Dallas Cowboys

RB Lance Dunbar could have been back sooner, held back by Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar (25) has been cleared to practice after opening camp on the physically unable to perform list.
Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar (25) has been cleared to practice after opening camp on the physically unable to perform list. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

When Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar tore the anterior cruciate ligament and patellar tendon in his knee last October, starting a long and arduous rehab process, there was a thought that he might have to start this season on the physically unable to perform list, forcing him to miss the first six game.

Well, that was never in Dunbar’s plan.

He started training camp on the PUP list, but was cleared to practice on Sunday, roughly three weeks before the start of the season and possibly a week or two later than later than necessary.

Dunbar began with individual work, but will increase his load each day.

"Lance has been doing such a good job to the point where we had to have discipline to say let’s keep him on PUP here for a little while longer because he was doing so well in his rehab," coach Jason Garrett said. "We attribute that to the kind of guy he is and how hard he’s worked. He’s a hell of a kid now. It was a serious injury he had and he’s worked very hard to come back. We had to be very deliberate in saying, let’s keep him out. Now we feel like it’s the right time to bring him back. We’re excited to have him back. He’s an awfully good football player."

Dunbar admits the process was tough, but he said he had to work hard and trust the team’s rehab staff. But he said there was never any doubt he would be ready before the start of the season.

"I always believed I would," Dunbar said. "That was my goal the whole time. I had to work hard, put trust in the staff and what they say. It was tough. It was painful at times but I knew it would get better. I just had to keep working. It feels good."

Dunbar joins a stable of running backs, including rookie top pick Ezekiel Elliott and free agent signee Alfred Morris. He will likely serve as a change-of-pace back as well as a receiving threat out of the backfield. He was leading the Cowboys in receptions last year before being injuries.

The strong backfield in Dallas could become a logjam when Darren McFadden is cleared from the PUP list because of a fractured elbow.

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