Sunday’s game at Arizona, Dec. 4, will be just shy of one month since Miles Austin injured his hamstring against Seattle, Nov. 6, and the hope is it will have been enough down time to get himself right.
Already this season Austin got a similar length rest – hurting his other hammy in San Francisco on Sept. 18, then returning at New England on Oct. 16. That same leg had been injured in training camp.
Austin did not work out on Monday, but cornerback Mike Jenkins, who was hurt against Seattle as well, was back on the field at Valley Ranch. With the stretch run approaching, the Cowboys are hoping Austin, plus any and all of their other injured players, will be ready to return as soon as possible, perhaps even this week.
"We have to see how those guys progress as the week goes on," Jason Garrett said. "We will have a full practice on Wednesday and see what their role is in that based on the work they do tomorrow. And again, we are hopeful they will be active participants and be ready to go on Sunday. We don’t know that yet."
Already this season one of the Cowboys’ opening day starters has been Wally Pipp’d by a newcomer, DeMarco Murray taking Felix Jones’ job. At receiver, Laurent Robinson has used Austin’s absence as an opportunity to show he deserves a role of some kind.
Given the impressive roll Robinson is on of late, plus the Cowboys’ win streak and Austin’s trouble staying healthy this year, the team will have to consider the wide receiver rotation whenever Austin returns. But they aren’t crossing that bridge just yet.
"The biggest thing with Miles is evaluating his health and what he is able to do in practice leading up to the game," Garrett said. "He is one of the best players we have, and has been for the last few years, so we want to get him back going as quickly as we can. But we have to monitor how he is doing, how he is feeling and how he is practicing to be ready for a role in the game."
Ron T. Ennis/Star-Telegram
The 2011 Dallas Cowboys move into first place in the NFC East.
A perfect Thanksgiving weekend wrapped up in grand fashion for the streaking Cowboys Monday night when the Saints blasted the Giants, leaving the Cowboys all alone atop the NFC East standings.
The Cowboys (7-4) have won four straight games and are now a full game ahead of a reeling Giants team (6-5), now losers of three straight.
Add that to losses by the NFC East rival Eagles and the Chicago Bears, who would be a competitor for the wild card playoff spot if somehow the Cowboys didn’t win the division.
But the wild card option could soon be moot for a Cowboys team that controls its on destiny in the NFC East and now has a seemingly friendly December path awaiting them.
The Cowboys play at 4-7 Cardinals on Sunday. The Giants host the undefeated Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers come off 10 days rest.
They could be riding a four-game losing streak and trailing by two games in the division when they come to Dallas for the much anticipated showdown on Dec. 11.
If the Cowboys get by the Giants, they then play at the 4-7 Buccaneers who are now riding a five game losing streak before meeting the 4-7 Eagles who look nothing like the team that beat the Cowboys 34-7 in Oct.
They would then end the season against a Giants team with possibly nothing to play for if they don’t find a way to beat the Cowboys Dec. 11.
That showdown at Cowboys Stadium will determine it all.
But the Giants have a tough closing schedule with a game against a playoff contending Jets team in addition to the Packers and Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys’ punt-coverage unit will face its severest test of the season in Sunday’s game at Arizona.
Cardinals rookie Patrick Peterson on Sunday became the first player in NFL history to have four punt returns of 80-plus yards for touchdowns in a single season. Two of the scoring returns came against dreadful St. Louis, which for unknown reasons punted down the center of the field rather than attempting to pin Peterson against a sideline or kick the ball out of bounds. Peterson told reporters after the win that he was “actually, very surprised” that the Rams kicked to him.
To put Peterson’s accomplishment into perspective, he has had 31 returns overall this season. Chicago’s Devin Hester, considered the top returner of at least the last generation, has five punt returns of 80-plus yards for scores in 197 career returns.
The Cowboys rank 21st in the league for punt-returns against, with an average of 11.3 yards. The figure was inflated when Washington had 87 yards on two returns against the Cowboys on Nov. 20.