Cowboys nose tackle Ratliff might miss start of season

Posted Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Jay Ratliff’s stay on the physically unable to perform list has lasted longer than the Dallas Cowboys expected, and it could carry into the season.

The defensive tackle strained a hamstring during the team’s conditioning test July 20.

He missed all of training camp, other than a couple of teaching sessions, while rehabbing from the hamstring injury and off-season sports hernia surgery.

Ratliff will not practice this week, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Ratliff’s availability for the season opener is in doubt.

“There are areas that none of us know other than to see how it’s feeling on a day-to-day basis and where his strength is,” Jones said after Saturday’s victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. “Not necessarily how it is feeling [but what his strength is]. Ratliff will play on one leg. He will. There’s no question about that. He’ll do it, and do it competitively.

“But the bottom line is that we just don’t know how he’s going to measure up with the symptoms and how wise that is to play him or not play him and get more out of him later on down the road.”

Ratliff would miss the first six weeks of the regular season if the Cowboys keep him on PUP. He missed 10 games last season with various injuries. He had plantar fasciitis in the 2012 off-season, sprained his ankle in the preseason and then needed surgery late in the season to repair a sports hernia, which put him on injured reserve.

His sack totals have decreased five consecutive seasons, including no sacks in 2012. But the Cowboys are excited about having him as the under tackle in the Tampa 2 defense, believing he is a good fit for the scheme.

The Cowboys expect to welcome cornerback Morris Claiborne (knee) back to practice this week.

‘Sky’s the limit’ for Dez

Dez Bryant’s popularity as a Fantasy Football pick is rising as is his value to the Cowboys’ offense.

Bryant caught six passes for 54 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals on Saturday, giving him 13 catches for 183 yards and a touchdown in three preseason games.

“The sky’s the limit,” Jerry Jones said.

Hall of Famer Roger Staubach places Bryant on the short list of players considered for the league’s best receiver.

“He’s got that kind of talent,” Jones said. “Unquestionably, he has that kind of talent. That’s not new. What is new is [his] work and his recognizing that and having confidence in it, and his quarterback having that kind of confidence in him and the secondary and the opposing team having that kind of confidence in him.”

The expectations are high for Bryant, 24, after what he did down the stretch last season. He had 50 receptions for 879 yards and 10 touchdowns in the second half of last season, scoring at least once in nine of the last 10 games.

“That’s fine,” Bryant said. “I don’t look at pressure. I go out and play my game. I always got a high standard for myself. I think a lot of people do. If they don’t, it’s a problem. I always have a high standard for myself. That’s just how it goes. If I put up the numbers, I put them up.”

Starting OL

It is less than two weeks until the start of the season, and the Cowboys still do not know their starting offensive line.

On Saturday, they had Tyron Smith at left tackle, Mackenzy Bernadeau at left guard, Travis Frederick at center, Doug Free at right guard and Jermey Parnell at right tackle.

But the only thing certain after Saturday’s dress rehearsal is that Smith will start at left tackle and Frederick at center in the season opener in two weeks.

“I think [Ron] Leary has got a chance to come in, so I think he does have a chance to play,” Jerry Jones said.

Leary, who had right knee surgery Aug. 16, will start at left guard if he can get back in time for the opener Sept. 8. Bernadeau would be at right guard. Free would move back to right tackle. But Leary’s return is an if.

The Cowboys tried out their contingency plan against the Bengals after trying and failing to sign Brandon Moore and then Brian Waters during training camp.

Free has started 55 games at tackle. He has never made a regular-season start at guard. The Cowboys moved him there early last week in practice.

Parnell has started only one career regular-season game. He subbed for Smith at left tackle in the Thanksgiving Day game against the Redskins after Smith sprained an ankle the previous week against Cleveland.

The Cowboys appear ready to move on from Nate Livings, who had right knee surgery three weeks ago. They signed him to a five-year, $18.75 million deal as a free agent in 2012, and he started all 16 games last season.

Charean Williams, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @NFLCharean 

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