Jay Ratliff gets some work in

IRVING, Texas -- While we wait for word on tight end Jason Witten's return from a spleen injury, nose tackle Jay Ratliff took positive steps Thursday by getting some work in a walkthrough.

Ratliff, who sprained an ankle in the third preseason game, has shed his crutches for the moment. His status for the Sept. 5 regular-season opener at the New York Giants remains uncertain. If Ratliff is unable to play, Josh Brent and Sean Lissemore will see snaps with the first-team defense at nose tackle.

"We're certainly hopeful he'll progress day by day," coach Jason Garrett said. "He has an ankle injury that's he's trying to come back from. He's certainly a very tough guy, very passionate guy and he loves to play football, so he's going to do everything he can to get himself ready. We'll just take his situation day-by-day."

Ratliff is one of the Cowboys' more durable players. He hasn't missed a game since the 2007 regular-season finale, having played in 64 consecutive games since.

At first, the ankle injury seemed serious, with team owner/general manager Jerry Jones stressing it wasn't a high-ankle sprain. Team doctors determined that it was, but it wasn't serious enough where it could take the nose tackle out for a few games.

"It's very difficult. You can't really count him out," defensive end Jason Hatcher said. "I don't know where he's at right now (physically), but I know he's a warrior and I know he will try his best to get back out there. That guy right there is a tough guy, don't be surprised if he's out there Wednesday. He's the leader of the d-line and one of the leaders of the defense, and it's tough to see him go down because he does make an impact. Losing him is a very hard thing. We've got great guys who will step up in Lissemore and Josh who will get it done."