When defensive tackle Jay Ratliff was placed on the physically unable to perform list at the start of training camp with a strained hamstring, the Cowboys termed it a short time injury and said he would be back in a couple of weeks.
Two weeks has turned into more than a month and now Cowboys owner Jerry Jones doesn't know if the former Pro Bowl defensive tackle will be ready for the season opener.
Jones is certain Ratliff will not return to practice next week and has no way to assess past that, raising the possibility that he could open the season on the physically unable to perform list.
"There’s areas that none of us know other than to see how it’s feeling on a day-to-day basis and where his strength is," Jones said. "Not necessary how it is feeling. Ratliff will play on one leg. He will. There’s no question about that. He’ll do it, and do it competitively. But the bottom line is that we just don’t know how he’s going to measure up with the symptoms and how wise that is to play him or not play him and get more out of him later on down the road."
Jones said Ratliff is challenged in rehabbing from the hamstring injury because he is also recovering from off-season groin surgery. The latter was one of several injuries that sidelined him for ten games last season.
"We are really having to feel our way," Jones said. "We have to keep an eye on his strength. All of it down there needs strengthening. Anything down there that needs strengthening. You got some issues. You might strengthen one too much and not have the other strong enough. It keeps the other from firing. The word firing is appropriate here. We are not ready. At this junction, he is not ready to get out there."
Ratliff's presence was key in the team's decision to switch from the 3-4 to the 4-3 defense under Monte Kiffin. He was expected to thrive in the under tackle position after being beaten down the last few years as a nose tackle in a 3-4. His numbers have declined in each of the last four years because of wear and tear and injuries.
Now the Cowboys don't even know when Ratliff will get on the field.