The Dallas Cowboys have potentially a division-clinching game on Christmas Eve when the Philadelphia Eagles come to Cowboys Stadium. If the Cowboys win and the New York Giants lose to the New York Jets, Dallas wins the NFC East. However, the Cowboys will need all-world linebacker DeMarcus Ware and All-Pro nose tackle Jay Ratliff to be healthy for that monumental contest.
Both Ware and Ratliff left the Cowboys’ 31-15 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Saturday with injuries. Ware re-aggravated a stinger in his neck for the third straight game while Ratliff suffered a strain on a muscle in his ribs. Both Dallas defensive stars sat out the second half against Tampa Bay.
Ware and Ratliff have played outstanding football this season and the Cowboys desperately need both players on the field against the Eagles. Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett knows his veterans can afford to miss practice and continue to play well.
“When you have veteran players like those guys who have played a lot and played at the level they’ve played, you can sacrifice a little bit of the practice rep to make sure they are as healthy as they can be,” Garrett said. “But having said that, we want to get them back on the practice field as early as we can and I know they want to be out there as early as they can. It’s a balancing act like it is with a lot of injuries you have.”
The Cowboys’ backup defenders played well in the absence of Ware and Ratliff, but Dallas definitely doesn’t want to go into the Eagles game without their starters. Victor Butler and Alex Albright filled in well for Ware, but Philadelphia’s offense poses a much greater threat to the Cowboys’ playoff hopes than Tampa Bay’s. Sean Lissemore and Clifton Geathers also filled in well for Ratliff, but neither player can dominate opposing offensive lines the way the Cowboys’ All-Pro starter can.
The Cowboys will most likely limit Ware and Ratliff in practice this week, similar to the way Kyle Kosier has been monitored for most of this season. Garrett and the Dallas staff will do whatever they can to get both players healthy for Christmas Eve. It’s not always the hottest team that’s a threat in the playoffs. It’s the healthiest team that makes all the noise more often than not.
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