Going into the home opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Dallas Cowboys had seven injured players from the active roster during practice at Valley Ranch on Wednesday. Phil Costa, Jay Ratliff, Gerald Sensabaugh, Matt Johnson, Marcus Spears, Kenyon Coleman, and Alex Albright all did not participate or were very limited. Also, Sean Lee was listed as a limited participant with a hip injury, which is not expected to keep him out of the game. He seems to have suffered no ill effects from the helmet-first hit delivered by Seattle receiver Golden Tate, who has now been fined $21,000, according to reports, for the blow the referees did not notice during the game.
With the team needing to get the ugly, dead animal bad taste out of their mouth following the debacle against the Seattle Seahawks, the coaches are trying to sort out how to cover the impact of the injuries.
The biggest issue at this time is the trio of defensive linemen, Ratliff, Spears and Coleman. This only leaves four healthy linemen: Jason Hatcher, Josh Brent, Sean Lissemore, and rookie Tyrone Crawford. Ratliff was still working on rehab, and stretched with the team, but did not practice in pads, Given the situation, it would seem that he would get a chance to be active for the game if he is at all able to go, but the team continues to be very cautious with him.
Of the other injured linemen, Coleman looks to be the most doubtful to come back. He was seen with crutches and a knee wrap earlier in the week. There has been no update on Spears' ankle.
More on the owies and boo-boos after the jump.
Even if some of the dinged up linemen do make it back onto the field this week, it is certain that Crawford is going to be playing a bigger role, according to Jason Garrett.
"He's growing, and he's learning a lot, and you can really see his development on a daily basis, and so you really multiply that when you're talking about playing a game against the opponents he's working against this early in his career," Garrett said. "He played more in the Seattle game than he did against the Giants, and we anticipate him getting more snaps as we go on here."
However, the team is going to need some of the injured D-line players back, and fast. Tampa Bay has taken steps to upgrade their running game with the addition of rookie Doug Martin, who was a player Dallas was interested in as well. He has totaled 161 yards in his first two NFL games, and a 5.7 yards per rush average. After the way Seattle and Marshawn Lynch controlled the game in the second half, the Cowboys cannot afford to let their defensive front get worn down. They badly need more than four healthy, or at least capable, linemen for the game.
After the defensive line, the safety position is the one of greatest concern. Sensabaugh was wearing a boot after the Seattle game, but Garrett stated that his status for the next game is not certain yet. And there was some positive news regarding him and Barry Church.
Starting free safety Gerald Sensabugh is out of his boot, but his calf injury has not healed enough for him to practice. He could miss Sunday's game.
The good news, though, is strong safety Barry Church did make it through all of Wednesday's practice, including special teams, despite having a quad contusion.
The team has some options for filling in at safety. Mario Butler has practiced at safety, and Mike Jenkins, now that he is back, has been mentioned also. After all the doubt some here had about his dedication (mea culpa), he does sound like maybe we were a bit hasty in our judgement.
Mike Jenkins on possibly working at safety: "I’m just a DB right now. I’m just a DB. Whatever it is, in all honesty. I played it all before"— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 19, 2012
The team also continues to wait on Matt Johnson to recover from his nagging injury, which would be welcome news. He is just as frustrated by it all as anyone.
"I've had tweaks in the past where they'd go away in a day," Johnson said. "That's what's really frustrating. That's what we're trying to figure out why it's happening."
"We're looking at everything," Johnson said. "Just past history, what I'm doing, what I'm eating, my daily diet, when I'm stretching if I shouldn't stretching, doing enough stretching, yoga. Just everything to see what's going on."
Otherwise, the injuries seem to be manageable. Ryan Cook has led many to expect that Phil Costa will be in a backup role when and if he recovers from his back problem. And Albright is primarily a special teams player. He is valuable, but the fact that Kyle Wilber is not being listed in the reports might indicate that he is ready to step in and play this week, which could offset Albright's potential absence.
This is now the likely pattern for the rest of the season, as the team tries to get injured people back as others suffer the inevitable damage of being an NFL player. We will be trying to keep you all up to date as changes happen.