_ While the Green Bay Packers will likely head into Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game without star receiver Jordy Nelson, who suffered cracked ribs in the wild-card victory over the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys should be at full strength.
Owner Jerry Jones said expects that cornerback Morris Claiborne and defensive ends Tyrone Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence to be back and ready to go for Sunday’s game.
Claiborne had missed the past nine games with a groin injury. Lawrence has missed the past four games with a back injury. Crawford has missed the past two with a shoulder and back injury.
“I’m very excited. Been looking forward to this chance for a while, ever since the first time we made it that I wasn’t able to play in,” Claiborne said. “I’m really looking forward to it. Just been working, getting closer and closer and just itching to get ready to get out there.”
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Defensive tackles Terrell McClain and Cedric Thornton are expected to be ready to go after missing the past two and three games respectively with ankle injuries.
Jones said on his radio show on 105.3 the Fan that the Cowboys took advantage of being able to clinch the playoffs early and thus manage the injuries down the stretch.
“We hoped that it's no accident that we've had the luxury of being able to have a good record as we moved to the last quarter of the year,” Jones said. “And, so, we were able to anticipate two or three games back that we'd be in these playoffs. So, we wanted the maximum injury management and that's why we have a couple of these guys back.”
Jones still doesn’t know how much Claiborne will be able to play after missing so much time and accepts he will be rusty.
But the option of having him on the field is quite a boost for a secondary going up against a hot quarterback in Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.
“He's going to have rust because he's been off, but some of the things he does, you can't coach," Jones said of Claiborne. "And they're not necessarily from experience, they're just his natural gifts. We certainly know that he was playing at the highest level and best level that he's played in his career before he got his setback, his injury.
"I would hope that he could take right up where he left off. That's probably optimistic, but we will certainly be better off with him being out there than we would be if he were watching the game."
Lawrence has had more than month off to rest his ailing back. Jones said it’s just a question of how long he can hold up.
What’s key is the Cowboys have all their defensive linemen available to play in a rotation in hopes of keeping fresh legs rushing Rodgers.