ARMOR ALL NEXT FALL: Barry Church injured without thigh pads; will be required in 2013

In the season opener last year, Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant took a hard hit on a punt return. He wasn’t wearing thigh pads, and the thigh contusion kept him out the next week against the 49ers and slowed him for several weeks after. This year, the same thing already has happened to Barry Church.

Church wasn’t wearing a thigh pad when he took a knee to his quadriceps against Seattle. The Cowboys starting strong safety played only 13 plays.

The NFL will make hip and knee pads mandatory equipment in 2013, with players facing fines for not using them.

"That’s going to suck," said Church, who expects to play, with a thigh pad, this week. "I mean, it feels real restricting when you have all those pads in. But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, I guess."

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he emphasizes the importance of wearing all the protective equipment provided, but as a former NFL quarterback he understands why players don’t.

"It’s an age-old thing for players," Garrett said. "You want to be as light as possible, so there’s always a balance there. You look at the receivers through the years. Very few receivers wear their thigh pads or knee pads, or if they do, it’s a real light version of it. They wear smallish shoulder pads. As a former player, i know that issue, because it’s a confidence factor. You don’t want to be slowed down by anything."

Church went through practice, taking all of his work with the first team defense and special teams, and said “I felt pretty good.’’ But he admits that if he had worn thigh pads against the Seahawks, he wouldn’t have been forced to leave the game.

The girdle along with the thigh pads will give him a little extra protection for this game, a game he can’t afford to miss since it appears safety Gerald Sensabaugh will.

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