We have seen this kind of Cowboys news before, with word out now that the team is losing Leighton Vander Esch to a neck injury for the season. In fact, the first major Cowboys news of the season was the loss of cornerback Trevon Diggs in the Week 2 win over the Jets.
Even as Dallas has gotten back on track with its performance against the Giants, a 49-17 domination in Week 10, the news that Vander Esch, who has not played since reinjuring his neck in Week 5 against the 49ers, will miss the whole year cast a pall on the team this week.
There were messages aplenty for LVE on Wednesday at the Cowboys practice facility. One player who will feel his loss on the field, and off, is star pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence.
“It’s hard to lose a brother like Leighton,” Lawrence told reporters after practice. “He’s somebody that we rely on each and every day, especially as a MIKE backer. Definitely gotta show our gratitude for him and what he did for us over the last years, man.
“But, you know, we still with him and he’s still with us in spirit. He’s still up here each and every day, working on his self and helping us and some of our young linebackers out. We definitely appreciate him and pray for him to continue to get better.”
Cowboys News on Leighton Vander Esch Goes Beyond Football
Appreciation for Vander Esch was one of the themes of the day for the Cowboys. Safety Jayron Kearse knows well that this is not the first time a Cowboys news cycle has been focused on a Leighton Vander Esch injury. Back in 2019, after he earned a Pro Bowl spot as a rookie, Vander Esch first suffered the neck injury.
He had surgery then. He also had surgery on a broken collarbone in 2020. Kearse said LVE’s injury goes beyond football.
“We’re fathers, brothers, sons,” safety Jayron Kearse said. “This is a small portion of our life when it comes down to playing this sport. We’ve been playing for so long, but the amount of years spent playing football, you’re gonna have many more years where you’re not playing football. There’s a lot of different things you have to think about when it comes down to it.”
Damone Clark Has Special LVE Connection
Lawrence said the reaction around the Cowboys news on Vander Esch has been to simply look trudge forward. “It’s a next man up mentality,” Lawrence said.
For the Cowboys, that next man has been Damone Clark, whose snap counts have spiked since the LVE injury.
The second-year linebacker has played 69% of the team’s snaps this season, up from 59% last year. He played 99%, 81% and 92% of the Cowboys’ defensive snaps in Weeks 6-8, but was able to get some rest last week (59%) because of the blowout.
Clark’s response to the Cowboys news was like that of his teammates.
But Clark has a more personal connection the Leighton Vander Esch’s injury, having undergone surgery on a herniated disc in his neck last year.
“I’m gonna support him, because that was a guy that was with me every step of the way when I was rehabbing coming off my neck injury,” Clark said. “He said, ‘Don’t worry about me. I’m gonna be straight.’ That just speaks to the type of warrior he is. He’s going to help us.”
Clark has a deep connection with Vander Esch, even off the field.
“I talk to Leighton all the time,” he said. “I look up to Leighton. That’s someone that does everything the right way. To me, that’s way more important than the football player. Even if I never play another down with Leighton, that’s my brother.”