ARLINGTON, Texas -- As he got dressed without the use of his right arm, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Justin Durant couldn’t find the words to put into perspective how painful it was to know that his season was over.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Durant, who suffered a torn right biceps during the Washington Redskins' last touchdown drive in the Cowboys’ 20-17 overtime loss to their NFC East rivals.
The reality that this is a potentially devastating blow to the Dallas defense had certainly sunk in for Durant’s bosses and teammates.
"He's in the top three or four performers we've had this year on defense," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "He plays a key position, that weakside linebacker principally. That's a significant loss for us."
Durant had stepped up as a leader for a defense that has significantly exceeded expectations after ranking dead last in the league last season. With middle linebacker Sean Lee out for the season, Durant took over signal-calling responsibilities and was voted a defensive captain by his teammates.
Durant, who is in the final year of his contract, also made as many plays as any Dallas defender. According to the coaches’ statistics from film study, Durant entered Monday night’s game as the team’s leading tackler with 51 stops, one more than middle linebacker Rolando McClain. Durant also led the Cowboys with two forced fumbles and had four passes defensed, an interception and a fumble recovery during Dallas’ 6-1 start.
His season ended prematurely, but Durant finished strong with a team-high 10 tackles against the Redskins, including two behind the line of scrimmage. Whether the Cowboys move Bruce Carter back to the weak side or have rookie Anthony Hitchens play that position, Durant leaves large shoes to fill.
“It’s a big loss for us,” cornerback Brandon Carr said. “That was our guy that held down the middle for us, called all the plays, made a lot of plays for us in a short amount of time this season. We’re definitely going to miss him, but he’s going to be around. Now it comes to the next-man-up mentality.”