La’el Collins is running, and though his return is not imminent, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he expects the offensive guard back on the field in time for a playoff run.
“Yes, I do,” Jones said on his radio show on 105.3 The Fan when asked if he expected the Cowboys to use their designated to return from injured reserve on Collins.
“I think from here on out, we’ll be watching it. He’ll be improving. But he gives us the best chance and we learned from [Ron] Leary even though we’ve looked long with numbers there, when we bring La’el back, we’ve learned that boy, you drop one man out of that offensive front, and you can really compromise it. So that gives us depth going into the playoffs. We’ve got the quarterbacks. We’ve got our offensive line. I think we had a big contribution from a lot of our front seven last night, and that’s going to get better. This 10 days looks good. This thing looks good.”
Collins, the second-year veteran, injured his right big toe in the first quarter of the Week 3 victory over the Bears. An MRI revealed a ligament tear, and after consultation with Dr. Robert Anderson, Collins underwent surgery Oct. 4.
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The Cowboys placed him on injured reserve Oct. 5.
“Right now, I’m running, doing some things on the field and just lifting weights, just getting stronger,” Collins said this week. “That’s pretty much where it is for me.”
The Cowboys also have rookie defensive end Charles Tapper on injured reserve. He was placed on the list in September with a back injury. Both players have missed the eight weeks required of short-term injured reserve, and the Cowboys can designate one to return.
But neither is ready yet.
“I definitely haven’t given up on the season,” Collins said. “For me, the ultimate goal is the team. I know Tapper’s doing a great job. I’m working hard as well. Whoever they call up, we’re going to be ready.”
Collins, 23, admits he still has much rehab work ahead of him to get back, but he’s hopeful of a return this season.
“As a player you really want to kind of have that mindset and you want to get out there and be able to play with your teammates,” he said. “But the trainers and those guys, they really have your best intentions at heart, so they want to make sure that you can go out there and do your job at the highest level. That’s what it’s all about.”
Collins won the left guard job last season while Leary was injured and started 11 games as a rookie. Leary requested a trade in the offseason, but the Cowboys kept him and he has started the nine games Collins has missed.
Leary, in fact, has graded out better than Collins did in his three starts. Leary has allowed no sacks and has only one holding penalty, according to STATS.
“He wanted traded before the year started,” Jones said of Leary. “We wouldn’t do it just in case we lost one of our key five guys. Sure enough, we did. We’re a lot better for it, and Ron never missed a beat. He’s gone in and played like the pro he is. I just can’t say enough about him.”
Leary becomes a free agent in the offseason, so Collins remains the future at the position for the Cowboys. But the Cowboys hope to get Collins back late this season to provide them even more depth in the offensive line.
“It’s definitely hard at times when you’re not able to go out and compete with your team and go out there and play it definitely gets tough,” Collins said. “But we’ve been doing such a great job just as a team, winning games and you can’t be more proud of your teammates at this moment. I’m extremely happy. I’m extremely happy to be on this team and be a part of this family, and I’m extremely excited about what we have.”