Limping Cowboys seek help down stretch

IRVING -- Reggie Jones, a new practice squad player, was dressing at punter Chris Jones' locker on Monday. Chris Jones is on injured reserve, and the Dallas Cowboys are out of lockers.

So they are making do.

Safety Barry Church, who is on injured reserve, hobbled through wearing a walking boot and using crutches to protect his surgically repaired Achilles. Rookie Danny Coale, too, was on crutches.

New signees Anthony Armstrong and Brady Poppinga were trying to get familiar with their surroundings as well as the playbook.

"It's the nature of the league," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "It's a long season, and you have to be able to withstand the different injuries that happen to your football team. That's just part of the deal. The next-man-up philosophy is alive and well with the Cowboys; always has been. If you're part of the 53-man roster, you better be ready to play, and our players understand that. We preach that to them all the time: You have to be ready. Sometimes you have a role going into the ballgame, and that role changes and you have to be ready for what that other role is, and you have to be prepared for it, week in and week out. We certainly are confronting a lot of those situations, but other teams around the league are as well."

Starting inside linebacker Bruce Carter became the team's eighth player to go on season-ending injured reserve. He will have surgery to repair a dislocated elbow. Poppinga, who started 56 games in seven NFL seasons, mostly with Green Bay, took Carter's place on the roster Monday.

Ernie Sims, another linebacker the Cowboys signed off the streets Oct. 24, will become a starter next to Dan Connor as Dallas now has lost both starting inside linebackers.

Carter and Lee are among four defensive starters on IR, with end Kenyon Coleman and Church the others. Dallas ended its 38-31 loss to Washington minus one other defensive starter -- nose tackle Jay Ratliff, who was inactive -- and a key reserve, nickel back Orlando Scandrick, who had surgery Friday to repair a spiral hand fracture.

They were without four offensive starters -- center Phil Costa, left tackle Tyron Smith, running back DeMarco Murray and receiver Miles Austin -- and three key reserves -- center Ryan Cook, running back Felix Jones and receiver Kevin Ogletree -- at the end of the Thanksgiving Day game.

Yet, the Cowboys insist they don't feel snake-bitten.

"Injuries are a part of our game," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "Other teams have to deal with it. It's probably been more than normal, but we have to keep battling. It's just like the Washington game. We got ourselves in a hole. The thing is our guys keep playing hard, and they keep fighting."

To their credit, the Cowboys have refused to use injuries as an excuse for their 5-6 record. They say they will keep fighting regardless, believing their season is not over.

"You've got guys that were at home, older veterans, but they can still play," safety Gerald Sensabaugh said. "Injures are part of the game. It's something you have to deal with. Every year somebody is going to be hurt. This year, it's just a little more than normal."

Charean Williams


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