FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys' one-week roster exemption for La'el Collins ends Monday, which means the veteran right tackle is officially heading back to the 53-man roster following a completed five-game NFL suspension.
Last week the Cowboys released fullback Nick Ralston (who's back on the practice squad) to make room for Collins on the 53.
Collins' return to the active roster is a procedural move. A more subjective decision is whether he'll immediately return to the starting lineup Sunday at Minnesota.
That wouldn't be a huge surprise. Collins has started 48 games at right tackle since moving from guard in 2017. He's been a Pro Bowl caliber player when healthy.
"We're very confident that he's going to totally get back to where he was," Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones said Monday on 105.3 The Fan. "I think the bigger question is, after sitting out five games, does he need some time? And certainly that's what (offensive line) Coach (Joe) Philbin and (head coach) Mike (McCarthy) and (offensive coordinator) Kellen (Moore) will be looking at this week, is to just see where he is as we really get out (to practice) and start to put bodies on each other and start to get a feel for where his conditioning is and where he is in terms of being ready to play."
Collins has only started one game (this year's season opener at Tampa Bay) since the end of the 2019 season. He spent all of 2020 on injured reserve with a hip injury that required surgery, ad this year's suspension has sidelined him five of six games. He also had limited practice time late in training camp because of a neck stinger.
Second-year right tackle Terence Steele filled in for 14 starts as a rookie and has shown obvious improvement in five starts for Collins this year.
The Cowboys haven't announced a starter at right tackle for Week 8. Collins' suspension was lifted last week, but the team was on a bye. They get back to a normal practice schedule Wednesday.
As Jones said, there's no better gauge than actual on-field work. Practice will factor into how quickly Collins gets back into the groove.
"We're excited to have him back," guard Zack Martin said. "I know he's chomping at the bit to get out there and run around with everyone. So we'll see what happens moving forward, but I know he's excited to be back."