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Vander Esch Says Neck Injury 'All Behind Me'


Leighton Vander Esch isn't really interested in talking about last year.

But for the record, the Cowboys' third-year linebacker says "I'm back and better than I was" in terms of strength in his neck before his January surgery.

"I've been training for like three or four months hard. I've got all my strength back," Vander Esch said Thursday via conference call. "Everything's going great there, and I feel amazing. I'm just excited to be on the field."

Vander Esch said he's making a slight adjustment to his pads for the upcoming season.

"I have a smaller roll inside my actual pads now too, to help with, I guess you could say 'shock,'" he said. "But as far mobility and everything, I still have all my mobility, being able to look around with my helmet, no problems there. Just a small adjustment with the roll."

A rookie Pro Bowler as a first-round pick in 2018, Vander Esch missed seven games in 2019 with a neck injury and had surgery in January with about a four-month recovery timetable.

He posted 87 tackles in nine games before missing the final five games of the season after inflammation in his neck worsened the week of the Patriots game in late November.

The Cowboys consistently expressed confidence that Vander Esch would make a full recovery for football. And with non-padded training camp practice set to begin later next week, the 24-year-old Vander Esch says the injury is "all behind me."

"I'm not worried about my neck anymore. I don't talk about it," he said. "It is what it is and people can think what they want to think about it. But I've been training for four months hard and I'm already better than I was before I got hurt with that injury. It doesn't affect me. I just don't talk about it. It's not worth wasting time about."