Injuries Hit Cowboys Hard

The Cowboys were hit hard with injury news on Tuesday with announcement that two players will miss the upcoming season. WR Rocket Ismail and TE Jeff Robinson will both be on the sidelines in 2002.


You could hear it from Cowboy fans across the land on Tuesday. Without a doubt, the loss of wide receiver Raghib Ismail and tight end/long snapper Jeff Robinson will sting this year. In an offseason that has seen nothing but positive news surrounding the entire Cowboys' organization, today must have felt like a big slap in the fact to Jerry Jones.

While the injuries to both Ismail and Robinson are season ending, there is good news and bad news surrounding both situations. The good news is that the wide receiving corps are deep this season. Antonio Bryant, Ken-Yon Rambo, and Reggie Swinton shouldn't have much of problem filling in for the Rocket.

The bad news is that Jeff Robinson was the only player on the roster that could deep snap the football consistently. He was also expected to see significant action as a second string tight end.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the initial diagnosis on Robinson was a torn ACL. He was working on a pass-rush drill Tuesday afternoon when he suffered the injury. "It really gets us in a situation where we're looking for a deep snapper," Jones said.

Jerry Jones and Dave Campo both know the importance of a good snapper, as the Cowboys lost two games last season where special teams, specifically the snaps, were poor in critical kicking situations. Robinson, an 9-year veteran most recently with the St. Louis Rams, was brought in to solve those problems. Ironically, he had never missed a game in his NFL career up until now.

WR Rocket Ismail will undergo season-ending neck surgery tomorro to repair damage done when he collided with a teammate last week in practice. (AP)
With the loss of his services, it now appears likely that the organization will hit the waiver wire to see if there is any additional help available. Backup snapper James Whalen has looked downright awful during training camp, and it seems very unlikely that he would be used on special teams as a long-snapper during the regular season.

Meanwhile, the injury to Rocket sent shockwaves around training camp Tuesday evening. And why not? On paper, Ismail was the top receiver for the Cowboys in 2001 as he led Dallas with 53 catches for 824 yards and two touchdowns.

The injury was actually suffered last Wednesday when Ismail took a hit from linebacker Dat Nguyen after making a reception out in the flats. After experiencing signficant numbness throughout the right side of his body later in the week, Ismail went in for further tests before it was determined he would need to have surgery. It was discovered that he had a herniated disc between the fifth and sixth vertebrae, which creates extreme pressure on the spinal cord.

While Ismail is expected to make a full recovery after surgery tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock, questions about who will step up in the place of the former Notre Dame star have already started surfacing.

"We think we have some young receivers who can step to the front," said Dave Campo. "We feel like we are in better shape there than we've ever been. But you don't replace Rocket, his leadership or his experience very easily." Ken-Yon Rambo and Antonio Bryant are the two guys figured to benefit the most in Ismail's absence.

"Bryant and Rambo have both started to step to the plate," Campo said earlier today, "and both are capable of playing that spot."

In fact, the Cowboys shouldn't miss a beat at wide receiver this year, at least in terms of talent. Antonio Byrant is as talented as they come, and with a strong showing in his first few weeks of NFL training camp, some experts have already pegged him as the next Michael Irvin. With Ismail's injury, he'll have the chance to prove that much sooner than expected.

Sure, Bryant doesn't have near the experience that Ismail does, but in an ideal world all of your starters would be 10-year veterans. It just doesn't work out that way in real life.

While the loss of these two players brings a lot the positive momentum established this offseason to a crashing hault, the Cowboys will take the necessary steps to insure that they are replaced in the starting line up with best available talent out there.

In fact, Jerry Jones has probably already contacted 2 or 3 guys to come in and snap the football. Things move quickly in the NFL, and it's only a matter of time before things get back on track in San Antonio.

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