Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rookie S Hamlin Breaks Wrist, Two Others Injured

Zach Buchanan - Email Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas - The Cowboys defensive depth took a big hit in Saturday night's 20-13 preseason loss to the San Francisco 49ers when three players left the game with injury, most notably rookie safety Mike Hamlin, who suffered a broken wrist and will miss six weeks, he said.

Also injured were rookie linebacker Jason Williams (ankle sprain and quad bruise) and third-year corner/safety Alan Ball (neck strain).

Hamlin broke his wrist while trying to bust up the wedge on kickoff coverage, he said, and will be the third Cowboys 2009 draftee to miss significant time this season. Linebacker Brandon Williams (torn MCL) and offensive tackle Robert Brewster (torn pectoral muscle) both suffered season-ending injuries.

"It seems like all our draft choices are the ones getting banged up pretty good," said head coach Wade Phillips.

While Hamlin was taken to the locker room, Ball was being attended to on the field by trainers, who held his head and neck steady while checking him over. Ball, who classified his injury as more of a stinger, said that was more precautionary than anything.

"I didn't feel as bad as it looked," Ball said.

Williams was also grateful that his injury turned out to be less serious than he thought. The rookie inside linebacker initially suffered the thigh bruise early in his first defensive series, and then was "rolled up" on during 49ers running back Kory Sheets' one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

Williams said he's dealt with similar injuries in the past, and that his ankle improved after he left the field. X-rays on his ankle were negative, although he said he'll be reevaluated Sunday.

"When I first went down, I didn't feel it pop or anything, but I just felt real bad," Williams said. "On the way in, it kind of loosened up a little bit. It started swelling as soon as I took the tape off."

Hamlin may have set his own return date six weeks in the future, but the timetable for Williams' and Ball's injuries is unknown. Both of them missing the team's final preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings on Friday would hardly come as a surprise considering the Cowboys' cautious handling of injured players in the past.

Since most teams rest their starters during the final preseason game, young players like Ball, Williams and Hamlin usually get more playing time. Williams wants to play Friday, but he understands that his health comes first.

"I'm more concerned about my health right now than I am about playing in the Minnesota game," he said. "If they decide to hold me out just to keep me healthy, then I'm all for it."

If Ball's or Williams' injuries cause either to miss any extended time, the Cowboys could have some depth issues at cornerback, safety and inside linebacker.

The Cowboys were already short at inside linebacker going into Saturday's game with rookie Stephen Hodge still recovering from an off-season knee scope. Fourth-year veteran Bobby Carpenter is the immediate backup to starters Bradie James and Keith Brooking. With Hodge and Williams out, journeyman linebacker Matt Stewart would be the only remaining healthy body at the position.

As for safety and cornerback, Ball was running with the second team at both positions, and with Hamlin out, his absence would vault rookie Mike Mickens to second-team cornerback and would also leave fellow rookie DeAngelo Smith as a second-team safety. Mickens has struggled since training camp, and Smith is new to the safety position.

Phillips said the team already felt the crunch of depth issues in Saturday's loss.

"Ball and Hamlin both went out and we couldn't play our dime or our third down sub-defenses and that put us in a bind as far as being able to stop them at the end of the ball game," Phillips said.

Second-year running back Tashard Choice also left the game briefly, although he just had the wind knocked out of him, and was later seen joking with teammates on the sideline.