Leighton Vander Esch won't be suiting up for the Dallas Cowboys in Sunday's Week 12 game against the New England Patriots, as the second-year linebacker had a neck injury flare up with similar symptoms that kept him out two games earlier this season. While Vander Esch has been ruled "week-to-week" by head coach Jason Garrett, he gave a scare to Cowboys nation after his MRI results came in.
"We don't think it's career-threatening," Garrett said, via Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News. "We think at some point he's going to be back (this year) and ready to go. The whole area up there just needs to calm down a little bit. So we'll take his situation really week by week."
The Cowboys tried to put the flames out regarding the severity of Vander Esch's neck injury, but Garrett may have used gas instead of water. Vander Esch suffered the neck injury in a win over the Philadelphia Eagles in October, causing him to miss one game. Vander Esch played the next two games before the neck injury returned.
This isn't the first time Vander Esch has dealt with neck problems, having some symptoms at Boise State, which has caused him to wear a neck roll throughout his NFL career. Vander Esch did not have any neck issues until last month's injury, but they were a concern to some teams prior to the 2018 NFL Draft, where the Cowboys selected him in the first round.
The Cowboys will move on without Vander Esch for the time being, turning to veteran Sean Lee to play weak-side linebacker. Lee had 12 tackles and a pass defense filling in for Vander Esch in a win over the New York Giants, but he will likely at least be counted on for the next two games as Dallas traveled to New England than hosts the Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving.
Vander Esch's neck injury may be more serious than the Cowboys have let on, especially if they have considered the possibility the injury could affect his career. Dallas isn't ruling Vander Esch's season over just yet, but Garrett's comments make it possible the team could be trending that way.