Jerry: Unknown when Ratliff will be ready

IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones, who made the mistake this summer of declaring that he was sure Jay Ratliff would be ready for the season opener, is steering clear of any firm projections about the former Pro Bowl nose tackle’s return from the physically unable to perform list.

“I don’t know, and I don’t know that he knows,” Jones said Tuesday on KRLD-FM. “I don’t know that anybody knows. He is beginning to work through on what we all hope is a secure injury area that has hopefully healed. I don’t know that. I can’t speak to that, and I don’t know that anybody does.

“We will painstakingly go slow here in trying to work him back in.”

Ratliff, who is still recovering from the sports hernia surgery he had in December, is eligible to come off the PUP list Monday. The Cowboys could wait as late as Nov. 4. Once Ratliff is activated from the PUP list, he would have three weeks to practice before the Cowboys put him on the 53-man roster or sideline him, so his season debut could come as soon as next week or as late as Thanksgiving.

Ratliff, who has clashed with Cowboys management and the team's medical, athletic training and strength/conditioning staffs over the last year, did not rehabilitate at the team’s Valley Ranch facility this past offseason. Coach Jason Garrett said Ratliff has split his in-season rehab work between Valley Ranch and an off-site location.

The depleted Dallas defensive line could desperately use some help from Ratliff, a four-time Pro Bowler whose sack totals have declined for five straight seasons, bottoming out with zero during his injury-shortened 2012 campaign.

Nick Hayden, who had played a total of 33 snaps in the previous two NFL seasons, is starting in Ratliff’s place. Both backup defensive tackles, Drake Nevis and David Carter, were signed after the season started.