The return timeline for Dallas Cowboys starting middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens continues to get better.
Immediately after Saturday’s preseason game against the Oakland Raiders, the Cowboys feared he might miss the entire season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Then an eight-week timeline was given to him after he was diagnosed with a tibial plateau fracture.
Now, after undergoing arthroscopic surgery Tuesday, the Cowboys feel Hitchens could be ready before eight weeks, executive vice president Stephen Jones said.
“My goodness, so thrilled for him personally,” Jones said at the Cowboys kickoff luncheon Wednesday at AT&T Stadium. “Had an amazing training camp and now to know that he’s going to get back on the field sooner than later. Obviously, we feared the worst and it’s one of those few times when it turns out better. More than anything, we’re happy for Hitch. He has been one of the leaders and certainly had, in my mind, one of the better training camps of any player we had on our team.”
Jones didn’t specify a new timeline for Hitchens to return.
“I think it could be reduced on that (eight-week projection),” Jones said. “We’ll see.”
That could mean the Cowboys will carry Hitchens on their 53-man roster to start the season. An option is to place him on injured reserve, but he would not be eligible for game action until Nov. 5 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Cowboys will have to make that decision by Saturday, when the roster is trimmed from 90 to 53.
On Thursday, the Cowboys will practice at AT&T Stadium and feature players participating in a live telethon. During the practice, fans are encouraged to call in and speak directly to players who will be accepting donation pledges. Dallas Cowboys alumni will also be manning the phones.
Funds raised from the telethon will be dedicated to The Salvation Army for the purpose of supporting the ongoing relief efforts to assist those affected by Hurricane Harvey.
The telethon and the practice will be televised live locally on CBS 11 and in over 20 other markets throughout the southwest.
The practice will not be open to the public.
Those wishing to call the telethon and speak to Cowboys players to make a donation will be asked to call 844-790-5687. This number will only be active to accept donations between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
The Cowboys continue to work on an extension with All-Pro right guard Zack Martin.
Both sides have expressed an interest in reaching a long-term deal, but nothing has been agreed upon yet. Jones hopes the organization and Martin can reach an agreement before the regular season opener Sept. 10 vs. the New York Giants.
“Hopefully making some progress, but those things you can’t really comment on them until they’re either done or not done,” Jones said at the Cowboys’ kickoff luncheon Wednesday at AT&T Stadium.
“So obviously the goal for both sides is to be done with everything by the [beginning] of the season.”
Martin is headed toward a significant pay day, as he is widely regarded as one of the top guards in the league, if not the best. He’s earned first-team All-Pro honors in 2014 and 2016 and second-team honors in 2015.
Martin has allowed just six sacks and been called for 13 penalties in his three-year career.
Martin’s contract is expected to surpass the one the Cleveland Browns handed to Kevin Zeitler, who became the highest-paid guard this off-season with a five-year, $60 million deal.
Martin, 26, is under Cowboys control for the next two seasons. The organization exercised its fifth-year option on him during the off-season, which means Martin would be paid $9.3 million in 2018 if no extension is reached.
The Cowboys have had success in recent years locking up offensive linemen Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick to long-term deals.