OXNARD, Calif. — Dallas defensive end Tyrone Crawford sprained his right ankle while pursuing running back Ezekiel Elliott during practice at training camp Tuesday, good news for the Cowboys because the team feared the injury was worse.
The Cowboys reported on twitter that Crawford didn’t fracture the ankle, which should mean the versatile starter won’t miss much time during the regular season.
Crawford has started 45 games at end and defensive tackle over the past three seasons since missing all of 2013 after tearing his left Achilles tendon in training camp.
The 27-year-old Crawford appeared to be in tears as he was taken to the locker room on a cart after the injury during the final session of 11-on-11 work. Dallas defensive players don’t tackle during team drills but approach ball carriers as if they are going to make the play.
But the diagnosis eased fears after images showed Crawford’s ankle turning badly as he stumbled near Elliott, last year’s NFL rushing leader.
“I want to thank everyone for the prayers,” Crawford tweeted after the diagnosis. “I’ll bounce back from this and will be out there putting in (work) soon!”
The Cowboys already have to open the season without three suspended defensive ends in David Irving (four games, performance-enhancing drugs violation), Damontre Moore (two games, substance abuse) and Randy Gregory (likely for the season, substance abuse).
“Scary,” executive vice president of personnel Stephen Jones said after practice. “Hopefully it will just be an ankle sprain. It’s obviously not a high ankle, a traditional ankle sprain.”
Dallas, the top seed in the NFC at 13-3 last season before a divisional playoff loss to Green Bay, used its late first-round draft pick on Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton.
The Cowboys have struggled pressuring quarterbacks in recent seasons and have drafted pass rushers in the top two rounds of three of the past four drafts.
Charlton and Charles Tapper, a fourth-round pick last year, are awaiting their regular-season debuts after each made his first NFL appearance in the 20-18 Hall of Fame exhibition win over Arizona last week.
Crawford, a fourth-round pick by Dallas in 2012 going into his sixth season, is the most experienced pass rusher on the roster.
“He means a lot,” Charlton said. “He is the veteran on our line and he is our leader. Hopefully it’s a minor injury and he comes back soon.”
Crawford signed a $45 million, five-year contract extension in 2015, when the Cowboys were planning to have him anchor the interior of the defensive line. But he kept moving between both spots before settling in at end early last season. He has 12 1/2 sacks in 61 games.
Dallas opens the regular season Sept. 10 at home against the New York Giants.