Quarterback Tony Romo isn’t the only Dallas Cowboys player dealing with a fractured bone in his back.
Count rookie defensive end Charles Tapper in that number as well.
The big difference is that Tapper has been dealing with his since childhood, unbeknownst to him, and only found out when he woke in pain one day in training camp thinking he was paralyzed.
“Yeah, I didn’t know what was going on,” Tapper recalled. “I woke up and I said, ‘This is not right. I shouldn’t be feeling like this.’
Yeah, (the pain) was down into my legs, in my little butt and into my calf. It was pretty painful. I didn’t know what was going on at all.”
Coach Jason Garrett initially told the media that Tapper, a fourth-round pick from Oklahoma, was sidelined with back tightness.
According to Tapper, the Cowboys didn’t know what it was.
“It took them awhile,” Tapper said. “They were like let’s just see, and the next day it got worse, the next day it got worse, and … I had an MRI, X-ray, and they said, ‘Yeah we need to take care of that.’”
So what was the shocking diagnosis?
“It’s just a back fracture; I fractured my back,” Tapper said. “It’s called a pars defect in my L5. I fractured my back. They said I’ve had it since I was a little boy. When you look at my spine, it’s like it’s not attached in there. This was the first time it was diagnosed.”
A pars defect of the lumbar spine involves a part of a vertebra called the pars interarticularis. A defect in the pars is a break in this portion of bone. This break leads to a separation of the upper, front portion of the vertebra from its lower, back portion.
Tapper said he had back issues once or twice but nothing serious enough for him to get it checked out. It wasn’t diagnosed in high school or during four years in college at Oklahoma.
Tapper has been out since early August with the injury, forcing him to miss all four preseason games. He said his back is fine now but his focus in getting his conditioning right and getting his weight back up.
He doesn’t expect to play in Sunday’s season opener against the New York Giants but hopes to be ready to go back Week 2 or Week 3.
“I’m back running and cutting,” Tapper said. “It’s day by day right now. As soon as the trainers say I can play I’m back out there playing.”