Cowboys Coach Absent From Team as Illness Sweeps Locker Room: Report

Cowboys HC Jason Garrett

Getty Cowboys HC Jason Garrett

Piggybacking the news that Leighton Vander Esch will be sidelined indefinitely, it’s been revealed that his position coach is absent from The Star, as well.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Friday that Dallas Cowboys linebackers coach Ben Bloom “has been away from the team” as he tends to an undisclosed personal matter.

“He has not participated in practice in recent days,” Rapoport added.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Bloom is among several people inside the building afflicted by a rampant flu bug.

Bloom is in his ninth year with the Cowboys, his second as their full-time LBs coach. Originally hired in 2011 as a defensive quality control assistant, he was promoted to his current post last year after Matt Eberflus bolted to become the Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator.

Under Bloom’s tutelage, Vander Esch earned second-team All-Pro honors as a rookie in 2018, when he registered 140 tackles, seven pass deflections, and two interceptions.

Bloom was also influential in fellow outside ‘backer Jaylon Smith’s prominent rise from written-off second-round draft pick to a Cowboys linchpin — a rise that culminated with a five-year, $64 million contract extension this offseason.

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Rapoport first reported Thursday evening that Vander Esch wasn’t expected to play in Sunday’s road tilt against the New England Patriots due to an ongoing neck stringer, which the Cowboys will “continue to monitor.”

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett confirmed the development, ruling out Vander Esch for the season-defining showdown. What’s worse, if his neck doesn’t improve, he’s likely also to miss Dallas’ Thanksgiving afternoon contest versus Buffalo.

Although the club reportedly is “concerned” over his flare-up, owner Jerry Jones expressed confidence that it’s not a long-term malady for Vander Esch, nor is it something that could threaten his young career.

“I don’t see anything here that we might not have anticipated (when we drafted him),” Jones said Friday, per The Athletic.

LVE initially sustained the stinger in the Cowboys’ Week 7 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. He was sidelined for the following game, a post-bye win against the New York Giants, giving way to veteran LB Sean Lee, who led the club with 12 tackles (nine solo).

Lee will slide back into the starting role opposite Smith. Dallas may also turn to backup Joe Thomas for additional depth — “may” being the keyword, as Thomas did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday due to an elbow injury.

“I know he’s frustrated with injuries just like I’ve been in the past because of how much he loves football, how much he wants to play. …He’s going to face adversity head on and come out of the backside dominating,” Lee said of Vander Esch on Friday, via the Dallas Morning News.

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL

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