Injuries make CB, OL bigger problems for Cowboys
IRVING, Texas (AP)
The Dallas Cowboys' two biggest areas of concern going into the opener - cornerback and offensive line - just became more of a problem.
Starting cornerback Terence Newman didn't practice Wednesday and likely won't play Sunday at the New York Jets because of a lingering groin problem, Fellow starting cornerback Mike Jenkins left practice with a knee injury. Starting right tackle Tyron Smith also left with a knee injury.
Smith and Jenkins were having MRIs to determine the severity of their injuries, and are considered day to day.
''There are different challenges that we all face every day,'' coach Jason Garrett said. ''If any of these guys aren't able to play, hopefully the backups understand the value of their opportunity and we can move right along.''
Garrett often talks to the club about injury being an opportunity, pointing to players such as Miles Austin who've used a temporary promotion to become a high-profile performer.
Still, this is a bit much - three expected starters potentially missing from a team coming off a 6-10 season just days before heading to New York for a prime-time opener against the Jets. And on what promises to be an emotionally charged night because of the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
''I'm really not worried about it,'' star linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. ''You've got to go with what you've got.''
Newman and Jenkins are trying to bounce back from miserable seasons in 2010 after both made the Pro Bowl in 2009. They've hardly had a chance to get comfortable in a unit now being run by a new coordinator, Rob Ryan.
Both cornerbacks missed the entire preseason, and nearly all of training camp, Newman because of the groin problem and Jenkins because of a stinger sustained Aug. 1. He did some non-contact work in recent weeks, but Wednesday's practice was his first with hitting in pads since the injury.
The Cowboys were hoping Newman would be able to start practicing this week. Team owner Jerry Jones said the club isn't counting on him playing against the Jets.
The new starting tandem would be Orlando Scandrick, who has specialized in covering slot receivers, and Alan Ball, who started at safety all last season. Bryan McCann, normally fifth on the depth chart, is the lone healthy backup.
The only solace for the Cowboys is that those guys got plenty of work in the preseason. Of course, that's not the same as trying to stay with Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason for four quarters.
''I'm not going to sit here and not say it's not going to be a challenge when you go against those caliber of receivers,'' said Scandrick, who recently signed a $27 million, five-year contract extension. ''We've got to play with what we've got. Everybody that's here is here for a reason regardless of whether people believe they can play or not.''
Dallas' offensive line already was suspect because it features Smith, fellow rookie Bill Nagy and a second-year center who'd played only two games on the offensive line, Phil Costa.
Losing Smith really could make things risky for quarterback Tony Romo, especially against an aggressive defense like the Jets have.
''Against our defense, I'd be nervous,'' New York coach Rex Ryan said earlier Wednesday, before Smith even got hurt. ''There's no question.''
Jermey Parnell took over at right tackle Wednesday, but he's more of a project than an NFL-ready starter.
A former college basketball player, he played only one season of football, and it was on defense. He switched to offensive line while on the Saints' practice squad in 2009. He was with Dallas for 12 games last season and inactive for all.
''I go against him every day in practice, so I have a lot of confidence in him,'' Ware said. ''They stick him at right tackle, he's going to be a little quicker than a right tackle. He's already used to the speed. He's just got to get used to the bigger guys on that right side powering him.''
None of the other backup linemen has much experience at tackle, although newly signed Derrick Dockery played there some early in his career and in college.
In other injury news, tight end Martellus Bennett (ankle) did not practice and may miss the opener, too.
Several players who'd been hobbled returned, but were limited. The group includes Costa (knee), receiver Miles Austin (hamstring) and linebacker Bradie James (ankle). Defensive end Marcus Spears (groin) and running back Tashard Choice (knee) participated fully.
Robinson has 89 catches for 1,000 yards and four touchdowns over 38 games, with 20 starts, while playing two seasons in Atlanta and two in St. Louis. Jones said Robinson would be fourth or fifth on the depth chart and probably only activated Sunday if there are concerns about Austin's health.
Jones also said the Cowboys are continuing to look for roster upgrades.
''You're seeing a lot of movement,'' he said. ''You'll see more probably before Sunday night.''