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Amobi Okoye closer to return to action

IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys plan to work defensive tackle Amobi Okoye back to work slowly, but after Tuesday’s practice he got a little one-on-one contact in with an offensive lineman.

“It was a weird feeling, but it was good to do that,” said Okoye, who has not played in a game since 2012 and was getting out of a medically-induced coma 13 month ago.

Okoye is attempting to return to football after battling anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a potentially deadly brain illness. He is on the Cowboys’ non-football illness list and would need to be activated to the 53-man roster in order to practice.

Okoye was cleared last week by his doctor for full football work.

“The plan now is to get him in football condition,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We can’t work with him as coaches. He needs to get himself in shape as best he can. He has been cleared, but you don’t want to just simply take him out there. He hasn’t played in a long, long time. You just want to make sure his wind is right, his feet are underneath him.”

Okoye said there is no timetable for his return to full practice, but all of the feedback so far has been positive. He has picked up his conditioning work over the last two weeks in hopes of getting back on the field soon, something that was a dream not too long ago.

“You’ve got to be cautious with things, because obviously you’re dealing with the brain,” Okoye said. “We’ll take things slowly and progressively get better. … It’s really nothing like a sprained ankle or a knee or whatever. Just dealing with the brain, so it’s very new. It’s just one of those things we’ve got to assess.”

The Cowboys have been patient with Okoye since signing him in the offseason. The hope was he could get some work in training camp. There is an outside shot he could play Aug. 28 against the Denver Broncos.

The Cowboys have a need along the defensive line. He signed with the Cowboys to reunite with Rod Marinelli, his coordinator with the Chicago Bears.

How much can he help?

“I guess we’re going to find out when that happens,” he said.