Dallas Cowboys left guard Kyle Kosier is expected to miss at least a month because of a sprained knee, making it two offensive linemen lost to injuries this week.
Two days after right tackle Marc Colombo had knee surgery, Kosier went down Wednesday morning. Although the club was still waiting for results of an MRI exam, coach Wade Phillips said it appears to be the same injury that's sidelined defensive lineman Marcus Spears for 4 to 6 weeks. That timeframe means he'll likely miss the opener and perhaps as many as the first three games. The Cowboys have a bye the following weekend.
"When it's not a season-ending injury it makes you feel better," Phillips said. "These guys are going to come back. We'd like to have them all right now, but we don't. That's part of what goes on. ... If it's similar to Spears, that'd be fine. If it's less than that, it'd be great."
Veteran Montrae Holland took Kosier's place during the morning workout and would start if Kosier doesn't return for the preseason game Saturday night in San Diego.
Robert Brewster, a second-year player who missed all of last season with an injury, has been filling for Colombo since he went down Sunday. He underwent arthroscopic surgery Monday to remove five loose particles. He's expected to miss only two weeks and to start the season opener.
"Our attitude has to be the same no matter what: protect our quarterback, help the running game and play well," Phillips said. "I feel good about the group we have. ... I think it was smart that we have the veteran players like we have and also the young players coming up. We'll see about our depth, but I think we have a lot of depth in the offensive line."
Missing one lineman can be tough enough. But now the Cowboys face the dilemma of taking on the Chargers with two backups mixed in with three incumbents, and having only a few days of practice together.
Is the reward of Tony Romo working on his timing with Miles Austin, Roy Williams and Jason Witten worth the risk of him getting hurt by a missed block?
Phillips thinks so.
When pressed about Romo, Phillips not only declared, "He'll play," he also said starters will play more than they have in either of the two games thus far.
"They need to play as a team," Phillips said.
Brewster's grip on right tackle isn't secure. Offseason acquisition Alex Barron is almost recovered from an ankle injury and likely would join the first team. However, Phillips said there's only a 50-50 chance he plays Saturday night.
Holland is getting over an injury, too. A hamstring problem kept him out of the first two preseason games. But he knows what he's doing. This is his third season with Dallas and eighth in the NFL. He's played 74 games, starting 48, including all in 2007 with Denver and two for Dallas in '08.
"We certainly like Marc Colombo and Kyle Kosier and we want them out here practicing, but it gives other guys an opportunity to step up and show that they can do," offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said. "One of the things we preach to our players all the time is adversity — there's going to be a lot of different kinds of adversity and injuries is one of them. The backup players we have here have to step up and do their jobs, show they're worthy of being starting players or prominent backup players on our football team."
Another related issue is that Kosier was going to be the backup center. In fact, he was playing center when he got hurt.
"It was a freak accident," Phillips said. "It could've happened at guard."
Colombo's injury fueled questions about whether a line featuring four guys in their 30s was too much of a risk. Kosier's injury strengthens the argument that the group is too old, making them too susceptible to injury.
Team owner Jerry Jones insisted experience is more important, especially for a team that's expected to be a contender. Line coach Hudson Houck agrees, noting that "those things happen whether you're young or old."
"Now, with Kyle out, we've lowered our average age. Is that good?" Houck said. "No, let's get him back in there and get that age up."