With the regular season finally right around the corner, it’s no secret the Dallas Cowboys have been battling injuries across the board.
I’m pretty sure you may have gotten wind by now that Pro-Bowler Miles Austin hasn’t played a snap yet this preseason with a hamstring injury.
While emerging superstar Dez Bryant has suffered another setback, albeit minor, thanks to a slight aggravation in his right knee.
But let’s not focus solely on the big-name players, such as Austin, Bryant, and Witten, and forget about the rest of the players ailing as well.
Here’s a rundown of key injuries and status updates:
WR Dez Bryant: Dez Bryant suffered an injury to his right knee on August 20th when he slipped coming out of a break in practice against the San Diego Chargers.
Cowboys nation held their breath. MRI’s revealed no major injury; instead Bryant was diagnosed with patellar tendinitis. Bryant was held out of the Cowboys' final two preseason games, as well as practice, mostly for precautionary measures as well as to allow the receiver time to rest and recover.
Bryant is listed as probable to play in the season opener against the New York Giants, September 5th.
WR Miles Austin: Austin authoritatively announced that he has “no doubt” that he will be ready to go and play in the season opener. Austin suffered a hamstring injury early this summer and hasn’t taken a single snap in preseason as of yet.
Hamstrings are becoming a recurring theme for the Pro-Bowler, and it is important that he returns to the field healthy to reestablish the rapport that he and quarterback Tony Romo had three seasons ago.
RB Lance Dunbar: Fighting for a roster spot is never easy, especially when you suffer a hamstring injury early in training camp and don’t have an opportunity to play. Lance Dunbar returned last night from this scenario to rush for 105 yards on 15 carries, including an impressive 58-yard run after breaking tackles and spinning free at the line of scrimmage that ended in a touchdown.
RB Phillip Tanner: Tanner suffered a broken hand earlier this month and was sidelined until last night as well. Tanner, the incumbent third running back behind DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones, carried nine times for 48 yards against Miami.
The Cowboys suddenly seem to have found themselves with plenty of depth at the running back position, a luxury that’s always great to have, except when you’re dealing with roster cuts.
CB Mike Jenkins: Cornerback Mike Jenkins, the subject of trade rumors all offseason, has been sidelined since his shoulder surgery last summer. There has been speculation as to his availability for the opener, and although nothing is decided as of yet, Jenkins has been cleared to practice as of Wednesday night.
The NFL imposes a three-day wait period, so the earliest Jenkins would be able to practice is Saturday. Jenkins status remains uncertain for September 5th. What is certain is that Jenkins is ready to return and contribute to the Cowboys secondary, which is expected to be much improved.
TE Jason Witten: All-Pro tight end Jason Witten suffered a lacerated spleen in the first preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. The good news is that the injury does not need surgery, which would have cost Witten the entire season. Witten is currently listed as a game-time decision after being evaluated on Tuesday.
C Phil Costa: Center Phil Costa finally saw his first action since injuring his back on August 10th. Costa was the only starter to play in last night’s game, snapping the ball to backup quarterback Steven McGee on 12 snaps.
Head coach Jason Garrett stated that Costa looked comfortable, which is a good sign for what could easily be argued as the Cowboys' biggest weakness coming into this season, the offensive line.
Which brings me to…
Offensive Line: Rather than list the remaining four players individually, we can just review the line as a whole. After shuffling around and playing guys all the way to the fourth-stringers, the offensive line of Smith, Livings, Costa, Bernadeu, and Free are all back and will have their first practice as a group on Saturday.
Chemistry is huge on the offensive line, and although they will have to develop it on the fly, it’s good to know they are all back and healthy.
FS Danny McCray: Backup free safety Danny McCray suffered a shoulder stinger and is being held out for precautionary reasons. Expected to play a crucial role behind starter Gerald Sensabaugh, McCray provides valuable depth and states he feels fine and is expected to play against New York.
NT Jay Ratliff: Ratliff suffered a high-ankle sprain last week against the San Diego Chargers. As of Tuesday he remained on crutches, making it seem unlikely he will be ready to go next Wednesday, however, he is currently listed as questionable.
At this point it appears the Cowboys will have the majority of their starters back in time for the season opener against the New York Giants. It is unclear how much impact the lack of preseason work will have on the players and the collective team.
None of that matters anymore, it’s time to lace up and take the field!