Injuries impact Cowboys' dress rehearsal plans

IRVING, Texas -- Most teams use the third preseason game as a dress rehearsal for the regular season and play their regulars for at least a half if not into the third quarter.

It's a sound plan, but it's not necessarily one the Dallas Cowboys can follow Saturday night against the St. Louis Rams at Cowboys Stadium.

Tight end Jason Witten (spleen), wide receivers Miles Austin (hamstring) and Dez Bryant (knee) and center Phil Costa (back) will not play against the Rams because of injuries. The defense will celebrate the returns of linebacker Anthony Spencer (hamstring), defensive end Jason Hatcher (hamstring) and nose tackle Jay Ratliff (foot), but its best player, linebacker DeMarcus Ware, will not play because of a hamstring injury.

Quarterback Tony Romo will start and have four-fifths of the expected offensive line in front of him with guard Nate Livings' return from a hamstring injury, but running back DeMarco Murray will be the only starting skill player around him.

Coach Jason Garrett will play his regulars more than he did against the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers, but he doesn't have a plan set in stone.

"If things go well, they might play less," Garrett said. "If things don't, they might play more."

In reality, Saturday's game against the Rams might more closely mirror a regular-season game because of the need to replace injured players.

Read the full column here.