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DE Spencer Back At Practice, Hopes To Ease Into Lineup

Posted Sep 11, 2013

IRVING, TexasAnthony Spencer chuckled when a reporter asked him it felt like a long time had passed since July 19.

“Definitely – a surgery ago,” he said.

It has been two months since Spencer underwent arthroscopic surgery to clean up his injured knee, thereby missing the Cowboys’ entire training camp and all five preseason games. If that wait has been bad, the constant attention surrounding his eventual return hasn’t made it better.

That long-awaited return finally came on Wednesday, as Spencer returned to the practice field for the Cowboys’ indoor practice at AT&T Stadium.

“I feel good. We’ll see how it feels in the morning. But everything I’ve been doing has been getting better every day – I haven’t had any setbacks,” Spencer said. “If everything keeps going the way it’s going I should be back sometime soon.”

Spencer was understandably limited in his first practice since the Cowboys’ offseason activities. He said he took backup snaps and did not go for the full duration of the session. That doesn’t change the question of whether he’ll be available for the Cowboys’ Week 2 trip to Kansas City on Sunday.

That decision ultimately rests on the coaching staff, but Spencer said he’ll do his part to properly prepare for that possibility.

“I’m just going to play it by ear – see how many plays I got today, try to add a little bit more tomorrow, add a little bit more Friday leading to the game,” he said.

Luckily for the Cowboys, the pass rush seemed to be on steady footing in Spencer’s absence. The Cowboys sacked Eli Manning three times, hit him five times and helped pressure him into three interceptions in the Sunday night win against the Giants.

A good bit of that production came from George Selvie, Spencer’s current replacement at left defensive end. Selvie notched just one tackle against New York, but it was a crucial sack on the 1-yard line that derailed the Giants’ chances of scoring a touchdown.

Selvie also recovered a fumble by David Wilson – the second of six New York turnovers.

Those types of plays, which Selvie has made routinely since he joined the team to offset Spencer’s absence,  give the Cowboys a bit more leeway with the process of bringing their starter back into the fold.

“We’re never going to put a player out there who is not able to play, who is not prepared to play, can’t protect himself,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett about Spencer. “He’s had a good few days, we’ll see how he does today. In his absence, George has done an excellent job. It’s great for our team to point to a guy and say look at how he’s taken advantage of his opportunity, because he’s certainly done that.”

Added Spencer:  “It’s great. It’s just good to have him out there doing well, and for this team it’s really well – it’s going to help me progress along, not too fast. It’s going to give me the time I need to progress.” 

It could take some time for that progression to come full circle. Even if Spencer suits up against the Chiefs, it would likely be in a limited, situational role. He said the timetable for a full, complete start is probably a bit longer.

“It’s probably going to be a couple of games,” he said. “I do a lot of those conditioning things on my own, so I try to get that under control as best as possible. But it’s probably going to be a little bit.”

That’s just one of several steps Spencer must take. For the time being, he’ll also be wearing a knee brace – something he doesn’t expect to sport for the full season, but at least his first few games back.  Everything is a bit of an adjustment after two months off, though. 

“I mean, having pads on today felt strange – even that did,” he said.

With Spencer back at practice, though, the process of bringing him up to speed can begin. Whatever pace the Cowboys bring their Pro Bowler back with, he seems sure to hit it full speed. 

“There's no way he could go too many plays,” said defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. “But if he can go, now, I'm sure he's not going to go for like three plays either. I'm sure if he goes, he'll go hard. He needs to."

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