Update: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has officially ruled Leighton Vander Esch out for the rest of the 2023 season. Our original story follows below.
The Dallas Cowboys have seen several important players go down with significant injuries this season. Linebacker Leight Vander Esch is among that group, as he was placed on the injured reserve list with a neck ailment.
The veteran is eligible to return this week after missing four games, but the latest update on his status reveals he won't be back anytime soon.
Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News reports Vander Esch "most likely" won't play again in 2023. Gehlken admitted the LB's situation is "more complex" given his history with neck injuries.
After needing surgery to repair the bulging disc he suffered in his second season, Vander Esch was told another procedure on the same area could require him to step away from football. Gehlken says "It has not been decided" if the linebacker will need to go under the knife again, as he'll likely take all the time he needs to avoid putting his NFL career in jeopardy.
First and foremost, Vander Esch's long-term health takes priority here. It's scary that the linebacker may need a second surgery in a sensitive area, so he deserves all the patience in the world considering what might be at stake.
Now, the Cowboys will need to decide how to bolster their linebacking corps for the second half of the year. The team unfortunately has no healthy backups on the 53-man roster behind Micah Parsons, Markquese Bell and Damone Clark right now, meaning even a minor injury could have major ripple effects on this defense.
Luckily, Dallas signed the capable Rashaan Evans to its practice squad last month, providing an obvious candidate to be promoted to a full-time spot following this news. Evans and fellow LB Malik Jefferson have used all of their three allowed PS elevations, however, so the team must make a decision fast on which one they want to keep and which they'll subject to waivers.
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