SAN DIEGO -If chemistry and continuity are both important for an offensive line then the Dallas Cowboys' blockers will have to learn both of them on the fly this season.
Training camp injuries have been especially prevalent along the line, and the five starters have been unable to practice together at the same time during camp.
The anchor of the line at center, Phil Costa, has been out with a back injury since Aug. 10. Costa has made progress with his injury and is expected to return soon, but according to head coach Jason Garrett, he is unlikely to play in Saturday's preseason game against the Rams.
"We don't think Costa is going to practice on Thursday very much when we get back to Dallas," Garrett said. "We don't necessarily think that he is going to play in this game either, unless he feels great Thursday morning, then we can accelerate it a little bit. But we do anticipate him being able to come back at the early part of next week, at least."
If Costa does indeed miss the third preseason game, he will also likely sit out with the rest of the starters in the fourth and final preseason game. It's all the more worrisome considering the Cowboys will be facing one of the most dangerous defensive lines in the league in the New York Giants on Sept. 5.
While Costa has yet to return, the offensive line has received some reinforcements in Nate Livings, who returned to practice Monday after a hamstring injury, and Mackenzy Bernadeau, who less than two weeks ago began practicing for the first time as a Cowboy following offseason hip surgery.
Offensive line coach Bill Callahan is putting a positive spin on the progress of the newly returned players, calling Livings' first two days back productive.
"He's getting conditioned to the contact," Callahan said. "He had a couple long series in there, which I think will help his stamina in the long run. He's knocking the rust off, getting a little better."
The coach also talked about Bernadeau's ability to get back in the mix after a hip injury that kept him out a few months.
"He's done a pretty good job," Callahan said. "We're working on a couple new fundamental techniques with him. But overall, he's done good. He's a smart guy. He's tough. He's got a good finish to him. He's got power. He's what we thought, he's just got to get better like we all do, obviously."
Even with Callahan's optimistic tone, words like "stamina," "knocking off the rust" and "got to get better" are not the most positive things to hear two weeks away from the season opener.
Callahan did, however, go on to explain the impact of having the veteran Bernadeau on the field.
"He wants to be great in a lot of senses," Callahan said. "I'm pleased with his effort. I like him in the classroom. He's great guy to be around, great for this team. He has a selfless attitude and it's what you want in your offensive line."
While it may be frustrating that the offensive line will likely not be able to get in-game experience together prior to the season opener, Garrett rationalized the injuries and explained that you cannot become frustrated as a team. "It's the nature of training camp," Garrett said. "Guys get hurt on our team. They get hurt all across the league. Injuries provide opportunities. Backup players need to be ready to take advantage of the opportunities."