IRVING, Texas -Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff underwent abdominal surgery to treat a sports hernia in Philadelphia on Thursday. While surgery this late in the year typically means a player is out for the season, Jason Garrett explained on Friday that the Cowboys do not plan on putting Ratliff on the IR with hopes that they will make it to the playoffs and get him back on the field at some point.
"Well, the timetable is 3-6 weeks is what we're told," Garrett said. "We're going to give him every opportunity to stay on the 53 (man roster) and be a part of our football team."
With Josh Brent no longer a possibility to replace Ratliff in the starting lineup, the surgery will continue to leave the Cowboys thin at the defensive line. Sean Lissemore is the most likely replacement at nose tackle and Dallas will also ask for contributions from newly signed Brian Schaefering and recently-called-up Robert Callaway.
Garrett talked about what it means to not have Ratliff on defense.
"He's an outstanding player," Ratliff said. "He's dealt with a lot of injuries this year. When he plays he plays very well. We know all about his passion for the game, his love for the game. He's a warrior. That's the way he's always played throughout his career."
The words "when he plays" are key here. Ratliff has missed a number of games due to various injuries. He worked through a foot injury prior to the season and then a high ankle sprain forced him to miss five weeks. Ratliff was productive upon his return, but only lasted six games before a groin injury on Thanksgiving began to hamper him for the rest of the season.
Garrett mentioned that the timetable for Ratliff's return is 3-6 weeks. With just three games left in the season the Cowboys would have to make the playoffs and likely advance a round before any chance of seeing Ratliff back healthy and ready to suit up.
Terrence Newman suffered a similar injury in 2008, which could possibly be used to gauge Ratliff's potential return. Newman suffered a groin injury in the preseason and, like Ratliff, the injury lingered for a few weeks until the decision was made that abdominal surgery would be required.
After midseason surgery, Newman missed five games and a bye week before returning to the field. But after the six weeks of recovery he seemed to be playing near 100 percent, as he was very effective upon his return. It's hard to say whether or not it would be more or less difficult for a defensive lineman to recover from the injury than a defensive back.
Ratliff took every day of the projected recovery time before returning from his high ankle sprain. And if Newman's case is any sign, then it seems unlikely that we will see Ratliff back on the field at any point this season.