OXNARD, Calif. —
It’s too early to say the Cowboys are headed for a replay of last season, when six key defensive players had season-ending injuries.
Five of those players — Ratliff is the exception — are healthy and practicing at full speed again, led by linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter.
But the timing of the Crawford injury wasn’t good. A third-round pick last year, he figured to be a key backup for a unit that didn’t get any help in the draft this year even though a projected top 10 choice was available and Dallas was adding a starter on the defensive line by switching to the 4-3.
If the defensive front was a position of strength, as executive vice president Stephen Jones described it during the draft, at least one player who was a reason for saying that won’t play a down in 2013.
“It’s a major blow to the defensive line,” Spencer said of Crawford’s injury. “He was going to be a big part of the defensive line this year. That’s pretty much the way last year went, and it’s kind of starting off that way right now.”
Kyle Wilber was in Spencer’s first-team spot at practice Monday, and Sean Lissemore is filling in for Ratliff. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin says there are no immediate plans to start shuffling players, but that could change if the absences of Spencer and Ratliff linger.
History says Spencer will be there when the season starts. He’s missed just two games the past four seasons — both last year with a strained pectoral muscle. The Cowboys also expect Bernadeau, Livings and Ronald Leary, one of their backups, to return soon.
“I thought the interior of our offensive line did good (Sunday) — running up and down the sideline,” Romo said with a smile. “We’ve got to get those guys back. Saying that, it’s just part of camp. They’ll be good to go.”