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Costa Could Be Out Significant Time With Nagging Back Injury

IRVING, Texas – The only offensive lineman who started Wednesday's game that was in that spot the previous season was center Phil Costa.

Three plays later, he was gone, too.

And now the question remains, how much longer will Costa miss with a nagging back injury that has plagued him since the first week into training camp.

Costa had another MRI on Thursday and the results were negative, which didn't show any more structural damage that will require surgery for now.

Still, it's likely Costa will not only miss next week's game in Seattle, but he could miss some significant time in the early part of the regular season.

Costa missed three preseason games with the back injury but returned for the Aug. 29 contest against the Dolphins. He was the only starter on either side of the ball for that game and it appeared he'd be ready for action against the Giants. Instead, the back flared up on the first play of the game. Costa gutted through two more plays before it was apparent he couldn't go anymore.

The Cowboys were fortunate that newly-acquired veteran Ryan Cook was not only ready enough to be active for the game, but held his own the rest of the way against the Giants' stout defensive attack.

Now it appears Cook will be asked to have a larger role than that.

On Thursday, head coach Jason Garrett was asked if Cook would be competing for the starting job, once Costa returns.

"I don't want to get into that right now. We want Costa to get back," Garrett said. "Costa's been our starting center for a reason. We like him a lot. But at the same time, we want to make sure he's healthy. I thought he did a really good job working to get back. And it just shows you the kind of mental toughness that he has. He was determined to play, and his back really wasn't quite right. We really found out about it on the first play. He tried to gut it out on plays 2 and 3, but then we had to put Ryan in on the second series."

As for Cook's performance, Garrett said he wasn't surprised, considering the type of player he's been. Cook has primarily started at tackle and guard in his seven-year career with the Vikings and Dolphins.

The Cowboys traded a seventh-round pick in 2013 to Miami for Cook, who actually started opposite of Costa at center for the Dolphins in the preseason finale.

"We'd been following him and tracking him for a little bit now," Garrett said of Cook. "So we were able to consummate that trade after the Miami game and had a couple of days of practice with him. One of the reasons we liked him is he's a veteran player. He's been a center in this league. He's also played guard and tackle and we felt like he could go into a game with short notice. He picked things up fairly well last week in the practice reps that he did get."

Garrett said Cook was able to get a few snaps in with the two quarterbacks, Tony Romo and Kyle Orton.

"He did work with Tony and Kyle taking snaps, and they felt real comfortable getting snaps from him both in the shotgun and underneath, so we made that decision to give him a chance just because he's a more veteran, more experienced guy than (David) Arkin," said Garrett. "The fourth play of the ball game he's in there and he's got a full load against a really good defensive front and I thought he handled it well."

While Arkin tried to learn the center position on the run in training camp, he clearly wasn't ready to be even the backup against the Giants. It'll be interesting now to see if the Cowboys get more help at center with Costa out, or give Arkin a chance to be active on game day as the first backup to Cook.

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