FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys signed Justin Durant in mid-July as veteran insurance at the linebacker position.
Last Saturday, starting middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens suffered a tibial plateau fracture in his right knee that will sideline him eight weeks.
Two weeks before the regular season, the 31-year-old Durant's time is now – again.
"They brought me here obviously for a reason. I think the reason is here," he said this week. "So I have to be ready to step up and do what they need me to do."
This is Durant's third stint with the Cowboys. The team took a deliberate approach with his return to the field this summer, coming off February elbow surgery.
He began working back into practice near the end of the team's training camp stay in Oxnard, Calif., and recently started taking reps in team drills.
"We just decided that we were going to be kind of slow in working in because I getting up there in age and I didn't participate in the offseason program," he said. "We were just going to take things slow from the start. Initially it was to play some last week, but we just came to the decision that it wasn't really something that we wanted to do, so we didn't do it. I've been ready to play. I'll be ready to go when the time comes."
The Cowboys know what Durant can do. He has played all three linebacker positions during his previous stops in Dallas and will likely absorb some of Hitchens' snaps at middle linebacker.
His presence also allows the team to continue their plan of gradually working Jaylon Smith back into game action coming off his devastating 2016 knee injury.
"I think he has done a real good job," head coach Jason Garrett said. "Obviously he was dealing with an injury throughout the offseason. He wasn't with us to lay that foundation. So our approach with him here in training camp has been to get him acclimated physically and mentally. I think he has done a really good job of that.
"He is a professional. He goes about it the right way. He has been a good player for us in the past. When he has been healthy he has made an impact on the defense. We are trying to get him to that point. He has worked very hard."