Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens is forced to leave the game after an injury in the second quarter of a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. Rodger Mallison rmallison@star-telegram.com
Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens is forced to leave the game after an injury in the second quarter of a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. Rodger Mallison rmallison@star-telegram.com

Dallas Cowboys

Linebacker Anthony Hitchens returning to Cowboys at a good time

By Clarence E. Hill Jr.

chill@star-telegram.com

October 05, 2017 11:03 AM

UPDATED October 05, 2017 07:43 PM

FRISCO

Middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens had a full practice on Wednesday for the first time since suffering a tibial plateau fracture in his right knee during the preseason. He said he’s ready to play in Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers.

Hitchens, who missed the first four games of the season, is just waiting on the final go ahead from the Dallas Cowboys doctors.

He said there is no reason to be cautious and sit out another game. The Cowboys have a bye next week. They return to action Oct. 22 at San Francisco.

“Felt good,” Hitchens said. “They’re going to watch the film and let me know if I can play or not this weekend.”

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When Hitchens was initially injured against the Oakland Raiders on Aug. 26, the Cowboys thought it was a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament. But then they found out it was a fracture. Still, he was expected to be out at least eights weeks.

That prognosis improved when he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and they discovered it was a hairline fracture and not a full fracture.

No one expected him to return this fast, however.

“They had a time limit,” Hitchens said. “I was just trying to get healthy. I guess the time limit was more than where I’m at now. I guess it did go quicker. I’m just taking it one day at a time. If I did good, I should be suiting up Sunday.

His return couldn’t come at a better time for the Cowboys, who might be without Pro Bowl linebacker Sean Lee for the second consecutive week with a strained hamstring and who have been playing second-year linebacker Jaylon Smith too much at middle linebacker.

Smith, who missed all of last season with a college knee injury, was supposed to be used on a part-time basis this year behind Hitchens. But he was forced into the starting lineup with Hitchens’ injury and has led the linebackers in snaps through four games.

Smith leads the Cowboys in tackles, but his quality of play has suffered because of overexposure. The return of Hitchens should ease the burden off Smith and help the entire defense.

“Hitch was the MVP of the training camp in my opinion,” linebacker Justin Durant said. “Hopefully, he’ll be able to get in there and get some snaps this week. I was there when he was a rookie. From the growth he’s had from then to now is amazing. He’s a good player. I want to see him succeed so hopefully he’ll be able to get in there and get something this week.”

Clarence Hill: 817-390-7760, @clarencehilljr