ARLINGTON, Texas - Even though Jay Ratliff missed several practices and the first two preseason games because of a foot injury, the theory all along was that he would be playing if the regular season were upon us.
That's probably not the case anymore, and it's not because of the plantar fasciitis that has bothered him all offseason.
Ratliff now has a high-ankle sprain with which to deal, suffering the damage in the second quarter of Saturday's 20-19 win over the Rams at Cowboys Stadium. Before his injury, Ratliff was flying around the ball and playing like a guy who has made four straight Pro Bowls.
One source in the locker room said, "He's playing" when asked about the nature of Ratliff's injury, obviously referring to the Sept. 5 season opener against the Giants. The Cowboys have not sent out an official injury report following the game.
While his defensive teammates used the word "warrior" to describe Ratliff, even outside linebacker Anthony Spencer said seeing Ratliff on crutches is enough to worry about.
"It probably just happened, so they are probably just being cautious right now," Spencer said. "But when you can't walk and you're walking on crutches, it is a little alarming. Hopefully he'll be all right and will get back out there."
While all injuries are different, the high-ankle sprain is typically in the 2-4 week timetable range. More often than not, linemen seem to come back quicker than the speedy receivers and defensive backs that do more sprinting and cutting.
If Ratliff does miss some time, the Cowboys would likely lean on third-year pro Josh Brent and possibly defensive end Marcus Spears, who said after the game he's only played "a handful" of snaps at nose tackle this year.
"I'm just trying to make this team right now," Spears said. "But I've (played nose) before. I've done it, and I'm comfortable with it. But they haven't said anything to me about it. We're still trying to find out about Jay."