Tony Romo almost certainly won’t play in the preseason opener Sunday night. If he does, the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line is not in the best position to protect him.
Starting left guard Nate Livings, who returned to practice a week ago after missing all of camp with a foot injury, underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Friday and will miss two to four weeks.
The other starting guard, Mackenzy Bernadeau, practiced for the first time in camp Friday and isn’t ready to play in the game.
In their places are two unproven players, Ron Leary and David Arkin, along with rookie center Travis Frederick, the Cowboys’ No. 1 pick this year who will be playing in his first NFL game.
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Only at tackle do the Cowboys have their veteran starters, Tyron Smith and Doug Free, and there are no assurances about how much they — or any of the other starters on offense and defense — will play, either.
“Certainly the environment you have for any of the players you are playing, you want it to be favorable; you want it to be somewhat similar to what they’re going to play in the first night of the season against the Giants,” coach Jason Garrett said. “So that applies to Tony. But it applies to everybody.”
Garrett said the condition of the offensive line was considered. Backup guard Kevin Kowalski and backup tackle Jermey Parnell are also out with injuries, as is one of the players signed this week to help with practices and the games, former TCU guard Jeff Olson.
“You’re going to see a lot of the younger guys play a lot in this ballgame,” Garrett said.
Garrett said the club didn’t consider the Livings injury “too severe,” but such knee surgeries commonly require four weeks of recovery. Considering that Livings would also need practice time, it could put him in doubt for the season opener on Sept. 8.
“Still, it’s very early,” Garrett said. “Better to address those things right now and give those guys a chance to be ready for the start of the season.”
For Livings, it continues an off-season with injuries. He hyperextended the knee in spring practice, and he had a foot injury before training camp. He was cleared to practice this week, but the knee became sore.
“It’s tough. I feel for him,” Bernadeau said. “Obviously a big loss on the offensive line during preseason. But he’s a strong guy. He’ll put the work in to get better, and hopefully we’ll have him back as soon as possible.”
Tight end James Hanna, sidelined since the second day of camp because of a hamstring injury, returned to practice Friday along with Mackenzy Bernadeau. The Cowboys wanted them to get in the day of practice because there are only two practices next week before the next preseason game.
Jason Garrett updated the status of other injured players:
• Linebacker Alex Albright has a back problem and won’t play Sunday.
• Jeff Olson got hit in the head in practice Thursday and also hurt his eye. He is out indefinitely.
• Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff (hamstring) continues to work largely in individual drills and is making progress. Garrett said Ratliff is one of those players who could play in the regular season without playing in the preseason.