The Dallas Cowboys expect to have all available hands on deck among their defensive linemen Sunday.
“Injures are a part of this league, and it’s just the nature of this league,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Friday morning. “You put the next guy in, and you go forward, and that’s what the situation is. That’s the mindset we have as an organization, as a coaching staff and as players. You hear me say this a lot, but injuries provide opportunities, and there are some great stories of someone getting hurt, somebody stepping in and showing what they can do. And that guy has a role on your team, becomes a starter on the team and becomes a great player in this league. We have those examples on this football team so there are things you can point to and that’s the mindset you have.”
Starting defensive tackle Jay Ratliff is on the physically unable to perform list and will miss at least the first six games while recovering from a groin injury. Starting defensive end Anthony Spencer is not on the practice field again today (Friday) and may not play Sunday. Spencer has not practiced since undergoing right knee surgery July 25 and said Thursday he had a setback in his rehab over the weekend.
The Cowboys then added reserve defensive tackle Ben Bass to the injury list Thursday when he dislocated his shoulder in practice. Bass, who is in a sling, will miss at least this week, leaving the Cowboys with preseason standout Landon Cohen behind Jason Hatcher and Nick Hayden at defensive tackle.
They will have to have some position flex with their defensive ends. George Selvie is expected to start in place of Spencer, with DeMarcus Ware at his usual spot. The Cowboys traded for ends Caesar Rayford and Edgar Jones in recent days. They also have second-year veteran Kyle Wilber.
“You just kind of work with the guys we have,” Garrett said. “We’re excited about the group we have. You’d like to have them together for longer, but that’s the nature of this league. You’ve just got to make do with what you have and go forward. Excited to see those guys play and take advantage of their opportunity.”
RELATED: Cowboys confident with DE depth, even if Spencer can’t go
IRVING, Texas – It’s looking more and more like the Cowboys won’t feature Anthony Spencer in their lineup on Sunday against the Giants, despite claims to the contrary.
Spencer spoke to the media yesterday (Thursday) following the Cowboys’ afternoon practice. The hope all week, according to Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, has been to have Spencer work gradually back into practice.
Spencer said he suffered a minor setback this past weekend, when his knee, which he had surgery on about a month ago, reacted negatively to a light workout.
“That’s what happened this weekend, like I was doing a little bit of running and whatnot, and it kind of just swelled up on me,” he said. “It’s hard for me to do anything once that happens, so we try to just minimize that as much as possible.”
The Cowboys hope to see Spencer go through at least part of practice today, but it looks increasingly likely they won’t have their Pro Bowler on the defensive line Sunday night.
From asking around the locker room, that doesn’t sound too concerning. Injuries are nothing new on the Cowboys’ defensive line, as injuries have sidelined Spencer and defensive tackle Jay Ratliff throughout training camp. In their absence, young George Selvie, Nick Hayden, and Landon Cohen have stepped into the void.
Cohen (photo above) and Selvie (photo below) were two of the first players to join the team during training camp, once the injuries to Ratliff and Spencer became known. Through several dozen other roster moves, Garrett said neither lineman has given the Cowboys a reason to cut them.
“Each of them have shown up. You’ve heard me say it a lot,” Garrett said. “They show up in practice, they show up in the preseason games, every opportunity we give them, each of those guys said ‘Hey, I’m worthy of making this football team,’ and that’s good for your team.”
That effort hasn’t gone unnoticed with the defense’s elder statesman, either.
“You’ve got guys practicing in 105-degree weather, being effective against our offense – a high-powered offense,” said defensive end DeMarcus Ware. “They’ve been playing really, really well, so I have a lot of confidence in those guys to come in and fill the shoes of Jay and Spencer, if Spencer doesn’t play. We’ve got to be effective with what we have.”
Plenty of the focus is going to fall on Selvie, who has turned Spencer’s injury into a starting spot in the last six weeks. In four preseason games at left defensive end, he notched six tackles with three sacks.
“When you have a guy that’s coming in off the couch – we call him the brick layer,” Ware said. “He comes in and it’s a brick at a time, being effective. He’s built a pretty nice little house over there at left end.”
Selvie’s not a stranger to the regular season, with 36 career games under his belt in three seasons. But the combination of learning from two Pro Bowlers has been something he said he’s used to improve considerably.
“Spencer is always giving tips – ‘Angle this way. Do this and do that,’” he said. “Any time you’ve got the Defensive MVP of this team helping you, it’s a good thing. D-Ware is always helping me too.”
Adding into that pass rush is new acquisition Caesar Rayford, who said Wednesday he’s ready to play. As has been widely noted, Rayford’s five sacks led the NFL during the preseason.
It’s all enough to give Ware confidence in the defensive line – regardless of who’s starting. Ware said he’d like to see Spencer on the field if it’s at all possible, but he’s not concerned about the Cowboys’ options up front.
“You know, I’m not worried about it at all. I don’t want to see Spence out there on the field, I want to see Spencer. I want the 100 percent Spencer,” Ware said. “I don’t know if he’s going to play this week, I just – I don’t know — I hope he does. I want the guy out there, and that goes for everybody else, too.”
RELATED: Garrett doesn’t believe Ben Bass injury is season-ending
Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he does not know how long defensive end Ben Bass will be out while he recovers from a separated shoulder, but that the team does not believe it is season-ending.
“We have a pretty good feel for what he has,” Garrett said, “but the nature of that injury is that he dislocated his shoulder, so the question I asked is, ‘OK, what does that mean?’ Well, if he gets it relocated and there’s no damage, he can be back in a few days. If there’s a little damage in there as a result of it, can be a couple three weeks. So we’ll see.”
Garrett said, “We don’t think it’s season-ending by any means, but it might be a week, a couple of weeks. We’ll just see how it goes.”
Missing starters Jay Ratliff and Anthony Spencer and backup Tyrone Crawford. Ratliff is gone for at least six weeks while he begins the season on the PUP list. Crawford is out for the season with an Achilles’ injury. Spencer’s could be next week, but that is not certain.
“You hear me say this a lot, but injuries provide opportunities, and there are some great stories of someone getting hurt, somebody stepping in and showing what they can do, and that guy has a role on your team, becomes a starter on the team and becomes a great player in this league,” Garrett said. “We have those examples on this football team. So there are things you can point to, and that’s the mindset you have.”
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys newcomer Caesar Rayford ready for Sunday
Caesar Rayford was just happy to be here earlier this week after arriving from Indianapolis via a trade, but he better be ready to play at defensive tackle.
With eight healthy bodies in the defensive line — three at DT — the Cowboys are counting on Rayford to take some snaps come Sunday. It doesn’t matter that he arrived here only Tuesday. It doesn’t matter that his natural position is at DE.
“He has to be viable for us at some point in this ball game,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.
Rayford, an outside linebacker in the Colts’ 3-4 scheme, had a league-leading five sacks in the preseason.
“I feel like I’ve made plays, but I’m always about the next game, the next day,” Rayford said. “I made plays in the preseason, but the preseason is over, and now it’s the next game. I’ve got to keep it going, keep it consistent and just at it.”
Rayford, played in the Canadian and the Arena Football Leagues before getting his chance in the NFL with the Colts. Now, he’s with the Dallas Cowboys.
“The way I describe my journey is some people get in the front door; some people get in the back door; but guys like me have got to climb the house and jump in the chimney,” Rayford said. “That’s been basically my journey. It’s been long and hard. I’ve stayed the course, and now I’m here.”