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FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys are walking wounded, both physically and spiritually, after their 42-10 "kick in the ass" -- head coach Mike McCarthy's words -- at the San Francisco 49ers on "Sunday Night Football." One of their critical injuries from that defeat was inside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, the team's primary defensive, on-field signal-caller. He departed the game with a neck injury, and while the team hasn't made any official designation yet about his injury status, they will soon according to head coach Mike McCarthy. Vander Esch fractured his collarbone in the 2019 season, an injury that required he have surgery that ended his year. 

"The update would be he [Vander Esch] is not available this week, and he is going to be designated on the injury reserve list," McCarthy said Wednesday. "Then, we will watch the process."

While Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has seen Markquese Bell and other safeties assume some of the duties he would normally assign to a linebacker, the Cowboys have gone to external aide to help fill in the gap. Dallas signed 27-year-old, free agent linebacker Rashaan Evans to the practice squad on Thursday after working him out on Wednesday. Vander Esch is expected to to be out four to six weeks at least given his impending IR placement. Evans was the 22nd overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans. The Alabama alum spent his first four season with the Titans, and he signed a one-year, $1.8 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons after having his fifth-year option declined. Evans posted career-highs in tackles (159) and fumbles recovered (two) in 2022 with the Falcons. 

"I think [VP of player personnel] Will [McClay] does a great job with individuals he has known [scouted] from in the past," McCarthy said. "He [Evans] had a really good workout. Of all the candidates we brought in, we felt he was the best fit. 

Since Evans may be a rotational player and not an every-down player in Quinn's defense, expect safeties Jayron Kearse and Malik Hooker to have opportunities to wear the helmet with the green dot sticker on the back, indicating that there is a microphone in the helmet allowing them to hear Quinn's play calls from the booth. 

"In the past, it has been [safeties] JK [Jayron Kearse] and Malik Hooker," Quinn said. "Sometimes in practice we will rotate somebody different just to give them a go at it. ... Generally if it wasn't Leighton, it would be JK or Malik who would do it."

This isn't the first time players from the Cowboys defensive backfield have been the signal-callers as Vander Esch wasn't an every-down linebacker in Quinn's first season as Dallas' defensive coordinator in 2021. 

"It was more by the design of playtime early on where we rotated Leighton some and he wasn't on all third downs, but then it became where he is in almost all of the packages where he could go back and forth," Quinn said. "When he wasn't in all of them, for third downs, I would have guys signal when he wasn't part of third downs early. That precipitated the shift. It wasn't necessarily by a player, it was by the design of not having to use the signal when you didn't want to. If we have to go back the other way, almost all of the free safeties are guys who are always out there."