Tyrone Crawford had to be carted off the practice field with a lower right ankle injury, and executive vice president Stephen Jones acknowledged it looked like “a scary one.”
But the Cowboys received good news after Crawford underwent X-rays at a nearby hospital. Crawford was diagnosed with a lateral ankle sprain, a source said, and is expected to be ready by the Dallas Cowboys’ regular-season opener on Sept. 10 against the New York Giants.
So the Cowboys appear to have avoided what could have been the first significant training camp injury. Crawford had his ankle fully twisted while tackling running back Ezekiel Elliott during team drills.
Crawford punched the cart and held his head in frustration as he rode off the field. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick shouted an expletive.
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Crawford chased down Elliott, who had reversed fields on a run play. Crawford lowered his left shoulder and knocked Elliott to the ground. In the process, Crawford’s right ankle rolled to a 90-degree angle with the ground and he fell down in pain.
The Cowboys dodged a bullet that it wasn’t more serious than a sprain.
Crawford has battled injuries throughout his career. He missed the 2013 season after tearing his left Achilles in training camp. After the 2015 season, Crawford underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. Earlier this offseason, he had left shoulder surgery. Crawford missed two games last season with back and hamstring injuries.
Crawford, 27, has started 44 of the last 45 games he has played for the Cowboys the past three seasons. He had 4.5 sacks last season and was credited with 17 quarterback pressures. The 2012 third-round pick out of Boise State had been working mostly at left defensive end this camp, and has the versatility to move inside if needed.
The Cowboys signed Crawford to a five-year, $45 million extension with $17.4 million guaranteed in 2015.
“He’s one of the leaders on this team, leader of the defensive line group,” Jones said. “Certainly a huge part of this team.”
Added linebacker Sean Lee: “He’s a leader for us and an incredible football player. We’re praying it’s something he can come back from and be all right. You know, if it’s an injury, he’ll find a way to come back and battle back. He’s one of the toughest people I’ve ever met.”
The silver lining in the midst of Crawford’s injury, Jones said, is the organization does feel good about its pass rush depth.
“The good news is we’ve got some good depth. Obviously we drafted that position,” Jones said, referring to first-round pick Taco Charlton. “The one thing about Ty is he was very versatile. He could go in and play the under [tackle], play either end, so he’s a big part of what we’re about. Certainly, like I said, a key part of this football team.”
The Cowboys are coming off a season in which they had 36 sacks, and have been looking to bolster its pass rush. That’s why they spent a first-round draft pick on Charlton.
With Crawford going to be sidelined in the coming days as he recovers, that will put Charlton more in the spotlight. Charlton hasn’t flashed much early on in camp, but he certainly has the tools that made him a first-round pick.
Asked if he felt he’d be the next man up, Charlton said: “I’m just here to do whatever coach needs to me to do. If I’m the next man up, I’m the next man up. But I’m just here to keep working.”