Cowboys hunting everywhere for defensive help

07/30/2014 9:53 PM

11/12/2014 7:20 PM

Injuries happen, Jason Garrett reminded us Wednesday.

Injuries provide opportunity, the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys said. They open doors for others to walk through.

Injuries, Garrett said, are “a part of football. The best players and best teams embrace adversity.”

That’s the spin at Camp Cowboy, at least. But in reality, an already vulnerable defense lost another likely central performer this week. Maybe even two.

It cost the Cowboys second- and third-round picks in May’s NFL Draft to select Boise State defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence in the second round.

It took less than a week at camp for Lawrence to break his foot Tuesday and be lost for probably three months.

Then, midway in Wednesday’s afternoon practice, cornerback Mo Claiborne, who had been having his best camp, appeared to injure his right knee. He was taken to the training tent for further examination.

To fill the void left by Lawrence, Garrett said the team may look outside the organization.

“I think we’re always doing that,” he said. “You’re always looking at the landscape. We had Larry English in here last week for a physical. We’ll look at who’s available, and who has been released.

“You always do that at all positions. We have a whole department that’s doing that kind of stuff. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that over the last couple of years with these injuries.”

Garrett is correct, of course, on both counts.

A year ago, though, it seemed so simple.

The Cowboys had DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer on a defensive line that was expected to be a franchise pillar for the next few seasons.

They’re all gone.

Ratliff, strangled by his discontent, manipulated his way to the Chicago Bears. Ware and Hatcher left the Cowboys via free agency. And Spencer, despite making a lot of money over the past two seasons, remains unable to play after undergoing microfracture surgery on his left knee.

The list of possible replacements is a long one, both Garrett and owner Jerry Jones informed the media since last week. But it seems a long fall from Ware, Ratliff, Hatcher and Spencer to Henry Melton, George Selvie, Tyrone Crawford and Jeremy Mincey.

On Wednesday, Jones hedged slightly when the name of defensive tackle Josh Brent again was mentioned. Brent was convicted in January of intoxication manslaughter in the vehicular death of teammate Jerry Brown and served a 180-day jail sentence.

Brent’s agent confirmed that the lineman is expected to meet soon with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to apply for reinstatement.

According to agent Peter Schaffer, Brent has already met with Brown’s family and has been granted their blessing in his attempt to return to the league.

Brown’s family has been extraordinarily forgiving — almost saintly — throughout the tragedy. But the idea of Brent, by his drinking, causing the death of a teammate, and then coming back the next season to wear the same team’s uniform is callous, at best, and uniquely discomforting.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving will have a field day with Brent’s and the Cowboys’ plans, and well they should.

Before practices began last week, Owner Jones noted that 16 defensive linemen were in camp in the continuing audition to replace last year’s Fast-Evaporating Foursome.

Better to let Martez Wilson and Ben Gardner join Selvie, Crawford, Melton and Mincey and get a chance at Lawrence’s job.

After last season’s record-soiling performance, the Cowboys’ defense can’t afford to have any more quality names vanish. Losing Claiborne one day after Lawrence erodes what little defensive depth the Cowboys had.

But when a window closes, a door of opportunity opens, Garrett keeps saying.

That’s the spin here at Camp Cowboy, at least, where the welcome mat apparently awaits, even after 180 days in jail.

About Gil LeBreton

Gil LeBreton

@gilebreton

Whether it's pondering Moose McNuggets at the McDonald's in Norway or chasing Lance Armstrong up some mountaintop in France, Gil LeBreton has been entertaining Star-Telegram readers for nearly 30 years. He's covered 21 Super Bowls, 14 Olympic Games (summer and winter), saw Muhammad Ali box, Paul Newman drive a race car and Prince Albert try to steer a bobsled.

Gil also once briefly held the WBC Junior Welterweight title belt -- he had to, because the guy he was interviewing, champ Bruce Curry, had to suddenly step into the men's room.

Email Gil at gilebreton@star-telegram.com

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