Cowboys' Witten could miss opener

August, 15, 2012
8/15/12
11:30
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The Dallas Cowboys have had a lot of injuries so far in training camp, but to this point none have been especially worrisome or significant. That changed Wednesday morning with the news that tight end Jason Witten suffered an internal injury in Monday night's preseason game against the Raiders and could miss the remainder of the preseason. Since the Cowboys' first regular-season game is three weeks from tonight against the Giants, it's obviously fair to wonder whether he's in danger of missing that as well. Per Todd Archer:
Witten suffered an internal injury after taking a hit from Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain in the first quarter, according to multiple sources. He missed a few plays but returned and caught one more pass before the first-team offense called it a night.

Witten said he was OK after the game, but Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones admitted some concern when he saw the seven-time Pro Bowler leave the contest.

While the Cowboys are hopeful Witten will be available to play against the Giants, the star tight end had more tests conducted Tuesday and will be evaluated further.

This news first broke on The Dan Patrick Show, whose producer Paul Pabst tweeted Wednesday morning sources were telling them the injury was to Witten's spleen, that it was possible he could need surgery and there was internal bleeding involved. So it obviously sounds serious, and the Cowboys' first concern will and should be for Witten's health. There's no way they'll bring him back into a football game until they're 100 percent sure he can't be more seriously injured.

In the meantime, Todd writes, they're looking into signing another tight end and will use John Phillips as the starter. The Cowboys lost tight end Martellus Bennett to the Giants in free agency and have not replaced him. Rookie James Hanna looked good catching the ball in Monday's game, but he's likely not ready for full-time NFL duty at this point.

Witten is as important a passing-game weapon as the Cowboys have, and losing him for any significant period of time would be potentially devastating to the offense. The offensive line is already a wreck, receiver Miles Austin is already sidelined with a hamstring injury and they're trying to find a No. 3 wide receiver from among an unproven and somewhat uninspiring group of candidates. If Witten can't play, Tony Romo loses one of his few reliable pass-catchers and blockers. The Cowboys' strength on offense is in the quality of their skill-position players, and they cannot afford to lose any of them if they hope to contend in a treacherous-looking NFC East race.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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