The Dallas Cowboys will be down a starting offensive tackle and linebacker for the short-term future.
As ESPN’s Todd Archer first reported, the Cowboys are expected to send RT La’El Collins and LB Sean Lee to injured reserve Sunday, one week before the regular-season opener at Los Angeles. These impending moves have been confirmed by other media outlets, including The Athletic.
Collins was held out of team drills for the majority of training camp with a quasi-mysterious issue that Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy termed “nothing serious.” Per Archer, the issue is a hip injury, and it prevented the former first-round pick from participating in team drills until Aug. 30.
Collins told reporters that he battled “some knick-knack stuff“ — wear and tear, in other words — during the camp acclimation period. After finally making his 11-on-11 debut, taking about eight snaps, he tamped down concern over his Week 1 status.
“I don’t feel behind at all, to be honest,” Collins said. “This is year six for me, ain’t nothing new. I feel good. I feel like I’m fresh, it’s like riding a bike you get back on it and keep rolling.”
Lee, meanwhile, is dealing with a sports hernia that dates back to 2019; Archer termed it a “pelvis strain.” The 34-year-old signed a one-year contract to retain his job aside LBs Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch.
Lee, who has yet to practice in 2020, also suffered an undisclosed injury amid pre-camp strength and conditioning workouts, McCarthy revealed last month.
“One thing about Sean, he’s here every day, all day. …He has a clear understanding of the defense,” he said on Aug. 21, adding there’s no worry about Lee’s prognosis.
IR rules are different this season in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The biggest change: players who are on an active roster will be eligible to return after just three games. In previous seasons, those sent to the injured list would miss a minimum of eight games, so it’s a fairly substantial alteration.
The Dallas Morning News reported Friday that starting cornerback Jourdan Lewis (ankle) also is a candidate for IR. Lewis has yet to be designated as of this writing.
Collins and Lee will miss the Cowboys’ matchups against the Rams, Atlanta Falcons, and Seattle Seahawks prior to a Week 4 home contest versus Cleveland on Oct. 4.
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The club is likely to swap Collins for veteran newcomer Cameron Erving, who started eight games for the Super Bowl-champion Chiefs last season. He inked a one-year deal with Dallas in March, replacing Cameron Fleming as the primary swing tackle.
Lee’s fill-in is less clear. According to Archer, the Cowboys are working on re-signing LB Justin March after waiving him at final cuts Saturday. It’s possible, too, that backups Luke Gifford and Joe Thomas receive additional snaps.
Dallas chose to carry 10 offensive linemen (including OTs Brandon Knight and Terence Steele) but only five linebackers (Lee, Gifford, Thomas, Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch) on the 53-man roster.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL