Dallas Cowboys

Lance Dunbar returns quickly from knee injury with hopes of playing important role

Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar (25) is ready to roll this season after undergoing knee surgery last October.
Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar (25) is ready to roll this season after undergoing knee surgery last October. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

Running back Lance Dunbar needed less than a year to return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and torn patellar tendon in his left knee.

“To get himself back around this time and move the way he’s working, it’s just unbelievable,” said cornerback Morris Claiborne, who ruptured the patellar tendon in his left knee in 2014. “…He’s just the same old Lance. He’s got some big knee braces on now, but it’s like he never left.”

Dunbar played a big part in the Cowboys’ offense the first four games, rushing for 67 yards on five carries, catching 21 passes for 215 yards and returning six kickoffs for 146 yards. But he was injured on a kickoff return against New Orleans on Oct. 4, required surgery and went on injured reserve.

“It was very disappointing,” Dunbar said of last season. “I started off pretty good, the best since I’ve been here, and had a lot of opportunities and was able to take advantage of them. Things happen, and things happen for a reason. I’m not really worried about why it happened. I’m just trying to get better, trying to get back out there.”

Dunbar, 26, returned to practice Aug. 21 and appears ready to play the season opener. The prognosis was not for a return that quickly.

“I worked really hard,” said Dunbar, who missed 23 games in his first four seasons with injuries. “I didn’t even care about what other people said. It’s not in their control. They don’t know what can happen. In my mind, I just stayed positive. I came back from an injury before, so I know it takes a lot of hard work and believing. That’s the most important thing is just believing I can come back. Every time I got hurt I was able to come back because of that – me believing in myself, believing in the people around me and going to work each and every day.

The Haltom and North Texas product provides the Cowboys with a veteran third-down back to pair with Ezekiel Elliott and Alfred Morris. In only 137 touches from scrimmage, Dunbar has nine plays of 20-plus yards and 44 first downs.

The Cowboys are counting on Dunbar to do some of those same things for them this season.

“Lance has worked really hard in his rehab,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He has worked hard in the offseason getting himself back. It’s good to see him back out on the field.

“He has increased his work load in practice as the days have gone on and has started to look like the old Lance Dunbar, which is good for our football team.”

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