Dallas Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens knows he caught a break when he sustained only a tibial plateau fracture in his right knee instead of a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
The tibial plateau fracture is only going to keep him out of the early part of the season, possibly the first five or six games, instead of the entire year as a torn ACL would have done.
Still, Hitchens found himself in unfamiliar territory Sunday night – not suited up for action. Hitchens had played in every game (48) since he joined the Cowboys as a fourth-round pick in 2014, and played in every game in his four-year career at Iowa.
In fact, the last time Hitchens sat out of a game was his sophomore year in high school with a back injury.
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“Oh, it was weird,” said Hitchens, who was credited with 104 tackles last season. “It was weird, but it happens. I can’t really dwell on the past. All I can focus on is how I’m going to get better.”
Hitchens, 25, is now going through a rigorous rehab process to get back on the field. He had one of the best training camps of anyone on the team before his injury in the preseason game against Oakland last month.
Hitchens is staying involved as much as possible in the linebacker room and preparing as though he’d play each week.
“I just don’t want to lose what I had,” Hitchens said. “It’s an old saying, but if you don’t use it, you lose it. I firmly believe that.”
Hitchens’ starting middle linebacker job has fallen in the hands of Jaylon Smith and Justin Durant. Smith played the majority of the snaps in the regular-season opener against the New York Giants, and fared well.
But Hitchens is a proven player who is versatile enough to play all three linebacker positions.
For now, Hitchens is focused on his rehab. He believes he is making progress on a daily basis, and has begun doing 5-yard bursts. Football activities aren’t on his mind at this point.
“They haven’t given me timeline. That’s more bigger picture,” Hitchens said. “I’m just day by day. I got better every single day since I got out of surgery. I’m still on time for whatever time table I had.”