OXNARD, Calif. (AP) — Dallas defensive end Tyrone Crawford badly turned his right ankle when he closed in on running back Ezekiel Elliott during practice at training camp Tuesday, and there was no immediate word on the severity of the injury.
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.
Cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who missed all of 2015 after tearing two ligaments in his right knee late in camp, slammed his helmet to the ground while Crawford writhed in pain.
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. “Right now we really can’t speculate on anything. 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.
“The good news is we have some good depth,” Jones said. “Obviously we drafted that position. The one thing about Ty is that he was very versatile.”