OXNARD, Calif. – All offseason and into training camp, the Cowboys have felt good about their top two receivers, and everyone behind them has been jumbled.
But at least for Monday's game in Oakland, there's now a good chance neither of those two starters will be in action, especially after a minor, late-practice injury for Dez Bryant, who tweaked his hamstring and didn't return.
Walking off the field at the end of Saturday's practice, Bryant confidently said "I'm fine" when asked about the injury.
Owner Jerry Jones and head trainer Jim Maurer said it was strictly precautionary to hold Bryant out of drills and the rest of practice, but it could seriously jeopardize his chances of playing against the Raiders in the preseason opener.
"This isn't the time of year to push hamstrings," Jones said. "(Dez) didn't indicate it was anything that was bothering him. They thought it was tight. That's what we do out there. At this juncture I don't have anything to be concerned about."
That would make two hamstring injuries to the starting receivers, as Miles Austin has missed nearly a week with a tweaked hamstring and isn't expected to even make the trip to Oakland for Monday's game.
When asked directly if Bryant would play against Oakland or would the Cowboys be cautious, Jones firmly said "cautious … This early in camp we're not going to push hamstrings. That's just policy, and this is exactly what the policy is. When a player's got a little tightness, we'll be very conservative as to how much he pushes it."
Bryant has had his share of injuries in his two seasons so far. A high-ankle sprain in camp two years ago kept him out of the entire preseason as a rookie in 2010, which ended with a broken leg that kept him out the final month. Last year, a deep-thigh bruise hampered him for the first half of the season, but he was able to fight through it and play seemingly healthy the rest of the way.
There's two ways to look at this latest setback to the receiver position. On one hand, the Cowboys can't afford any more injuries at receiver with Austin already down. Only Austin, Bryant and Kevin Ogletree have an NFL reception under their belt.
So one might suggest that an injury like this, which is deemed minor at best, might even be a good thing for the Cowboys, who want to see as much from these young receivers as possible.
As it stands now, Ogletree and Cole Beasley have been working in the three-wide sets along with Bryant. If Bryant is out for Monday, he'll likely be replaced by Andre Holmes, who clearly had his best practice of camp, catching several passes in traffic, none more impressive than a Hail Mary pass where he outfought several defenders for the catch.
Other receivers in the mix include Raymond Radway, Dwayne Harris and Tim Benford. Fifth-round pick Danny Coale is certainly in the equation but after sitting out three months with a broken foot and he's only returned to practice this week, he's not expected to play against the Raiders.