Inside the Dallas Cowboys | Bruce Carter


This is one of my favorite articles to read each week … Love it!  New writer, same great work … Randy

Why Cowboys fans needn’t worry about second-round pick Bruce Carter’s knee
Inside the Dallas Cowboys
Brandon George
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Michael Ainsworth / Staff Photographer

Some Dallas Cowboys fans find it hard to believe that second-round draft pick Bruce Carter isn’t practicing with the team yet.

But the linebacker out of North Carolina is right on schedule in his rehabilitation from anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction surgery on his left knee.

Also know this: The Cowboys did their homework and then some when evaluating Carter before the NFL draft. North Carolina head athletic trainer for football Scott Trulock said he received several calls from Cowboys athletic trainers leading up to the draft.

The Cowboys wanted to know how Carter’s knee was healing, his medical condition and if Carter was reliable and showed up on time for every rehab session.

“There was a lot of interaction with them. [Cowboys head athletic trainer] Jim [Maurer] certainly did his homework on gathering information on him,” Trulock said.

“Bruce always showed up and made all of his appointments and showed the level of maturity that he could be trusted on his own. With the new CBA (collective bargaining agreement), teams don’t have the control they’ve had in the past. You have to have players who are going to be accountable and take care of themselves.”

By all accounts, Carter took care of himself during the 41/2-month NFL lockout when the Cowboys couldn’t have contact with him.

Carter was injured Nov. 20 in a game against North Carolina State. The original injury was a partial ACL tear. Carter felt good enough to finish the season but ultimately made the smart decision to have surgery.

When Carter had the surgery Dec. 14, he was told it would take him at least eight months to get back on the football field. That eight-month mark was hit last week.

Carter said last week that he probably won’t return to practice until early September and wouldn’t be cleared for full contact until around the Cowboys’ regular-season opener Sept. 11 at the New York Jets.

How much Carter can contribute this season is hard to gauge. He’ll start the season well behind the curve. It’s looking more likely that Carter will begin the season on the physically unable to perform list, meaning he’d miss the Cowboys’ first six games. But that would give Carter more time to learn the defense and get closer to 100 percent.

“Right now, I’m just trying to learn and use this time to get my body back and learn the plays and trying to get a feel for everything,” Carter said. “I know it’s going to be difficult when I first get in there. But I just have to stay focused and keep pushing and keep trying. Eventually, it’s going to come around.”

Trulock said Cowboys fans probably won’t get to see Carter’s true potential until his second season, when he’s had a full off-season to work out at full strength and go into training camp in 2012 fully ready to compete.

“You don’t run across too many guys who are gifted like he is gifted and have the work ethic to match. That’s what you find in an elite athlete,” Trulock said. “Know that the performance you’ll see in the first year is not the performance you’ll see in his second year.”


Q: Why wouldn’t the Cowboys trade [third-string quarterback Stephen] McGee to a team in need of a QB like the [Miami] Dolphins and get a draft pick to start building a brighter future?

Julio Mavares, Montreal, Canada

GEORGE: The Cowboys have already invested two full seasons in developing McGee. They really like the way he played for them at the end of the 2010 season and through the first two preseason games.

McGee appears poised to become Tony Romo’s backup next season because Jon Kitna likely won’t be back. McGee was a fourth-round draft pick in 2009 out of Texas A&M and a trade now likely wouldn’t return a high draft pick. Plus, you saw how important it was to have a quality third quarterback a year ago after Romo and Kitna went down with injuries.

* * *

Q: Why do the Cowboys refuse to get a real 3-4 nose tackle, someone who can plug the middle and handle getting double-teamed?

Georg Johnson, Fort Washington, Md.

GEORGE: I understand that Jay Ratliff isn’t at his best against the run, but to say he’s not a real 3-4 nose tackle is a stretch. Almost any other nose tackle the Cowboys bring in would be a downgrade from Ratliff. After all, he’s made the Pro Bowl the last three seasons. Obviously, he’s a great pass rusher for a nose tackle.

* * *

Q: What’s the latest on Mike Jenkins’ health? He seems to have been out quite a long time for a stinger injury. Are they just being very cautious with him?

Dave Gower, Raleigh, N.C.

GEORGE: The Cowboys anticipated that Jenkins would be ready to return to full contact in practices by now, but they’re not concerned about his availability for the regular-season opener Sept. 11. They are being cautious. Jenkins’ stinger is still bothering him, and he’s tested daily. There’s no reason to take a chance with him regressing during the preseason.

* * *

Q: Why should Cowboys fans expect this year’s team to have a better record than last year?

Allen Fox, Pauls Valley, Okla.

GEORGE: There are a few reasons why the Cowboys should be better than last season’s team, but it starts with a healthy Tony Romo. In the two seasons Romo started all 16 games — 2007 and 2009 — he’s passed for more than 4,000 yards each year, and the Cowboys had a combined regular-season record of 24-8.

Both seasons, the Cowboys won the NFC East. Also, Dez Bryant is an upgrade over Roy Williams as a starting wide receiver. And there are big expectations that new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will make the defense better. Abram Elam is an upgrade at safety.

* * *

Q: Do you think we will have problems with inconsistency from Tony Romo?

Joe Garza, Laredo

GEORGE: Much of that will depend on how well the offensive line plays in front of Romo. Right now, the offensive line features two rookies at left guard and right tackle, and it’s still a work in progress.

Romo has been much better the last few seasons with his decision-making, but it’s still an area that haunts him from time to time. If Romo plays well and Felix Jones continues to run like he has to start the preseason, the Cowboys shouldn’t have a problem scoring.

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