Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant has officially been shut down for the season with foot and ankle injuries that will require surgery and potentially jeopardize his preparation for 2016.
Coach Jason Garrett said the team was placing Bryant on injured reserve ahead of Sunday’s season final against the Washington Redskins and expected him to have surgery as soon as possible. Bryant played in just nine games this season.
“I don’t want to get into the details of that,” Garrett said. “I’m certainly not an expert in that area. But it had been bothering him so we just felt like we wanted to go back and look at it. In doing so, we feel like we have to go back and help him get that thing, both the foot and the ankle, healed up. It was not in the best interest of Dez or our football team to have him play this week.”
It will be the second surgery on a fractured right foot, commonly known as a Jones fracture, he suffered in the season opener. He missed five games after his initial surgery. Bryant had a bone graft to help the healing process on the fracture to the fifth metatarsal bone of his foot. He also had a stem cell injection in October to enhance the healing.
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But Bryant injured his right ankle and left knee against the Eagles in his second game back.
Bryant valiantly labored through both injuries through the next six games before being held out of last week’s 16-6 loss to the Buffalo Bills. He was limited in his abililty to run routes, which also limited the plays the Cowboys could call on offense. Bryant, a two time Pro Bowler, had just game with over 100 yards receivings, just two with more than 50.
“Any time you come back from a broken foot there are going to be issues,” receiver Cole Beasley said. “He probably came back too soon. But that is the type of guy he is. He wanted to be back. He wanted to help the team win. he wanted to do whatever was necessary. You admire the guys for that.”
The moves with Bryant coincided with the Cowboys being elminated from the playoffs three weeks ago.
But Garrett said the decision to place Bryant on injured reserve Wednesday was made in the best interest of the player and the team. He also cautioned against assuming that the Cowboys rushed Bryant back on the field to soon after the first surgery.
“Whenever a player is coming back from an injury there are certain thresholds he must overcome and we go through that process very thoughtfully with everybody,” Garrett said. “We did that with Dez. Unfortunately, this thing has continued to bother him, both the ankle and the foot, so we’ll address those here in the coming days.”
Garrett also said it’s not uncommon for a player to have a second procedure on a surgically repaired bone fracture, especially when a graft is involved. More graft is expected to be added to fifth metatarsal in the second surgery.
“Yes, that was my understanding,” Garrett said. "We knew that before we did the initial surgery.”
Dr. David J. Chao, a former long-time team physician of the San Diego Chargers, tweeted the same.
He said “Revision surgery for Jones fracture not uncommon. Happens up to 20% of the time.”
He also cited Falcons receiver Julio Jones and Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant as previous examples.
The issue with Bryant going forward is the surgeries will most likely keep him out of the offseason program. It could possibly cause him the miss minicamp and the start of training camp.
Garrett said they had no timetable on Bryant return as of now.
“I think all that’s premature,” Garrett said. We just decided it was the best thing for us to do to not let him play last week and this week, and over the next few days he’ll continue to get evaluated by our doctors. We’ll make the best determination about what we need to do.”
For the season, Bryant has 31 catches for 401 yards and three touchdowns. It’s the worst of his career, and it came after he signed a five-year, $70 million extension in July.
Ironically, absence from the offseason program during the long contract impasse precipated a downtrodden season for him and the Cowboys.
Bryant subsequently missed the majority of training camp with a hamstring injury before suffering the fractured foot in the season opener.
Not being able to practice was also a key factor in Bryant’s down season.
"Obviously he didn't benefit from not being in the offseason and through a large part of the lead-up to the season," Garrett said. "He was dealing with some different things, but Dez is a really good football player and his presence out there makes a big difference. A lot of people will try to compare players as they were to what maybe where they were at their very best. Dez was a really capable, confident football player this year for us. He had to deal with a lot of different things. We admire how he worked through a lot of different things. Missing the offseason and having a number of different injuries, he didn't get the best opportunity to prepare and play like he normally does and I think that hurt him and ultimately hurt our football team."