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Jones: Wilber May Remain A Starter; On Ratliff & More

Posted Dec 3, 2013


IRVING, Texas – Cowboys/owner general manager Jerry Jones expects his linebacker corps to be fully healthy when the Cowboys travel to Chicago for Monday Night Football this week.

Most notably, Jones said in Tuesday in an interview with 105.3 The Fan that Sean Lee will be ready to play against the Bears.

There might be some shuffling at other linebacker spots, however, as Jones also told The Fan that Kyle Wilber might remain the starter at strongside linebacker in place of Justin Durant.

“Well, as you know, if you lose it and you’re the starter, then you’re supposed to be the starter when you get back – so much for that,” Jones said. “I’m excited about Wilber as a player and asset for the Dallas Cowboys.”

Durant has been missing since the Nov. 10 loss to New Orleans, when both he and Lee were lost to hamstring injuries. Jones wouldn’t definitively name a starter, but he said Wilber has graded highly in his two starts – against New York and Oakland – and he’s excited to see more.

“The bottom line is this: it’s great after two ballgames to see that – not pop up, but that really whatever -- as far as him having the incentive to step out and play at this level,” Jones said. “So here over these next four ball games, against Chicago for starters, he’s going to be a big factor for us on defense. But I wouldn’t want to say who’s actually the starter.”

It appears the Cowboys’ linebacker issues are clearing up, but Jones wasn’t as definitive about other injuries, as the team waits to see if Morris Claiborne and Dwayne Harris will be available against the Bears. Jones said Claiborne was “questionable” at this point.

This is the second straight season the injury bug has bitten the Cowboys during the lead-up to the playoffs. But unlike 2012, Jones said the Cowboys have used their late bye week and their time off after their Thanksgiving game to get healthy – something they could not do last season under then-defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

“There’s no question we were rendered, really helpless, as the last part of the season came along, to really be what we wanted to be defensively. We’re not that way this year,” Jones said. “We’ve got a chance. We’ve played a lot of young guys who are much better now than they were when we started with them. This December we’ll give them even more experience. I think that’s the difference.”

The Bears have one specific injury issue that interested Jones, as well. Former Cowboys defensive tackle Jay Ratliff made his debut in Chicago’s overtime loss to Minnesota on Sunday and logged one tackle. Jones said it will be difficult to watch Ratliff suit up for another team after a prolonged injury saga kept him out of a Cowboys uniform this season.

“I wish him the best on an individual basis,” he said. “It just would be frustrating to see him get in there and play when most thought he couldn’t play when he left us – as far as he was concerned and his approach to what he was going to be doing this year.”

Of course, the conversation about this month’s home stretch led to conversations about the playoffs. Jones said two weeks ago that Cowboys coach Jason Garrett did not necessarily need to make the postseason this year to retain his job. He reiterated that sentiment again Tuesday – though he said there’d certainly be disappointment if the Cowboys fell short.

“I think he’d be the first to tell you that he’s going to have a lot of disappointment, along with the rest of us, if we don’t do better at the end of our season than we have the last couple of years,” Jones said.

He added: “Certainly, I’ve had coaches that also have fallen short in this last part of the season. But frankly, in general, apart from my disappointment, that hasn’t been the reason I’ve made coaching changes.”

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