IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys coach Jason Garrett likes 2012 fourth-round pick Matt Johnson, but he hasn't seen enough action on the field from the safety, who has yet to play in a NFL regular season game.
"Like all of the injuries, you just want to get him back as healthy as we can and hopefully we’ll have a chance to see him play," Garrett said of Johnson, who is nursing a foot injury. "We like what we’ve seen. He just hasn’t been durable enough."
Johnson missed the entire 2012 regular season with a hamstring injury and suffered a bruised bone on his instep playing in the Hall of Fame game Aug. 4. He has played in just two preseason games in two seasons because of injuries and won't play in Saturday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
With only two preseason games remaining, time could be running out on Johnson, who still needs to develop. But Garrett said he's not worried and is hopeful Johnson can still play in the preseason finale.
Last year, the Cowboys kept Johnson on the 53-man roster until November, when they placed him on the reserve/injured-returnable list. Johnson was practicing well in the last week of the 2012 regular season and had planned to play in a potential playoff game. But then the Cowboys lost to the Washington Redskins in the regular-season finale.
This year started off better for Johnson. He got through the offseason workouts and the early portions of training camp without any health issues. Then came the foot injury. Johnson said he doesn't need surgery unless it gets worse, but he can't run and the only conditioning he's able to do is on the stationary bike and a specialized treadmill that takes off your body weight.
A decision has to be made on Johnson in the coming weeks.
The Cowboys hope Johnson gets healthy so they can add him to the 53-man roster. If he doesn't, the team can place him on injured reserve or release him by reaching an injury financial settlement.
"I know that's an option because I haven't proven myself to be healthy and haven't proven myself to be a good enough player. It just sucks," Johnson said. "The hardest thing for me is being labeled as a guy that gets hurt or being labeled as soft just because I can't do anything.
"Last year with the hamstrings, I tried to come back too soon. I was trying to be tough and play through it, and I made it worse. And this one I can't do it because it will make it worse. It just sucks not being able to play."