- Todd Archer, ESPN Staff Writer
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OXNARD, Calif. – Phillip Tanner needs surgery to repair a broken bone in his right hand that will knock him out of the Aug. 13 preseason opener at Oakland, but the Cowboys are hoping the backup running back misses only 1-2 weeks.
Tanner suffered the injury during the special teams portion of Friday’s practice and was in a cast for Saturday’s walkthrough. He is scheduled to return to Dallas on Monday to have the surgery.
“At first glance when I heard that I said, ‘Wow, he’ll be out a long time,’” coach Jason Garrett said, “but I was told Emmitt Smith, in the mid ‘90s, had a similar injury and had surgery and literally played the next week. I don’t want to make any comparisons to that, but that sheds a little light on the extent of that injury. We’re hopeful it goes well and he’ll be back in a short period of time.”
When Tanner returns, he will wear a glove that offers extra protection.
As the backup to DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones, Tanner is not Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, but he has importance on the roster because of his special teams ability. On offense, Tanner’s absence will give undrafted rookies Lance Dunbar and Ed Wesley more practice time, and on special teams it could open a spot for a defensive back for a bigger role.
“Injuries provide opportunities,” Garrett said. “There are other guys who are backups in those spots and you’ve just got to make sure they get their reps and they get their chance. They’ll be able to show us that in practice but also in the Oakland game certainly.”
Wide receiver Saalim Hakim will also return to Dallas to see a hand specialist because of what Garrett called a dislocated finger. Hakim also suffered the injury during Friday’s special teams portion of practice.
“We’ll see how he responds,” Garrett said. “The challenge for both those guys is they catch the ball and they carry the ball. A lot of hand injuries become issues for them. We don’t expect [Hakim] to be back in the real near future. He’ll be out a week or so.”