Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware could play Saturday night, an encouraging sign after a scary headfirst collision that left him sprawled on the field for several anxious minutes.
"He's actually a lot better today," coach Wade Phillips said Monday. "He's really in a day-to-day situation as far as where he's going to be, as far as being able to play. He took quite a hit but has really bounced back strong. That's encouraging for him and us."
After Ware got hurt in the fourth quarter of a 20-17 loss Sunday against San Diego, the Cowboys on Monday described Ware's injury as a strained muscle in his neck. Ware was taken off the field strapped to a stretcher and went to the hospital for further evaluation before being released several hours later.
"It's not anything more than that," said Phillips, adding that Ware had no concussion-like symptoms.
With a short week of preparation before playing at undefeated New Orleans, the players were off Monday and unavailable for comment. They return to practice Tuesday.
Backup safety and special teams player Pat Watkins sprained his left knee on a kickoff return Sunday and will be out at least two weeks, maybe the rest of the regular season. Phillips also said tight end Martellus Bennett has not been cleared to play after experiencing concussion-like symptoms that kept him out against the Chargers. Bennett will also miss the New Orleans game.
Phillips said safety Ken Hamlin, who missed the last four games with a high right ankle sprain, will start "working back in" at practice this week. Phillips isn't sure if Hamlin will play against the Saints but said there is a chance.
The Cowboys (8-5) have dropped a game behind Philadelphia in the NFC East after consecutive losses to start December.
Ware was hurt while pursing quarterback Philip Rivers. The three-time Pro Bowl linebacker got around another offensive lineman and then went headfirst into the upper leg of lineman Brandyn Dombrowski. Ware remained on the ground, then was immobilized and put on a stretcher before being taken off the field on a cart.
In October, Ware agreed to a $78 million, six-year contract extension through the 2015 season that included a $20 million signing bonus. The 27-year-old was in the final year of the contract he signed after being selected with the 11th overall pick in the 2005 draft.
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