IRVING, Texas --Punter Mat McBriar's 2011 season, and perhaps his eight-year tenure with the Cowboys, didn't end the way he hoped.
Just a year removed from his second career Pro Bowl, McBriar spent the final week of the season on injured reserve with a nerve issue in his left plant foot -- drop foot, it's called -- and now enters the offseason an impending free agent.
"It's a different kind of offseason," McBriar said. "First and foremost, just looking to get healthy and then we'll see how the cards fall."
The injury began bothering McBriar in Week 7 against St. Louis. He missed the Week 9 game against Seattle, but with help from the athletic training staff, found a way to manage it through treatment and a combination of braces.
McBriar had to adjust his punting style, however, using more end-over-end kicks. He didn't feel like he had enough control over his punts. And the numbers showed. He had a 37.5-yard net average over his final nine games, compared with his career-high 41.7-yard net last year.
The nerve didn't seem to improve over the course of the season, and last week, McBriar and the team decided it was best to let his foot calm down. He said he will continue to have his foot evaluated, but didn't think surgery an immediate option.
"I was hurting the guys," McBriar said. "I didn't want to be responsible for letting the guys down. I didn't feel myself out there and I didn't feel like I was giving us an advantage at all. I really thought I was a hindrance."
Rookie Chris Jones replaced McBriar on Sunday for the second time this season and would appear to be a leading candidate if McBriar doesn't return in 2012.