A neck injury has ended Leighton Vander Esch's season, and there is concern that the Dallas Cowboys linebacker may never play again.
The 27-year-old Vander Esch has not played since jamming his neck after being pushed into Micah Parsons during a Week 5 game against the San Francisco 49ers. He was eligible to come off injured reserve this week but symptoms have lingered.
Appearing on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said the team wanted to take a wait-and-see approach in dealing with Vander Esch's recovery.
"We had just completely left it up to how he was evolving," Jones said. "But of course, it's a very significant loss for us. He's an integral part of that defense out there. We just wish him well. The nature of his potential injury here causes me to really think longer term and beyond what it means for next week or beyond what it means for next month relative to the team. It has everything to do with what's in his best interest."
This isn't the first time in Vander Esch's career he's dealt with neck issues. He missed seven games with an injury in 2019 and later underwent a fusion procedure that offseason after being diagnosed with cervical spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column in the neck. His 2022 season came to an end early as he was forced to miss the Cowboys' final four regular-season games with a neck stinger.
It's too soon to say if Vander Esch will be able to play again, Jones said. The biggest factor in that decision, ultimately, will be if he wants to continue to play.
"There are a lot of factors involved. But he just really needs to see how this continues to heal, and then go from that point as to whether or not he would want to continue to say, expose himself to injury."
Vander Esch played five games this season and recorded 30 tackles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.