FRISCO, TX — If there's one thing the Dallas Cowboys are well-versed in this season, it's adversity, and especially by way of injury. As they enter their regular season finale against the Washington Commanders, and with the NFC East title and the No. 2 seed on the line, it's with a close eye on both offensive lineman Tyler Smith and defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins.
Smith suffered a fully torn plantar fascia in the victory over the Detroit Lions this past weekend, exiting in the third quarter and not returning to the contest. Despite the injury, his prognosis for the playoffs, and even the regular season finale, remains promising.
"He's sore," said head coach Mike McCarthy. "We'll find out more [in practice] on Wednesday. He has a chance, is how it's been described."
As odd as it may sound, a full tear of the plantar fascia is far less severe than a partial tear/strain, in that it is easier to manage from the perspective of pain and avoids sidelining the player for multiple weeks.
When asked if that was indeed the silver lining for Smith, McCarthy nodded.
"I would agree with [that] description," McCarthy added.
This means that even if the Cowboys opt to rest Smith in Week 18 — particularly considering the game is outdoors it is expected to be in the upper 30s at kickoff — the odds are currently great that he'll be available to take the field on NFL Super Wild Card Weekend.
As for Hankins, the news is equally positive, if not more so. The veteran run stopper has missed the previous three games with a high ankle sprain suffered in the blowout victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 14, but is trending toward being well for the playoffs and, not unlike Smith, having a chance against the Commanders.
"Johnathan had a good workout [on Monday]," said McCarthy. "We'll see how he feels tomorrow and our goal is to work him in on Wednesday — is our hope."
Of course, there is also the possibility McCarthy gives Hankins one more week of rest and rehab as well, but that is to-be-determined as the next few days roll along.
As noted, the Cowboys have a lot to play for in Washington, and that includes having one final opportunity to fix their road woes before entering the tournament.
It's also true that this reality must be balanced with the importance of having Smith and Hankins at full speed in two weeks.