The injury bug sank it's stinger into the Cowboys roster over the back half of the season, but the team is in a very good spot regarding their health as the most important game of the year nears
The bad news is the Dallas Cowboys won't be whole going into their wild card fight against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, seeing as Terence Steele, Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown are on season-ending injured reserve. The great news for the club, however, is they'll likely see the return of three starters for the start of the playoffs on Monday night.
Tyler Biadasz, Leighton Vander Esch and Johnathan Hankins, the Cowboys' starters at center, middle linebacker and nose tackle, respectively, are all on track to suit up in Tampa.
All have practiced fully this week, though Hankins is still awaiting activation from IR to the 53-man roster (there is a spot available that wouldn't require a corresponding roster move), and having an extra day to rehab would've been welcome with open arms by the Cowboys — if they needed it. Turns out, they're so healthy this week, contextually speaking, that they could've played on Sunday if that were the league's decision.
"It's a normal long week," head coach Mike McCarthy said on Saturday. "If you need it health-wise — we didn't need it. We're ready to go."
The importance of each of the three aforementioned players can't be overstated, with Biadasz and Vander Esch acting as de facto quarterbacks at their position and Hankins being paramount in helping to strengthen the interior wall against the run.
McCarthy gave more insight into how the Cowboys structured practice this week, helping to avoid any potential injury setbacks in the process.
"I think the way they practiced yesterday, and the work that we're going to get done today, this time of the year you wanna get up and go play," he said. "That's part of it, but I really think you have to work smart. It'll cost you most by doing too much instead of not enough, but that's clearly not the case this week. That's why how we spaced out Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday was important.
"We really wanted Thursday through Monday to feel like a normal flow into the game."
As the team has been reminded at every turn, Brady is an undefeated 7-0 against the franchise and still dangerous, given his offensive weapons, despite the Buccaneers having won the NFC South with a losing record to punch their ticket into the playoffs.
Help is on the way to try and help Dallas finally break the streak, though.