IRVING, Texas – With one of the biggest games of the season now on the horizon and the defending champs and current division leaders coming into town this week, the Cowboys are certainly banged up on both sides of the ball.
In both cases – it's right up the middle. Starting center Phil Costa has a severely sprained ankle that looked a lot worse on the field than it now appears to be. Coach Jason Garrett said on Monday the Cowboys (3-3) are more optimistic now than after the game.
"We are more optimistic about Costa now than we were (Sunday)," Garrett said. "When that injury happened during the game everybody was concerned as he was being carted off. I didn't get a great look at what happened. But it didn't look good. Sure enough by the end of the night last night and by today we are a little more optimistic. It's a significant injury. We are not saying anything but that."
According to sources however, MRI results showed torn ligaments in the ankle, which could keep him out for this game against the 5-2 Giants and likely a few more.
The same uncertainty same goes for the defensive side with middle linebacker Sean Lee, whose sprained toe injury could be problematic as well. The Cowboys are still awaiting word on Lee's status as of Monday evening, but sources close to the team said they are preparing for their starting linebacker and leading tackler to possibly miss this week, and maybe a few more games.
"He has a sprained toe. He'll have an MRI today," Garrett said on Monday. "We'll wait on those results."
While toe injuries never seem to be overly concerning, they're probably the most underrated of injuries, considering how difficult it is to move around with any kind of discomfort in the foot.
"I couldn't run or cut like I wanted to," Lee said after the game. "I just felt like I was hurting the team if I stayed out there. But I think I can be ready for this next game."
Lee had to miss a game last season when he broke his hand. He was able to play a week later with a bulky club that remained on his hand for a few more weeks.
Lee has more than 80 tackles this year, far and away leading the team by more than double Bruce Carter and DeMarcus Ware for second and third. Lee also has been a force rushing the quarterback with eight quarterback pressures heading into the Panthers game, one less than Ware and Anthony Spencer.
Lee will be replaced by Dan Connor, a college teammate of Lee at Penn State. Also, look for Orie Lemon to get more snaps as a backup inside backer.
Just as important as Lee is on defense, Costa's value isn't far behind on offense. The only game this year he's started and finished occurred in Baltimore, where he played his best game of his career. Costa anchored a line that paved the way for 227 rushing yards.
The Cowboys will once again turn to Ryan Cook, a seven-year veteran whom the Cowboys acquired in a trade with the Dolphins before the start of the regular season. He was here for five days before being thrown into action against the Giants when Costa re-aggravated a back injury three snaps into the season.
Cook finished the Giants game, and then started and completed the next three games before Costa's stellar return in Baltimore. Cook missed that game completely with a hamstring injury. David Arkin has been the backup center for four of the six games this year but has not to play a snap in his two-year career.
The Cowboys have more injuries than just Costa and Lee, as running back DeMarco Murray is still dealing with a sprained foot. Garrett called Murray a "fast healer" but said he wasn't sure on his timetable for this week. Murray rushed for a season-high 131 yards against the Giants in the first week of the season.
Phillip Tanner and Felix Jones will again be called upon to handle the load against the Giants if Murray can't go.