Todd Archer, ESPN Staff Writer
IRVING, Texas -- When the Dallas Cowboys start training camp next week in Oxnard, California, middle linebacker Rolando McClain could start on the physically unable to perform list.
McClain missed all of the on-field practices during the offseason program because of right knee surgery. He chose to do his rehab in Alabama and returned for the mandatory June minicamp but took part in only walkthrough sessions.
By placing any player on PUP, the Cowboys essentially buy time, if not a roster spot. In order to come off the list a player would need to pass a physical -- and possibly a conditioning test. In the past, coach Jason Garrett has shown some leniency in the conditioning run to players coming off injury.
Executive vice president Stephen Jones said he believes McClain’s right knee is OK, but because the team’s athletic training staff was not around McClain much in the offseason, the Cowboys could be cautious. Last summer McClain was slowed by hamstring and knee problems as he made his way back from a year absence from the game. During the season, he was slowed by knee and shoulder injuries and was knocked out of the two playoff games because of concussions.
The Cowboys re-signed McClain to a one-year deal after he started 12 games last year. The coaches credited him with 108 tackles, which was second-best on the team. He has since been suspended the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
“We knew something might happen, and we were prepared for it,” Jones said, alluding to the signing of veteran Jasper Brinkley and the drafting of Damien Wilson. “Obviously, you’re disappointed anytime you don’t have a player available for the start of the season but we [are] certainly prepared for it, and hopefully we’ll overcome that.
Rookie offensive tackle Chaz Green is likely to start training camp on PUP as he recovers from hip surgery. Jones said the Cowboys have a handful of candidates for PUP, but right tackle Doug Free, who missed the offseason with foot surgery, and safety J.J. Wilcox, who had a procedure in June to help with chronic plantar fasciitis, are expected to be available at the start of camp. So too is linebacker Sean Lee and cornerback Morris Claiborne, who are coming back from knee injuries.
"He’s really done an amazing job, had a very good offseason, if not a great offseason,” Jones said. “I think he feels better than he’s ever felt, and he’s done everything the right way, he’s done everything that’s been asked of him, and I think he really has a chance to have a big year for us.”
The goal of training camp is to get players ready for the regular season but it’s also to make sure the team stays healthy.
“It’s an art to get through the preseason without significant injuries,” Jones said. “Those things happen, but we’re going to do everything we can to manage it and be better at it.”