SAN DIEGO -- An already battered Dallas Cowboys roster got another scare on Monday when Dez Bryant was one of three receivers forced to leave a joint practice with the San Diego Chargers because of injury.
Bryant, Andre Holmes and Donovan Kemp underwent MRI exams.
The team was relieved to learn a few hours later that Bryant was diagnosed with patellar tendinitis in his left knee. Holmes has a lower back strain. Test results on Kemp's left knee were unknown.
Bryant's status for practice the rest of this week and Saturday's preseason game against the St. Louis Rams is unknown. He'll be evaluated on a day-to-day basis.
If he doesn't play against the Rams, it likely means Bryant won't play again until the Sept. 5 season opener against the New York Giants. Starters are expected to play little, if at all, in the preseason finale against the Miami Dolphins.
Bryant's injury is another setback for the Cowboys' offense and its ability to gain cohesiveness before the season opener, considering that fellow starting receiver Miles Austin (hamstring) and tight end Jason Witten (spleen) are out the rest of the preseason. Witten might be sidelined through the opener.
The Cowboys had 19 players sidelined in last Saturday's preseason game against the Chargers.
They got seven back on the field for practice Monday -- defensive end Jason Hatcher, defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, linebacker Anthony Spencer, safety Matt Johnson, receiver Danny Coale, guard Nate Livings and running back Lance Dunbar.
But that was before losing three more, with Bryant being the biggest name.
He went down during one-on-one drills early in practice, putting an end to what has been a stellar training camp and preseason for the third-year player.
"He has practiced really well," coach Jason Garrett said. "He is maturing in a lot of ways as a receiver. He is a more reliable guy for the quarterbacks. He has always had an ability to make plays, as you know. When you combine that with the ability to be a consistent guy who can win on a consistent basis and the quarterbacks have a trust level in him, he becomes a complete player at the position.
"He has grown. Hopefully this injury is not too severe. If it is, we will deal with it and go forward."
For now, the Cowboys will go forward with limited numbers at receiver.
The situation is a huge setback for Holmes, who was already falling behind in the competition for the third receiver spot. He had a good game against the Oakland Raiders in the preseason opener, but then had a drop against the Chargers while Kevin Ogletree, Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris had strong outings.
Beasley caught seven passes for 104 yards. Ogletree caught four for 60 yards, and Harris had four for 42 yards with a touchdown.
Ogletree, who is listed as the third receiver behind Austin and Bryant, and Harris ended practice Monday working with the first team.
"We want those guys to be out there," Garrett said. "Miles and Dez are slated starters for this season. We have talked already that injuries provide opportunity and the guys need to step up.
"We had players who played well at that position in the game and if they get chances in practice, they've got to take advantage of it. And if they get a chance to play in the game this week, they have to take advantage of it."
Clarence E. Hill Jr.