IRVING, Texas — The next man up for the depleted Dallas defense is Batman. That’s the way newcomer Brady Poppinga is looking at it, anyway.
Poppinga joined the Cowboys on Monday as the roster replacement for linebacker Bruce Carter, who will miss the rest of the season with a dislocated left elbow. Carter is the fourth starting Dallas defender to be placed on injured reserve.
A seven-year veteran caught up in a mess of defensive injuries when Green Bay won the Super Bowl two years ago, Poppinga last played in the 2011 season finale for St. Louis on New Year’s Day. He’s been working out and waiting for another chance ever since.
“I was in what you call Batman shape, meaning when I get the call, boom, I put the mask on, I’m gone,” Poppinga said. “I got the mask on, so here I am.”
Problem is, the Cowboys may need Superman and a few of his friends to help a defense missing a third of its starting lineup and two key reserves. It comes off a demoralizing second quarter that put Dallas in a 28-3 hole on the way to a 38-31 Thanksgiving loss to Washington.
Dallas is now without both starting inside linebackers in Carter, injured in the third quarter against the Redskins, and defensive leader Sean Lee, who badly injured a toe last month.
Dan Connor, an offseason free agent pickup from Carolina, will be the third defensive play caller at the start of a game Sunday against Philadelphia. The player next to him will likely be Ernie Sims, signed off the street a month ago after Lee was injured. Poppinga could be the primary backup.
“The next man up philosophy is alive and well with the Cowboys,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. “Always has been, so if you’re a part of the 53-man roster, you’d better be ready to play.”