Cowboys Rule OUT Vander Esch for Week 12 at Patriots - But Say Neck Injury is 'Not Career-Threatening'

Mike Fisher

FRISCO - The Dallas Cowboys will officially be without Pro Bowl linebacker Leighton Vander Esch for Week 12 in New England and the concerns about his due to a neck/back injury are serious enough that the absence could be longer.

'Leighton was having some symptoms,'' coach Jason Garrett said on Friday. "We determined he has some issues with his neck. He won't play this week. We don't think it's career-threatening.''

Garrett later added that the Cowboys do not believe the injury is season-threatening, either.

Vander Esch underwent an MRI on Thursday and in part as a result, the club has decided to rest him this week. It's likely that even after the Patriots game, the starting weakside linebacker will also miss the Buffalo Bills game four days later on Thanksgiving Day.

The Cowboys are suggesting this is a "flare up'' connected to Vander Esch's recent "neck stinger'' while also saying they hope some time off will allow the ailment to "calm down.''

The plan is for him to undergo another MRI in a few weeks - a plan that could interrupt thoughts about returning to the field even for the Dec. 5 game at the Chicago Bears.

Sean Lee will likely start in his place at linebacker with Joe Thomas moving in on the strong side and Jaylon Smith anchoring the linebacking corps in the middle.

Vander Esch - who entered the NFL as a 2018 first-round pick with some medical questions about issues with his neck - sustained the stinger in the Cowboys’ Oct. 20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. He sat out one game but has started the last two games against the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions.