FRISCO, Texas –Even though he will miss some playing time, the Cowboys were happy to hear the news about Anthony Hitchens' injury.
Although the initial diagnosis was a torn ACL, tests on Sunday revealed that Hitchens suffered a tibial plateau fracture with a recovery timetable of roughly eight weeks. That might not sound like good news on the surface, but it's a definite positive given that a torn ACL would have sidelined him for the entire 2017 season.
"When you're first thinking he's going to miss the full season and it comes back and it's a half or less, we're smiling big," said Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones. "We were so concerned that we were going to lose him for the year, and it's a big difference between losing a guy for the year and then maybe missing him for six, seven, eight games."
Team officials said on Saturday night that they will likely lean on Justin Durant to help replace Hitchens in the lineup. Jaylon Smith has also been the Cowboys' backup middle linebacker during the preseason.
The Cowboys don't want to alter Smith's deliberate plan, which has helped him gradually work back from the knee injury he suffered in his final college game. Jones reiterated that point on Monday, but he did allow that he thinks Smith will play a part in accounting for Hitchens' absence.
"Between Jaylon and Justin, we feel very comfortable that they can get that job done," he said. "We don't in any way want to get away from the game plan that has worked so well for Jaylon, in terms of his pitch counts and what he's going to do and don't want to jeopardize anything that we've done with him. But we do think he can certainly share those duties with Justin, and expect both of them to share that Mike position."
With those two on hand, Jones said the Cowboys have confidence that they don't need to look for outside help at the position.
"Knowing that Hitch is going to be coming back, we feel comfortable with where we are at that position," he said.