No one is to blame for the lacerated spleen tight end Jason Witten suffered Monday night in the Dallas Cowboys’ first preseason game.
Not offensive tackle Doug Free. Not quarterback Tony Romo. And certainly not head coach Jason Garrett. So can we please stop searching for a scapegoat? One doesn’t exist.
Jason Witten was injured on the Cowboys’ sixth offensive play in the preseason opener.
Witten is the recipient of some awful luck. No more, no less.
By the way, there wasn’t a single tweet or Facebook post at the time Witten was hurt that blamed Free, Romo or Garrett after the play or all day Tuesday.
If you didn’t blame any of the play’s key participants at the time, there’s no need to cast aspersions now.
The best you can hope is that after being idle for 7-10 days, doctors will see that Witten’s injury is healing properly, and he won’t need any surgery.
The best case scenario says Witten will return in 3-4 weeks.
Just so you know, Witten, DeMarcus Ware and Brandon Carr are the most indispensable players on the roster because no one on the team comes close to duplicating their skill sets.
Witten, as tough as they come, has missed only one game in his NFL career, the result of breaking his jaw as a rookie, so you know the 10-year veteran will do everything humanly possible to be on the field for the opener against the New York Giants on Sept 5.
But Witten isn’t dealing with a broken bone or some other injury that will only test his pain threshold. This is a serious internal injury. The training staff won’t allow Witten to put himself in jeopardy.
In the meantime, maybe owner Jerry Jones can appease the Cowboys’ Nation by petitioning the NFL to forfeit the team’s last three preseason games because it has an injury-ravaged offensive line and fans don’t want to see any more key players hurt.
There’s no sympathy in Cincinnati, which lost four starters in its first preseason game.
Trying to assign blame for a random play is a waste of time.
Seriously, you should have read some of the absurdities on my Twitter timeline Wednesday.
Some folks want to blame Free because he missed the block that resulted in heavy pressure from defensive end Lamarr Houston. The pressure screwed up the play’s timing and that’s how linebacker Rolando McClain positioned himself to deliver a big hit on Witten for a two-yard loss.
This isn’t former fullback Chris Gronkowski making a mental mistake and failing to pick up a blitzing inside linebacker that resulted in Romo’s broken collarbone in 2010.
This was a poorly executed block, but Romo escaped and Houston had nothing to do with Witten getting hurt.
If you want to criticize Free for his overall lackluster play since signing a four-year, $32 million deal before last season, then please do so. One, however, has nothing to do with the other.
Then there’s the faction that wants to blame Romo for throwing the ball to Witten. Romo should’ve thrown the ball away, they proclaim.
Only in Dallas-Fort Worth can a quarterback make a tremendously athletic play to avoid a sack and complete a pass, yet get criticized.
Romo had less than a split second to make a decision to throw Witten the ball. If he knew the completion was going to result in Witten getting hurt, obviously he would’ve made a different decision.
Then again, Nostradamus died in 1566, though you can still pick up a copy of his book, Les Propheties, on Amazon for less than $20. Perhaps, there’s a mention of Monday’s play in the book?
And no, you can’t blame Garrett for Witten’s injury either.
Garrett wanted his starters to play 8-12 plays, and Witten was injured on the sixth play. He left the game immediately, but returned for the offense’s third series because he probably figured he was just in pain — not injured.
We’re talking about a dude who once ran nearly 50 yards without a helmet after making a catch against Philadelphia in 2007.
On the next possession, Witten capably blocked a defensive end on first down, was the intended receiver on a second-down incompletion and caught an eight-yard pass on third down.
The NFL is a tough, physical game in which mangled digits and broken bones are accepted parts of the game. You can’t place the best players in bubble wrap. Or glue styrofoam peanuts to their bodies.
There’s no blame to be assigned. Fans should simply be thankful Witten won’t be lost for the season.
Commentary: Jean-Jacques Taylor
OXNARD, Calif. — Dallas Cowboys first-round pick Morris Claiborne, who missed the preseason opener with a sprained MCL, said Wednesday he expects to make his NFL debut on Saturday against the San Diego Chargers.
The cornerback wore a sleeve over his left knee as he practiced in full pads Wednesday with the first-team defense.
"I’m supposing to be playing this week," Claiborne said after Wednesday’s practice.
Claiborne said he’s not sure if he’ll start Saturday. Orlando Scandrick and Brandon Carr started the preseason opener at Oakland.
Claiborne missed the entire offseason as he recovered from wrist surgery. After he was cleared for training camp, he suffered the knee injury.
Claiborne returned to the practice field in a limited role late last week.
Team executive vice president Stephen Jones said last week on KRLD-FM that, "Mo Claiborne’s got to get out there. The times he’s been out there, it’s been impressive."
Claiborne said he had no problems with Jones’ comments.
"I understand where he’s coming from," Claiborne said Saturday. "Anytime you put that much money in somebody to go out and play, you want them out on the field playing. I understand exactly where he’s coming from."
OXNARD, Calif. – The Dallas Cowboys will have their final practice in Oxnard today. The team will have a walkthrough Friday before breaking camp and leaving for San Diego.
What to expect: The Cowboys are hoping to get more practice snaps for some players returning from injury, including safety Matt Johnson, who made his practice debut, albeit limited, Wednesday. Defensive end Jason Hatcher (hamstring) will also get more practice snaps after looking good in Wednesday’s practice. David Arkin will continue at center and get more snaps against the first- and second-team defenses. Harland Gunn will get second-team snaps, but don’t be surprised to see Pat McQuistan receive second-team snaps at center.
The weather: Let’s be honest: The hottest it’s been here was about 80 degrees last week. The weather is fantastic, averaging around 75 degrees for the full practices and a little cooler for the morning walkthroughs. No biggie. Oxnard is a perfect place to have practice — grass fields, fans on top of you along the sidelines and sunshine. Coach Jason Garrett is right: You’re not putting players in boiling water; you’re practicing under the sunshine of California.
James Hanna and John Phillips: The Big Two will see plenty of snaps at tight end the next few days with Jason Witten out for the remainder of preseason. Phillips is the starter, and Hanna will be the backup. The interesting deal about these two is Hanna is a better receiver than Phillips, but they each can improve on their blocking.
As if the Dallas Cowboys hadn’t been bitten enough by the injury bug, Wednesday was a big blow to the squad, as they learned not only that Jason Witten would be out for a few weeks with a lacerated spleen injury, but a rookie linebacker would be out for the year.
Seventh-round pick Caleb McSurdy tore his Achilles and will miss the entire season.
But the Dallas Cowboys did have some other notable injury news as well.
- Defensive end Jason Hatcher has been out a week with a hamstring injury but returned to practice Wednesday afternoon with full pads. He did participate in some of the drills and team work, but then went to the side field for extra conditioning during the 11-on-11 sessions.
- Jay Ratliff had his most extensive work during training camp. The Cowboys have been overly cautious with Ratliff, who is suffering from plantar fasciitis in his foot. Ratliff was able to get through the practice without seemingly any problems.
- Anthony Spencer (hamstring) and Miles Austin (hamstring) both participated in the morning walk-through. They were limited to just condition drills in the afternoon. Still, it seems likely they are getting close to practicing again. Their status for Saturday’s game in San Diego seems doubtful.
- Rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne (knee) was practicing for the second straight day in full pads. He has a good chance of playing Saturday against the Chargers.
- Rookie wide receiver Danny Coale did not practice in full pads Wednesday, after going in full on Tuesday. It’s not likely a setback but the Cowboys’ way of monitoring a young player as he rehabs from a broken foot injury.
- Safety Matt Johnson has yet to practice here in the afternoon practices. His hamstring injury hasn’t allowed him to get cleared, but he was in full pads running wind sprints on Wednesday.
- Linebacker Orie Lemon did not practice Wednesday because of a neck strain.
John Phillips suddenly finds himself atop the Dallas Cowboys’ depth chart at tight end, based on the spleen injury suffered by Pro Bowler Jason Witten.
But Phillips, who returned to drills Wednesday and projects to start the remainder of the team’s pre-season games while Witten recuperates, said he realizes he is just holding a spot until the seven-time Pro Bowler’s return, hopefully for the Sept. 5 opener against the New York Giants.
“You can’t replace a guy like Jason Witten. He’s a leader of this team, a leader of this offense,” said Phillips, who was sidelined last week with an ankle injury. “I’m not trying to replace him. He’ll be a leader from the sidelines and help us out in the film room … I’m sure he’ll be ready when the season comes around.”
Witten has missed only regular-season game because of injury in his Cowboys’ career. Phillips vowed to join others in helping take up the slack for as long as necessary.
“You’ve just got to step in,” Phillips said. “Next man up. That’s how we’re going to deal with it. Receivers, tight ends, fullbacks, whatever we’re going to do to make up for it. Obviously, him and Tony (Romo) have a good feel for each other and do a lot of things that can’t be taught.”
James Hanna, a rookie sixth-round pick from Oklahoma, harkened back to his sophomore year with the Sooners when standout Jermaine Gresham suffered a season-ending knee injury late in camp.
“I was thinking I was going to get a minimal opportunity and it turned out to be different than that,” said Hanna, who caught two passes for 15 yards against the Raiders and drew praise from coach Jason Garrett.
Witten’s injury created a “whirlwind” of activity Tuesday for tight end Harry Flaherty, who joined the roster Wednesday. Flaherty, a former Princeton player who is the nephew of coach Jason Garrett, said he got the word to join the Cowboys while eating lunch at his home in New Jersey. He was told he had 90 minutes to catch a flight to Oxnard, Calif.
“It was crazy,” said Flaherty, who arrived around midnight and missed the morning walkthrough.
Did he pack anything?
“Very little,” Flaherty said. “It was a whirlwind.”
RELATED: Jerry Jones said Witten obviously stayed in one play too long
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones doesn’t even want to consider possibility of injured tight end Jason Witten not being ready for the season opener.
Witten is out for the rest of the preseason with a lacerated spleen and could be sidelined for the Sept. 5 season opener against the Giants.
Jones, who said he held his breath when Witten took the blindside hit in the game, said his focus is on getting him healthy, not how long he will be out.
“I haven’t thought about it at all. We’re basically more interested in him resting this week and getting that thing healed back.I really don’t have any timeline. All I know is he’s going to be out here for a few days while that thing actually heals and we don’t know how fast that will be. We don’t know at all. I’ve heard timeframes all over the map. All I can go is by what I’m told. We’ll see how it heals."
Jones also refused to second guess the decision to have Witten go three series in a meaningless preseason opener against the Raiders when the offense was already challenged to play behind a patch work offensive line.
"That’s second guessing," Jones said. "He certainly went one play too long, from that standpoint, if you looked at it that way. But I don’t at all second guess that."
Running back DeMarco Murray had just two carries and played just one series in the Dallas Cowboys preseason opener against the Raiders.
He is looking for more work and more action in the second preseason game against the Chargers Saturday.
“I didn’t even get to get my feet wet last game,” Murray said. “But Coach Garrett is a great coach. He definitely understands what’s necessary for the team, and I didn’t question him at all. But, I’m definitely looking forward to this game and getting more reps.”
Murray understands that Garrett limited his and the rest of the starters’ time in the game because of injury risk. Still that didn’t prevent tight end Jason Witten from suffering a lacerated spleen, sidelining him for the preseason.
But he said injuries are part of the game and he can’t worry about that. He just wants more work.
“You can’t think about that,” Murray said. “I have to be out there. I want to be out there to work hard and compete at a high level. So you just can’t worry about those things.”
The starters could go a full quarter against the Chargers on Saturday before the official dress rehearsal for the season against the Rams in the home preseason opener Aug. 25 when they could play into the third quarter.
Defensive end Jason Hatcher returned to practice Wednesday and said the Dallas Cowboys have the most competitive defensive line since he has been on the team.
“I think the standards are a lot higher across the board,” he said. “Everybody is playing at a high level right now because you’ve got a guy behind you who can do your job just as good. And every day you come out, get a chip on your shoulder, try to prove yourself.”
Hatcher missed a week recovering from a hamstring injury. He said it set back his preparation, but if he can get in one preseason game at least, he’ll be ready for the season opener against the Giants.
“It’s tough, man, because you have a goal where you want to be coming out of camp,” he said. “Felt like I got a little setback, and I’ve got to – not speed things up; I’ve got to be smart at the same time – I’ve got to get to where I need to be before New York.
“I’ve got to get one under my belt at least, to get in game shape, so I’ll know how to feel and I’ll feel comfortable going to New York.”