Cowboys Confirm ‘Good News’ on Leighton Vander Esch’s Neck Injury, Future

Leighton Vander Esch

Getty Leighton Vander Esch

Leighton Vander Esch is going under the knife.

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett on Monday confirmed a slew of media reports that stated the second-year linebacker will have surgery to repair a stinger in his neck.

NFL Network’s Jane Slater initially relayed the “good news“: Vander Esch is slated to undergo a “minimally-invasive” procedure in the near future to clear up the nerve issue that prematurely ended his 2019 campaign.

Vander Esch, headed to injured reserve for Week 17 (and possibly beyond, if the Cowboys make the playoffs), will be fully recovered in time for the team’s offseason program, “back long before” training camp next July, per Slater.

A Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro selection in 2018, LVE collected 72 tackles, three pass deflections, one forced fumble and a half-sack across nine starts as a sophomore. He’s been out of action since suffering the stinger in Dallas’ Week 11 win over Detroit.

Vander Esch agreed to treat his neck with rest and rehab, hoping he can return to the lineup at some point. But with the Cowboys’ playoff chances on life support, the sides opted to catalyze his recovery.

Barring a career-threatening setback, Vander Esch will resume his ‘backer role with little long-term injury effect. He’s signed through 2021.

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Joe Thomas Reinjures Knee vs. Eagles

The Cowboys are down both Vander Esch and backup Luke Gifford, who fractured his arm in last week’s blowout victory over the Rams. Meaning they’ve been forced to roll out sparingly-used reserve Joe Thomas as a starter in base defensive packages.

Thomas, who entered Sunday’s game against Philadelphia with a knee injury, did not make it through the afternoon unscathed, exiting due to a flare-up of the knee. He was replaced by recently-signed former Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith, who logged two solo tackles and a tackle-for-loss in the 17-9 defeat.

Smith would draw the start if Thomas cannot play in Dallas’ season finale versus Washington. His primary backups would be Justin March-Lillard and Chris Covington. We’ll glean more on Thomas’ status when the club reconvenes at practice Wednesday.

Cowboys OL Leaves The Linc in Walking Boot

Yet another injury has struck the Cowboys’ offense. Starting left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo sustained an ankle injury against the Eagles and was spotted exiting the stadium on crutches, wearing a walking boot. He was expected to undergo an MRI on Monday to confirm the severity of his injury.

Su’a-Filo had been thrust into duty following the torn ACL sustained by Connor Williams. He was inconsistent across four spot starts this season, the weak link on a line that features three 2019 Pro Bowlers (left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick, right guard Zack Martin).

The backup’s backup, Joe Looney, filled in Sunday and would start against Washington if Su’a-Filo — who may be required to undergo corrective surgery — cannot gain clearance.

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL