAS — Cowboys owner Jerry Jones might not have the NFC team he originally hoped would be playing in the Super Bowl, but the game between the Packers and Steelers on Sunday could still bring some form of good news.
Jones said he thinks Super Bowl XLV could draw a record crowd at Cowboys Stadium. The current attendance mark for a Super Bowl is 103,667 for Super Bowl XVII when the Redskins beat the Dolphins at the Rose Bowl.
"I think we can get to the NFL record without having to count that outside," Jones said on Tuesday. "If you count that outside, you might get to 108,000."
The stadium has 95,000 seats, plus 5,000 standing-room tickets sold for the outside plaza and luxury suite attendance, which accounts for at least 30 fans per box.
Cowboys Stadium already holds the NFL attendance record for a regular-season game. The Cowboys drew 105,121 in the opening game of Jones' $1.2 billion stadium — which has prompted several "Jerry World" comments throughout the week — when they lost to the Giants in the 2009 opener.
Jones said the stadium can hold up to 111,000 fans safely.
His original intent, of course, in both building the stadium and hosting the event was to have the Cowboys playing in it. But Jones said he admitted that pipe dream was not going to happen as long ago as the owners' meetings in Chicago in October, after his team began the season 1-5. Soon after, head coach Wade Phillips was fired, and though the team finished stronger, the Cowboys ended the season at 6-10 and out of the playoffs.
When asked if the Cowboys needed to win a Super Bowl soon to remain one of the elite franchises, which former Cowboys QB Troy Aikman had said earlier, Jones agreed.
"Yeah, I can (agree with that)," he said. "I think that certainly motivates me. It helped us to stay elite when we won the three (Super Bowls in four years). So you need to win. There's one thing that is important; stadiums aren't important. It's winning a Super Bowl."
Pouring salt into the Cowboys' wounds is the fact that the Steelers — the Cowboys' arch Super Bowl rivals in the 1970s — are playing in this game instead. Jones bought the team in 1989, however, and is 1-0 in Super Bowls against the Steelers.
"I'm not as mad about Pittsburgh, because we beat them in the Super Bowl (XXX in January 1996)," Jones said. "I'm really not as mad. I know some other fans are. Roger (Staubach) is madder at them than I am, and (he) should be."
Jones touched on a wide range of other issues, including:
- The league's labor crisis. Jones often says things he shouldn't or that he later regrets, but for those looking for a ray of light in the disagreements between the owners and the players' union, Jones might have hinted at some posturing by the owners. "A good friend of mine once said to me, 'It's important to get tired,' " Jones said, talking about the two sides' differences. When asked if there was a way to artificially create a sense of urgency with a rapidly approaching deadline for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Jones said: "It has to be real." Although it wasn't explicitly clear what he meant, many believed Jones meant the threat of a lockout had to be real in order for the owners to get what they want in the negotiations. But Jones also said that artificial deadlines might not be enough to get a deal done and that the focus of everyone should be: "Are we going to be playing football in the fall?"
- An 18-game season. Jones said fans would "prefer not to have two preseason games." This appeared to be a way to say he supported playing an 18-game regular season without actually saying it. But then, when asked what his preference would be, Jones said — after a long pause: "I think I am for ... 18 games, and I think we can get our teams prepared with two preseason games."
- The Cowboys' coaching staff. The team currently has two vacancies on the staff: a defensive line coach and wide receivers coach. When asked how long it might take to fill those positions, Jones said: "No timetable. (I am) not concerned at all."