OAKLAND, Calif. -- Jerry Jones doesn’t know whether defensive tackle Jay Ratliff will play a down in the preseason and insists it doesn’t concern him.
Ratliff, who is recovering from a strained hamstring suffered during the Dallas Cowboys’ pre-camp conditioning test, has been ruled out of practice at least until the team returns to Valley Ranch.
“Well, I think that I have to urge everybody to put it in perspective,” Jones said. “I’m interested in him being in shape. I’m interested in him having the best chance to play as much as he can during the season. I don’t have any desire to see him make a lot of plays in preseason. I know what he can do.
“So our goal should be -- and I know it’s his -- to get him out there so he’s lined up [in the season opener] against the Giants and will stay on the field all the way through the season, relative to any injuries or anything like that. It’s unique, because we know what he is and we see what he is physically right now. He’s very capable of playing at the level that he’s always played at. We’ve just got to not get in a hurry there.”
Ratliff, a remarkably durable player for years as an undersized nose tackle, has been ravaged by injuries over the past 18 months. He has been sidelined for significant time by a torn plantar fascia, high ankle sprain, sports hernia and now the strained hamstring.
Ratliff, who turns 32 this month, was limited to six games last season. Yet Jones insists that he has the utmost confidence that Ratliff, whose string of four Pro Bowl appearances ended last year, will be a dominant force this season.
“His style of play will allow him, if he’s healthy, to be what he is,” Jones said. “And he should be -- from the standpoint of his physical health -- he should be in the prime of his career.
“Arguably, when a guy is 30 years old, he’s at his strongest. Thirty-one years old, he can be at his strongest. There’s no reason in the world we handicap 31 and 32 because we’re looking at how much is left past that. As far as looking at the physical attributes of the player, he can be every bit of the player strength-wise or effectiveness in his thirties as he was at 28 or 29.
“I’m not concerned. If we can get him to where the soft-tissue things are comfortable for him, I’m not concerned about him playing at the level that we’d expect to open the season. I don’t want to push anything over a preseason game with him.”