OXNARD, Calif. — It's still early in training camp, but the injury bug has already bitten one member of the Cowboys' rookie class.
Matt Waletzko, one of the team's rookie fifth-round picks expected to help the club sort out the issue of depth at tackle, left practice on Thursday with what's been described as a shoulder injury that sidelined him on both Friday and Saturday.
As the team's first padded practice of camp takes hold on Monday, Waletzko will once again be absent, raising the question on if the former North Dakota standout will return to the field any time soon. When asked about the chances of the 22-year-old suiting up this week, head coach Mike McCarthy painted an unfavorable picture of the rookie's status.
"I do not," McCarthy said on Monday. "I think he'll be hard-pressed to get out there this week. [The training staff is] still trying to make a decision on the shoulder."
That decision includes discussions on Waletzko possibly undergoing surgery, and how soon he'd need to.
"I think it's going to be 'when', or can he get through," McCarthy explained. "He's a rookie, so we don't really know [yet] until we see him move around in the weight room - strength levels and all that. He's in medical evaluation right now."
Waletzko, a two-time all-conference player, entered the offseason program in an unofficial battle with players like Josh Ball for the role of backup swing tackle, a key position of need with the Cowboys opting to release starting right tackle La'el Collins earlier this offseason - a move that promotes former backup tackle Terence Steele into the starting role opposing Tyron Smith.
And with rookie first-round pick Tyler Smith being prepped for mostly guard duty going forward and not tackle, per McCarthy, there are reps to be had for a healthy Waletzko; but the verdict is out on if he'll be able to take advantage of them anytime soon.