As the legendary Michael Scott once noted, you might not be superstitious, but it’s OK to be a little stitious. So when the Dallas Cowboys took the field against the Arizona Cardinals on Friday the 13th, it played out exactly as you’d think it would. They lost a total of five players to injury, headlined by starting defensive tackle Neville Gallimore, who left the game in the first quarter with what turned out to be a hyperextended elbow. The MRI results showed a near best-case scenario though, sources tell CBS Sports, with Gallimore having suffered no tears and only a minor structural issue.
He’s expected to miss the remainder of the preseason and potentially Week 1 as well — his timetable being 4-6 weeks — but the 10-day span between the Cowboys first two regular season games gives him a shot at being available when they travel to take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Sept. 19.
And because he won’t be lost for significant time to start the season, barring a setback, the Cowboys aren’t suddenly pressed to go after a talent like free agent Geno Atkins. This isn’t to say they aren’t keeping an eye on Atkins (they are), but it would be a much different story if Gallimore were lost for most or all of the season. But, as it stands, he isn’t, and it opens the door for rookie third-round pick Osa Odighizuwa to dig his heels in.
Another casualty of the battle with the red birds was tight end Sean McKeon, the rapidly-developing second-year talent injuring his right ankle after a seeing it rolled up on by a defender during a tackle in the second quarter. He was also helped off of the field but then carted to the locker room, and sources list his injury as a high ankle sprain that could sideline him the same length of time as Gallimore — 4-6 weeks being the initial prognosis.
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McKeon is set to undergo more tests though, so put a pin in that timeline, because it could shrink or expand as the Cowboys do more evaluation on his ankle following a good stretch of mandated rest.
As a bookkeeping note, it’s key to point out the IR rules for 2021.
Only players listed on the Cowboys 53-man roster following the NFL deadline (Sept. 1 at 4 p.m. ET) for final cuts are eligible for injured reserve or NFI (non-football injury), with the league reminding clubs of such to prevent scenarios where players might be stashed. Additionally, there is no limit to how many can return from IR in 2021 — a rollover rule of 2020 — and players can be activated after three weeks versus the traditional eight-week mandate. All of this will come into play when as the Cowboys gauge injuries heading into late August against what they’d like their final roster to look like for September.
Losing McKeon isn’t nearly the equivalent of Gallimore not being in uniform, but the former was establishing himself as the favorite to be name TE3 behind Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz, which put veteran Jeremy Sprinkle on a very real bubble. Sprinkle will instead now dig into that role — at least until McKeon is healthy — more of a blocking tight end whereas McKeon flashed as a potential playmaker. Sprinkle will see more preseason time along with undrafted rookies Artayvious Lynn (Texas Christian) and Nick Eubanks (Michigan), with Lynn and Eubanks having only two games left in August to somehow step in front of Sprinkle.
The team is still waiting for more definitive diagnoses on the other three players injured on Jason Voorhees’ favorite day of the year, namely undrafted linebacker Anthony Hines (elbow), wide receiver Malik Turner (foot) and Ty Nsehke (knee). All left the contest and didn’t return, with Nsehke continuing to battle a knee injury that bothered him heading into the game — raising that much more concern at backup tackle with Brandon Knight playing poorly and Mitch Hyatt on season-ending injured reserve — and Turner, a camp and preseason standout at wide receiver, hoping to remain on the field to continue contending for a roster spot on a seriously deep WR depth chart in Dallas.
On injuries not related to Friday, Dalton Schultz and Randy Gregory are managing an ankle and foot injury, respectively, but sources say neither are considered serious, and both are expected to be fine for Week 1 — presumably joining two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Dak Prescott on the field against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sept. 9 — which keeps the Cowboys whole regarding their TE tandem that features the return of Jarwin from a torn ACL suffered in 2020.
And they’re optimistic Gallimore will return in the days following that matchup.