By Shawn Lealos
The Dallas Cowboys are playing in their first playoff game in five years as they head into the 2014 postseason as the NFC East champions. Their opponents are the Detroit Lions, a team that fought for the NFC North title, only to lose out in the final week of the season. Here is a look at the Dallas Cowboys vs. Detroit Lions injury report for the first round game.
One of the biggest losses heading into the NFL wild card playoff game for the Cowboys was rookie linebacker Anthony Hitchens. When Dallas drafted Hitchens, there were high hopes, but they were set at linebacker with Sean Lee, Justin Durant and Bruce Carter. It would give Hitchens a chance to work his way in slow. However, Lee was injured before the season started and, while Rolando McClain was a fantastic signing after that, injuries have depleted the Cowboys’ lineup so much that Hitchens has started more games than most of the starting linebackers.
Now, heading into the wild card game, Hitchens is out with a high right ankle sprain. While he is listed as questionable, these injuries are hard to return from and Hitchens playing is unlikely. McClain returns from an illness to start in the middle, Bruce Carter is coming off his best game and will start at SAM, and Kyle Wilber will start at WILL with Hitchens out.
Another key player that will miss this week is offensive lineman Doug Free, who is listed as doubtful with a left ankle injury. Playing in his place will be Jeremy Parnell, who has done a great job in his absence over six games this season. Zack Martin continues to recover from his ankle injury and will play once again.
A last minute addition to the injury report is defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford. This is a very hard break since the Cowboys just placed Henry Melton in the IR. Crawford is sick and is questionable for the big playoff game. As a comparison, DeMarco Murray was sick last week, but played anyway; McClain was ill and missed the game.
The biggest loss for the Detroit Lions is defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who is listed as doubtful with a knee injury. Lions head coach Jim Caldwell was hoping to get Fairley back for the game, especially when Ndamukong Suh was suspended. The Lions received one bit of good news when Suh’s suspension was overruled and seemed to be getting more good news when Fairley returned to practice. However, the doubtful tag does not look like the Fairley return will happen.
The only other player ruled out for the Lions is right guard Larry Warford, who did not practice this week with a knee injury. Rookie Travis Swanson will replace him in the lineup. Swanson started at center last week and has worked in place of Warford earlier in the season.
- Josh Brent, DT – Calf
- Jeff Heath, SS – Thumb
- Zack Martin, G – Ankle
- Rolando McClain, MLB – Knee/Illness
- DeMarco Murray, RB – Hand
- Tony Romo, QB – Back
- Bruce Carter, OLB – Knee
- Nick Hayden, DT – Shoulder
- Anthony Hitchens, OLB – Ankle
- C.J. Spillman, DB – Groin
- Doug Free, T – Ankle
- Calvin Johnson, WR – Ankle
- Nick Fairley, DT – Knee
- Darryl Tapp, DE – Not Injury Related
- Larry Warford, G – Knee
For more Cowboys news and updates, visit Cowboys Central.
Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.