OXNARD, Calif. – The writing was on the wall when Orlando Scandrick was carted off the practice field Tuesday evening, but it's now official. An MRI has confirmed that the veteran corner has torn both his MCL and ACL, effectively ending his 2015 season.
Scandrick went to the ground late during the Cowboys' last portion of practice, and he had to be carted off the field to the locker room. Before he even underwent an MRI, Scandrick himself gave a bleak diagnosis to secondary coach Jerome Henderson.
"He said immediately 'It's my ACL. I know it. It's gone.' I hope that's not the case. I hope he's just really dramatic – I hope he's just really, really dramatic," Henderson said. "So I've got my fingers crossed, and we all said a little prayer for him. We're hopeful he'll be OK."
The team's body language in the immediate aftermath of the injury didn't signify a lot of hope. Barry Church, who was close to the play, was visibly upset and left the field without talking to reporters. A clearly emotional Henderson also held a group prayer at the end of practice to address the situation.
"I said, you know 'O is hurting right now, everybody keep him in your prayers – and it's the next man up if he is out,'" Henderson said. "We don't know if that's the case yet, but in this league it happens to every team. You hate that it happens to such a great player – if he is hurt. But it's next man up, and we've got to keep moving."
Tony Romo took to Twitter on Tuesday evening to offer a similar sentiment – this didn't have the look of a short-term injury.
Romo was looking for Lucky Whitehead after a play action fake on the play in question. Having gone through his progressions, he uncorked a long ball to the rookie wide out – who had Scandrick rushing to cover him over the top.
The ball found Whitehead, who quickly went to ground with the catch – hitting Scandrick's knee in the process.
"I'd seen him come off the route at the last minute," Whitehead said. "As a receiver I thought he was going to hit me, so I tried to get down before I got hit. It was just unfortunate that he got hurt."
With Scandrick out for the foreseeable future, the Cowboys will turn toward Morris Claiborne to replace him at the right cornerback spot. If there's anyone who can relate to the setback, it's probably Claiborne – who was lost for most of last season with a torn patellar tendon.
"You know when your knee isn't right. I've been there. And I heard it in his voice," Claiborne said. "I have been there. I actually felt myself go back to then after sitting there looking at hike and he's holding his hands and squeezing them. I've been there."
In keeping with the mantra of "Next Man Up," Henderson was asked about the contigency plan without Scandrick in the lineup. Claiborne is the go-to on the right side of the formation, and it'll be another scrappy defensive back as the replacement option in the slot.
"That'll be Tyler Patmon. He's done a good job for us. And, like O, has those unique awareness instincts inside – that he feels the game, that he sees the game from a different perspective," Henderson said. "Now he'll get an opportunity to go out and see how he holds up in there. We'll start with him, and we'll figure out a plan from there."
There's no shortage of depth at the position, especially after the additions of Corey White and Byron Jones during the offseason. But it's going to be a cold comfort with their top corner and one of their emotional sparkplugs gone for the season.
"Yeah, it's tough. You get a little emotional, because he's one of your guys. So it's tough to see him, out here in practice, go down," Henderson said. "But again, it's part of our game. It's what makes our game great, because losing him gives somebody else another opportunity to step up and be a player for us. It's a tough time, though."