Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL [Print without images]

Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Updated: September 30, 10:31 AM ET
Cornerback out for season with torn ACL

By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com

The already young Dallas Cowboys cornerback corps has gotten even greener.

Pete Hunter
Cornerback
Dallas Cowboys
Profile
2004 SEASON STATISTICS
Tot Ast Solo FF Sack Int
6 6 0 0 1 1

As feared, a Tuesday morning MRI examination on the left knee of Pete Hunter confirmed that the third-year veteran tore the anterior cruciate ligament midway through the first quarter of Monday night's 21-18 victory over the Redskins, and he will be lost for the remainder of the season.

The knee injury occurred in a rather innocuous-looking non-contact situation, as Hunter planted and began to cut while covering wide receiver Laveranues Coles. Hunter's left knee simply buckled, and he went to the turf as Coles made the catch.

Hunter will undergo surgery, likely later this week, when swelling subsides sufficiently. He was placed on injured reserve Wednesday as was tight tend Dan Campbell, who has a right foot injury, also suffered in the Redskins game.

The loss of Hunter, who was in his first season as a starter and was beginning to make good progress, leaves the Cowboys with an incredibly young cornerback quartet. Left cornerback Terence Newman, the team's first-round pick in 2003 and a 16-game starter as a rookie, becomes the elder statesman at the position, with just 19 starts.

Dallas might seek to add a veteran cornerback -- it is notable that longtime Bill Parcells favorite Otis Smith is currently unemployed -- but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones allowed that there aren't many alternatives for adding an experienced defender. One option might be to attempt to trade for Mike McKenzie of Green Bay, who is being pursued by New Orleans, but the Packers might no longer be as willing to deal the five-year veteran because they too have experienced a spate of injuries at the cornerback spot.

"I don't know that there is a [veteran] solution out there," Jones said Monday night, when it was suspected, but not confirmed, that Hunter would miss the rest of the year. "Really, [compensating for Hunter's loss] is going to happen first from within."

Which means that shoring up the right cornerback spot, at least for now, is a task that will fall to a trio of first-year players.

Rookie Jacques Reeves, a seventh-round choice from Purdue, replaced Hunter in the victory at Washington and probably will be elevated to the top job when the Cowboys resume play against the Giants after a bye this weekend. Reeves had a mixed game Monday, making some solid plays but also getting beat several times by Redskins wide receiver Rod Gardner.

Nate Jones of Rutgers, like Reeves a seventh-round pick, could move into the "nickel" spot now. A third rookie, fourth-round selection Bruce Thornton, has been inactive for each of the first three contests, but the former Georgia standout will almost certainly see his first action of the season in Dallas' next game.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.