August 26, 2014

IRVING, Texas (AP) Dallas defensive end Anthony Spencer's recovery from microfracture surgery on his left knee is coming along well enough for him to start the season on the active roster.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on his radio show Tuesday that Spencer wouldn't be ready for the Sept. 7 opener against San Francisco, but would avoid a six-week stay on the physically unable to perform list.

The 30-year-old Spencer said he hopes to return to practice within two weeks, but can't say when he'll be ready for a game.

''I'm still working to get back on the field,'' Spencer said. ''That's the main goal. I'll know when I get my first type of contact against another player, how much of that I'm going to need.''

Spencer dealt with a nagging knee issue throughout the offseason last year and skipped the opener before playing in Kansas City. When swelling and soreness persisted, he opted for microfracture surgery last October.

The eighth-year player made about $19.5 million over two seasons playing under the franchise tag in 2012 and 2013. When he re-signed for $1.3 million with only $250,000 guaranteed, it still wasn't certain he would return from a surgery that's described as potentially career-ending for professional athletes.

''I really didn't have a timetable for myself,'' said Spencer, who had a career-high 11 sacks two years ago. ''I really was taking on the strength of my body. Right now it's stronger than it has been. I feel like we're in a good place.''

Spencer's return could be a boost to a defense still trying to figure out the rotation for a front four that's missing franchise sack leader DeMarcus Ware and 2013 sack leader Jason Hatcher from last season. Ware signed with Denver after the Cowboys released him, and Hatcher chose Washington in free agency.

Free agent tackles Henry Melton and Terrell McClain have missed most of training camp and the preseason, and rookie second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence is out until midseason with a broken foot.

The Cowboys are also waiting for word from the NFL on a possible suspension for defensive tackle Josh Brent, who recently completed a jail sentence for his intoxication manslaughter conviction in the drunken-driving death of teammate Jerry Brown.

''We have really as many as five players that aren't immediately going to be on the field with us at San Francisco on our defensive front that we've got to by hook or crook, figure out ways for them to keep their eligibility so that we can use them early in the season,'' Jones said. ''That's going to be quite a juggling act when we also want to use the players we've got that can play in a rotation.''



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