Thursday, January 20, 2022

Cowboys rule out former Pro Bowler for 49ers playoff showdown: report

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The Dallas Cowboys will be without linebacker Keanu Neal in the postseason when they take on the San Francisco 49ers. Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News reported that the Cowboys ruled out Neal for the wild card round as he continues to struggle with chest and elbow injuries.

“Cowboys LB Keanu Neal (chest/elbow) was ruled out for Sunday’s playoff game against the 49ers. Everyone else in the 53-man roster has no game status designation,” Gehlken tweeted Jan. 14.

Neal was an important part of the Cowboys’ transformation on defense. The linebacker had 72 tackles, four tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and a sack in his 14 appearances this season, including five starts. Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy admitted Neal “struggled” going into the team’s matchup against the Niners.

“Yeah, we’re probably going to see this through to the end,” McCarthy said during his Jan. 14 press conference. “So obviously he’s struggling to get past the Philadelphia game. Obviously the physical part of it isn’t in high demand today. Based on how he’s doing tomorrow it will probably be a pretty clear indicator of his availability for Sunday.”

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Despite Neal’s absence, there’s a lot of good news for the Cowboys ahead of their first postseason game. Tony Pollard was sidelined for the Eagles’ matchup, but McCarthy noted that the playmaker “looks like he’s back at 100%.”

“Tony looks great, I think the break has definitely helped him, too,” McCarthy said. “Well, I mean, he was able to practice all week last week before Philadelphia. Well, really the Sunday, Monday, Tuesday time, it was very advantageous for him. So yeah, Tony looks like he’s back at 100%.”

Everything indicates that the Cowboys will go into the playoffs with a healthy backfield. Ezekiel Elliott has expressed optimism about his health but admitted he will continue to wear a knee brace to keep things consistent.

“Yeah I’m feeling good, I’m feeling really good, the knee feels solid,” Elliott told reporters Jan. 13. “You know, I don’t really get stiffness out of it anymore. Just sort of wearing braces, just as [precaution]. I mean it worked up to that point and I felt good about it up to that point. So I’m not going to change it going into this game or hopefully the rest of the playoffs.

“And yes, I feel good about where we are in the running game. We just have to take last week’s momentum and carry it with us this week. It will be important.”

The Cowboys are also retrieving several starters from the COVID list, including star linebacker Micah Parsons and safety Jayron Kearse. McCarthy detailed what Parsons brings to the field against a physical 49ers team.

“Micah is [an] extremely physical football player,” McCarthy explained during his Jan. 12 media session. “It will be great to get him back out there. I hope the time has done him good.

“But yes, his physicality, playing both on and off the line and particularly as a pressure player is definitely something we think can have an impact on Sunday.”

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