Dallas Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence told me that watching his "boys'' play clutch defense in last week's win over Tampa Bay "almost brought me to tears.''
But now, Tank has another reason to be emotional.
Sources tell me that the Cowboys have "serious concerns'' about the availability of Lawrence for this Monday's game againt Detroit -- and beyond.
Lawrence himself tells me his hope is that his back problems are not so much neurological as they are chiropractic.
"I'm just working with the trainers, working with the chiropractors and the massage therapists," Lawrence told reporters after the Bucs game. "Hopefully I'll be back next week -- they wanted to sit me down this game and let the inflammation calm down."
But that "hope'' does not seem justified at the moment.
Lawrence underwent back surgery last offseason, and has been in and out of the lineup all throughout 2016. Lawrence was drug-suspended for the first four games of the season, could only log 13 snaps against the Giants a few weeks ago, and in between has played in nine games, only starting three of them. He has registered only one sack on the season.
The timing is terrible because of what a quality player Tank is when healthy ... though it does coincide with Dallas' plan to elevate Randy Gregory to the 53-man roster this week after having served 14 games of drug suspension. Gregory, 10 pounds heavier this year than his 235 pounds from his rookie season last year, is scheduled to begin practice inside The Star in Frisco today.
"I'm excited to see the 'Young Bull' go,'' says defensive line leader Tyrone Crawford, who has his own ailments (including a shoulder problem) that may limit his availability this week, too.
We're told Benson Mayowa's injury situation is not major. There is hope that defensive tackle Cedric Thornton will get healthy oon. And Dallas can start to rely more on the defensive line play of David Irving. (His profile here.) But the potential serious nature of Tank's back woes is sure to cause a trickle-down effect, one that even includes roster moves all the way down to Zack Moore -- the practice-squadder elevated temporarily last week who might need to stay on the 53-man. Same with the decision to bring back either La'el Collins or Charles Tapper. Collins, the gifted O-lineman, is a better player and more healthy; Tapper is a rookie who's done nothing.
But Tapper is a defensive lineman.
Lawrence has often suggested to me that this current issue is not necessarily related to the back surgery. But I think he's being a optimistic here as he was emotional on Sunday, when he discussed with me the pride he felt in watching Irving and others play well.
"It almost brought me to tears, seeing my boys out there working,'' Tank said. "Just that fight, that intensity, the last couple of drives. It meant a lot to me.''
And the worry now? Tank Lawrence might be limited to even more watching.