FRISCO, Texas – Nothing ever comes easy in the NFL.
Take the Cowboys. They were moving along nicely the first couple of weeks in training camp, just a few nagging strains here and there, but nothing real serious.
Then reality strikes.
First-round draft choice Leighton Vander Esch suffers a strained groin.
Then Zack Martin suffers a bruised and hyperextended knee.
Then Xavier Woods strains a hamstring diving for an interception.
Then Travis Frederick, thought to be bothered with mere stingers, discovers he's come down with Guillain Barre Syndrome, leaving his status for the near and far future in no-man's land.
Then Kavon Frazier knocks his shoulder out of joint in the third preseason game.
You'd have thought Humpty-Dumpty fell off the wall.
As Cowboys COO Stephen Jones said this afternoon from the annual Cowboys Kickoff Luncheon, "You're going to hit bumps and hit adversity."
But the show must go on, and believe me, no one out there feels sorry for you. They all got alligators snapping at their behinds, too.
So time for some final preseason shots.
Last Shots: For most on the outside, the fourth and final preseason game is a huge nuisance, all played on Thursday now before the lone roster cuts, teams going from 90 players to 53 by 3 p.m. Saturday before more alterations take place by Monday. But don't ask guys like Cooper Rush and Mike White and Lance Lenoir and Bo Scarbrough and Darius Jackson and Tyree Robinson and Charles Tapper and Kadeem Edwards if Thursday night's game against Houston at NRG Stadium is a waste of time. For many of these fringe players, this is like last call. Better make whatever opportunity you get count. Just listen to Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett: "There is no better opportunity to evaluate someone than to see him in a game. Obviously practice matters, we value practice, but to see them in a game situation and see how they respond to success and to adversity, just the game conditions, that's the most important part of the evaluation we'll have . . . again, this game against Houston, the last preseason game, is a valuable tool for us in making our final decisions." So stay alert, by golly. Game time, 7 p.m.
Travis On 53: The Cowboys seem optimistic, but they really don't know for sure when or if Frederick will be healthy and strong enough to return. Having said that, Frederick will be on the Cowboys' 53-man roster after Saturday's cuts for two reasons. One, they aren't sure if he will miss the first four games, the first eight games or the entire season, so they could just carry him as the 53rd person on the roster if they are optimistic over his return. Or they will place him on injured reserve with the ability to recall him after an eight-game absence, and to qualify for the return the player must be on the initial 53-man roster for 24 hours. Been encouraging to see their four-time Pro Bowl center at Wednesday's luncheon, not to mention at The Star Tuesday watching practice from the field.
Eyes Wide Open: The Cowboys have two sore rosters spots, and that's no secret: Quality backup offensive linemen and safety. So sore that not only must they scour the crowded waiver wire, but also must consider trade possibilities. Especially at center, since with Joe Looney, your swing center/guard, now starting at center in place of Frederick, the Cowboys don't have a quality enough backup center to start the season. They also are a little shaky at backup guard, the leader being Edwards, no more than a practice squad player since coming into the league as Tampa Bay's fifth-round draft choice in 2014. He has never played in an NFL game. And to tell you the truth, the play of backup tackles Cameron Fleming and Chaz Green has not generated much confidence if they were called on to start like two or three games. And safety, pffft. It's Jeff Heath, hopeful of Kavon Frazier, whose dislocated shoulder was popped back into place Sunday night, and … well, right now it's rookie free agent Tyree Robinson. Jones labeled their search as, "We're on the hunt for Red October." September, too.
LVE Update: There is a chance Vander Esch will be able to jump into practice next week as the Cowboys tune up for the season opener against Carolina. The first-round pick has been out since the Blue-White practice with a strained groin. But he's been rehabbing hard out here at The Star, first on the resistance cords with the trainers and recently running full speed in a straight line.
Final Shots: Maybe the Pro Football Hall of Fame saw the overwhelming response from you guys on my June 22 column on Gil Brandt when I wrote, My gosh, the man belongs in the Ring of Honor. Heck, he belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Hopefully the voting committee sees fit to vote the deserving Gil in, recently nominated as a contributor … Don't count on many, if any veteran starters playing in Thursday night's preseason final … Great sight to see Tuesday with defensive tackle Maliek Collins back at full practice, even if it was just in shells … Same with Deonte Thompson, who lit up the defense with two receptions on long balls. The guy can run … And final words to remember for Saturday come from Jones, who said of the roster cuts, "It won't be over just because we make the cuts on Saturday. It will be on-going."
That shot you can bet on.