Still no firm timetable for A. Spencer

IRVING, Texas -- The fact that defensive end Anthony Spencer will start the season on the 53-man roster instead of the physically unable to perform list means that the Dallas Cowboys anticipate that he’ll be ready for game action sooner rather than later.

However, there is not a firm timetable for the return of Spencer, who is in the late stages of the rehab process of undergoing microfracture knee surgery in October.

There are still two significant steps Spencer must take before playing in a game can be seriously considered. The first step is to participate in individual drills during practice, which is preparation for the second step of full-contact work.

“It’s just a gradual process,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s really done everything we’ve asked him to do from a movement standpoint in his workouts with the rehab guys. As these weeks go on, he’ll do more and more. We try to do football movements with him, we’ll ramp up football moves by himself, and we’ll slowly integrate him into practice.”

Spencer, who has by far the best résumé of the edge rushers on the roster, said he expects to begin individual drills “in the next couple of weeks.” He is doing similar drills off to the side during practice, but he’ll work at a higher pace and get more reps when he is cleared to join his teammates on the field.

The Cowboys have significantly increased Spencer’s workload over the last two weeks, testing the knee before declaring him ready to practice.

“No swelling, no pain,” Spencer said. “It’s a little stiff in the morning. After I sit around after practice for a couple of hours, it’s a little stiff. Other than that, it’s fine.

“I feel good when I’m doing the stuff I’m doing out there. I’ve just got to get bodies in front of me.”

It’s still to be determined when that happens and how much practice Spencer will need before playing in a game.