Cowboys Playing With Pain

IRVING, Tex. - Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is not the type to make excuses for anything.

He never gets quoted blaming any of his — or his team's — misfortunes on poor officiating, the weather or even the injuries that befall every NFL team.

But Witten acknowledged that this season's Cowboys have endured as many injuries as any team he can remember. Witten sprained his right ankle in Sunday's win over Indianapolis, while linebackers Keith Brooking and Sean Lee suffered a sprained foot and a sprained shoulder, respectively. Safety Gerald Sensabaugh endured a bruised thigh, while cornerback Orlando Scandrick got a concussion. Rookie wide receiver/return specialist Dez Bryant went down for the year with a fracture and ligament damage in his right fibula.

That doesn't even take into account some of the injuries that have hit the team prior to Sunday's victory, like the broken collarbone suffered by starting quarterback Tony Romo.

"I feel good," Witten said when asked Wednesday about the status of his ankle. "A lot of guys had it tougher than I did, but they stayed in there. That shows the character of the guys on this team. A lot of those guys are veteran guys who could have sat out, but they didn't."

Witten acknowledged that Bryant's injury, however, was particularly damaging to the Dallas offense, since the rookie wideout has emerged as the team's most dangerous receiving threat. Witten leads the team with 65 receptions, while Bryant is third with 45, but in recent weeks, Bryant has drawn more and more attention from opposing defenses.

"It's really tough when you lose a guy like that, because he's such a playmaker," Witten said of Bryant. "Watch him, and you see him grow, week after week."

Witten said that while Bryant will be sorely missed, he doesn't expect a spike in his own receiving numbers.

"A lot of his stuff is downfield, so it's not going to affect me too much," Witten said. "But I have to take advantage of the opportunity when the ball does come my way."

The injury that has had the biggest impact on the Dallas offense, of course, is the shoulder injury Romo suffered when he was slammed into the turf against the New York Giants. In recent weeks, there has been talk that Romo wants to play again this season, and speculation that some within the team administration are not opposed to the idea. On the other hand, many think that once the team is officially eliminated from playoff contention, Romo officially should be shelved for the year. The thinking, of course, is that by playing, Romo would risk reinjuring his shoulder, thereby setting the rehab process back to its beginning.

At 4-8, the Cowboys have not yet been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but even with a four-game winning streak down the stretch, their odds of qualifying for the postseason are beyond slim. But Witten said that when Romo receives medical clearance to return to the field, he should.

"Yeah, it would be great to get him back," Witten said. "Jon (Kitna) has been great, but we're a better team when (Romo) is on the field."

Witten said that while the team's injuries are not the sole reason for the season that started on a 1-7 skid, it would be ignorant to deny that injuries have played a significant part in the Cowboys' performance this year this season.

"Every year, there are injuries, but when you lose key guys like Dez and Tony, that's part of it," Witten said. "As a team, you have to fight through that, but that's part of the game."

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