IRVING, Texas – It's looking more and more like the Cowboys won't feature Anthony Spencer in their lineup on Sunday against the Giants, despite claims to the contrary.
Spencer spoke to the media for the first time in two weeks on Thursday following the Cowboys' afternoon practice. The hope all week, according to Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, has been to have Spencer work gradually back into practice. But to this point in the week, that hasn't happened.
"I wanted to play in this game. I expected to do some stuff on Wednesday, and I wasn't able to do that, so it's not really where I wanted it to be right now," Spencer said.
Spencer said he suffered a minor setback this past weekend, when his knee, which he had surgery on about a month ago, reacted negatively to a light workout.
"That's what happened this weekend, like I was doing a little bit of running and whatnot, and it kind of just swelled up on me," he said. "It's hard for me to do anything once that happens, so we try to just minimize that as much as possible."
The Cowboys hope to see Spencer go through at least part of practice on Friday, but it looks increasingly likely they won't have their Pro Bowler on the left side of the defensive line Sunday night.
From asking around the locker room, that doesn't sound too concerning. Injuries are nothing new on the Cowboys' defensive line, as injuries have sidelined Spencer and defensive tackle Jay Ratliff throughout training camp. In their absence, previously unheard names like George Selvie, Nick Hayden and Landon Cohen have stepped into the void.
Cohen and Selvie were two of the first players to join the team during training camp, once the injuries to Ratliff and Spencer became known. Through several dozen other roster moves, Garrett said neither lineman has given the Cowboys a reason to cut them.
"Each of them have shown up. You've heard me say it a lot," Garrett said. "They show up in practice, they show up in the preseason games, every opportunity we give them, each of those guys said 'Hey, I'm worthy of making this football team,' and that's good for your team."
That effort hasn't gone unnoticed with the defense's elder statesman, either.
"You've got guys practicing in 105-degree weather, being effective against our offense – a high-powered offense," said defensive end DeMarcus Ware. "They've been playing really, really well, so I have a lot of confidence in those guys to come in and fill the shoes of Jay and Spencer, if Spencer doesn't play. We've got to be effective with what we have."
Plenty of the focus is going to fall on Selvie, who has turned Spencer's injury into a starting spot in the last six weeks. In four preseason games at left defensive end, he notched six tackles with three sacks after signing a contract from his home in Florida.
"When you have a guy that's coming in off the couch – we call him the brick layer," Ware said. "He comes in and it's a brick at a time, being effective. He's built a pretty nice little house over there at left end."
Selvie's not a stranger to the regular season, with 36 career games under his belt in three seasons. But the combination of learning from two Pro Bowlers has been something he said he's used to improve considerably.
"Spencer is always giving tips – 'Angle this way. Do this and do that,'" he said. "Any time you've got the Defensive MVP of this team helping you, it's a good thing. D-Ware is always helping me too."
Adding into that makeshift pass rush is new acquisition Caesar Rayford, who said Wednesday he's ready to play should the Cowboys call on him. As has been widely noted, Rayford's five sacks led the NFL during the preseason.
It's all enough to give Ware confidence in the defensive line – regardless of who's starting. Ware said he'd like to see Spencer on the field if it's at all possible, but he's not concerned about the Cowboys' options up front.
"You know, I'm not worried about it at all. I don't want to see Spence out there on the field, I want to see Spencer. I want the 100 percent Spencer," Ware said. "I don't know if he's going to play this week, I just – I don't know -- I hope he does. I want the guy out there, and that goes for everybody else, too."