MOBILE, Ala. – Injured players tend to be out of sight, out of mind during the grind of an NFL season.
Combine his back injury with the fact that he has yet to play a down in the NFL, and it's understandable if Charles Tapper was an afterthought during the run to the Cowboys' NFC East title.
Drafted in the fourth round last spring, Tapper was limited throughout training camp and during the early going of the season by a stress fracture in his back, commonly referred to as a Pars Defect. He tried to return to practice in September, but was sent to the injured reserve after a setback.
Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said on numerous occasions that Tapper was a condition to bring back from IR during the playoffs, but the front office ultimately decided against it.
"We had hopes that Charles would be neck and neck with (La'el) Collins as to which one we would bring up for active in our playoff run and that's what we thought about Tapper," he said. "But he didn't get to get as much practices reps as you'd like for a young player like that to get."
From the sounds of it, though, the Cowboys do expect Tapper to get those reps in 2017. Talking at Senior Bowl practices on Tuesday, Jones said the injury isn't a long-term concern, and the young defensive end should be able to contribute going forward.
"That's exactly right, other than the fact that there was a situation," he said. "But I don't know that I'm concerned about that as much as I am about him getting his work in and becoming a better football player during the offseason."