LG Leary closer to return for Cowboys

ARLINGTON, Texas -- In a positive sign he'll practice on Monday, projected starting left guard Ronald Leary did some running before the Cowboys' final preseason game against the Houston Texans on Thursday night.

Leary is recovering from minor knee surgery and there was some concern about his status for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the New York Giants. After surgery, Leary said it would take two weeks to recover, and he's being proven accurate.

"I couldn't run a couple of days ago, so now that I'm running it shows that I'm getting better," Leary said. "I don't know about (practicing Monday) right now, I'm just taking it day-by-day."

The man Leary is replacing, Nate Livings, also had knee surgery, but he's not close to returning. Coach Jason Garrett said Livings is progressing in his rehab.

Garrett also said that safety Matt Johnson, who is recovering from a severely sprained foot, might need a little more time. This is a bad situation for Johnson, a fourth-round pick from Eastern Washington in 2012, who has yet to play in a regular-season game due to injuries.

"That was an injury with his foot that we thought he might come back quickly or it might take a little bit of time," Garrett said. "It turns out, it's taken a little bit of time. Again, we'll see what kind of progress he makes over the weekend and evaluate early next week."

Based on that, Johnson should make the 53-man roster when the Cowboys cut down from 75 ahead of a Saturday-afternoon deadline. If Johnson isn't available for the Giants game, the Cowboys could place him on the reserve/injured-returnable list, which knocks him out for eight weeks.

Backup running back Lance Dunbar is still wearing a protective walking boot on his left foot and said he hopes to get it removed Friday. Dunbar said he's not sure what the plan is once it comes off, but noted he does feel good.

Garrett said he was hopeful starting defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee), defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (groin) and right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau (knee) would practice Monday.

Hatcher said his groin injury was minor; Bernadeau's ankle injury isn't considered serious.

However, if Bernadeau can't play against the Giants, the Cowboys could move tackle Doug Free to right guard and Jermey Parnell to tackle.

"That was a good thing for our football team just to see that in a real, live game situation," Garrett said of playing Free and Parnell at different positions in last week's preseason game. "They've been practicing that way a little bit. Again, the idea was to get the five best guys out there, the best combination of five as well. So that's certainly an alternative out there for us going forward. We had a bunch of injuries in training camp. You just try to put the best mix together, and oftentimes that provides an opportunity for somebody. We'll see how it all shakes out in the next few days."