IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys' two suspended starters returned to practice on Wednesday, giving the roster a boost in the wake of several injury issues.
Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain were both taking part in their first practices after returning from four-game suspensions – Hardy's for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, McClain's for violating the substance abuse policy.
"We anticipate both Rolando and Greg to be back this week," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "We'll see how they do each and every day. We anticipate them helping our team."
Hardy went through the Cowboys' entire offseason program and was an active participant in training camp and the preseason, which should help him acclimate to playing his first football game in roughly a year. The road might be a little longer for McClain, who missed the entire offseason and was inactive during training camp while recovering from a knee scope.
Garrett said it'll be a challenge for McClain to readjust without taking a single rep since the Cowboys' playoff loss to Green Bay in January.
"You don't just roll out there and play. But he has been working hard," he said. "He's been with us for the first four weeks of the season so he has been in meetings and he has been conditioning on his own. And we're excited to get him back out there."
The two returners garnered most of the attention Wednesday morning, but the Cowboys also had several absences worth noting. Sean Lee was not at practice, as he is undergoing concussion protocol after taking a hit to the head Sunday night against New Orleans.
James Hanna was also absent after he suffered an ankle injury in the later stages of the game against the Saints, and Brice Butler sat out after injuring his hamstring during a 67-yard reception in the third quarter.
Those three, coupled with the two long-term absences of Dez Bryant and Randy Gregory, gave the Cowboys five absentees on the day.
The Cowboys are also expected to make two roster moves this week while they begin preparations for New England. They are expected to promote defensive end Lavar Edwards to the active roster, filling the spot left by Lance Dunbar – who will be moved to injured reserve.
Linebacker Keith Smith is also expected to be signed to fill Edwards' vacated place on the practice squad. Smith was released earlier this week to make room for McClain on the 53-man roster. He spent the first month of the season on the active roster while McClain was suspended.