IRVING, Texas -- By their 10th game last season, the Dallas Cowboys had already lost key defensive contributors for a combined 33 games.
Safety Barry Church went on injured reserve on Sept. 25 with a torn Achilles. Sean Lee went on injured reserve on Oct. 24 with a toe injury. Defensive lineman Kenyon Coleman went on injured reserve on Nov. 14 with a triceps injury. Six other players had missed at least one game, including Sean Lissemore with six games and Jay Ratliff with four.
Through 10 games this season, the Cowboys have lost key defensive contributors for a combined 21 games. Ratliff, Tyrone Crawford, Ben Bass and Matt Johnson are not included on the list because they were never on the 53-man roster this season, but those injuries are noteworthy nonetheless because of the roles they were expected to play.
Anthony Spencer leads the way with nine missed games with his season over because of knee surgery. DeMarcus Ware and J.J. Wilcox have missed three games. Four other players have missed at least one game so far.
What gives the Cowboys hope this year is that the currently hurt players will get healthy.
“I mean when you have, what, five guys or six of the starters out, the best way to fix it is to get the guys back,” Ware said. “Sometimes we have guys in there that sort of don’t know what they’re doing because it’s probably the first time they’ve been playing in a long time. When you have a team that doesn’t make mistakes and sort of expose you that with those guys that are in the game, that’s what [New Orleans] did. You’ve got to get the guys back that know what’s going on and during the bye week use that to make a big push.”
Morris Claiborne and Ware did not practice on Wednesday but they expect to play against the New York Giants on Nov. 24. Jason Hatcher was on the field Wednesday and also expects to play. Wilcox also hopes to play against the Giants.
The return of Claiborne will help the secondary even if he was not without faults before getting hurt.
“We still have guys that can fill in but obviously the experience that I have that B.W. [Webb] and [Micah] Pellerin don’t, that goes a long way.”
Linebackers Lee and Justin Durant will miss at least two games with hamstring injuries but will be back.
Last year the Cowboys did not have the luxury of players returning. Ratliff did not play a game after Nov. 18. Bruce Carter went on injured reserve on Nov. 26 with an elbow injury. Orlando Scandrick went on injured reserve on Dec. 8 with a wrist injury. Josh Brent was put on the non-football injury list on Dec. 12 after the accident that cost the life of teammate Jerry Brown.
Maybe it’s foolish to think the Cowboys won’t suffer more injuries on the defensive side of the ball in the final six games, but the one hope is at least some people will return.
“We’ve just got to get healthy, man,” Hatcher said.