IRVING, Texas – Four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jay Ratliff is nearing eligibility to return from the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list, but that doesn't exactly mean he's still on schedule.
Ratliff has to sit out at least one more game, meeting the six-week minimum for being placed on PUP because of a nagging groin injury.
NFL rules state players coming off PUP are eligible to practice after missing the first six weeks of the season, but can practice for three weeks before being activated to the 53-man roster, which of course, would mean the Cowboys would have to make a spot for him.
However, there are no guarantees Ratliff will be ready to resume practicing right away.
Head coach Jason Garrett said Ratliff has been working out and rehabbing as "a combination" at both Valley Ranch and out of town on his own.
"We feel like he's making progress, and we'll just see how he does as he gets closer to doing some more football type movements," Garrett said.
His injury situation has been rather puzzling since he underwent sports hernia surgery last winter. Ratliff was expected to be ready to play for the start of camp. Then he suffered a hamstring injury in the conditioning run and was sidelined even further. By the time, his hamstring injury had somewhat cleared up, the groin injury was again a problem, prompting the Cowboys put him on PUP.
Ratliff was supposed to be a starter in this new 4-3 scheme at defensive tackle. He has spent most of his career as a 3-4 nose tackle and has been considered one of the NFL's best players, making four straight Pro Bowls from 2008-11.
Back in June, Ratliff discussed his excitement to play for defensive line coach Rod Marinelli.
"He's definitely a player's coach. He coaches everyone the same way," Ratliff said of Marinelli. "He has high expectations. Whether you're a rookie or well-seasoned vet, he gives everyone the same amount of effort and time. He's open to everyone's questions. I think he controls the room really well because everyone respects him."
At one point in Sunday's loss to the Broncos, the Cowboys were defending Peyton Manning with a defensive tackle duo of David Carter and Drake Nevis, neither of which were on the team in Week 2.
While those two held their own as backups to starters Jason Hatcher and Nick Hayden, it's clear the Cowboys could use more depth at the position.
And that's where Ratliff should be able to help.