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Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch expects to return for playoffs

The Cowboys defense will be without its second-leading tackler in the regular-season finale, but he’ll be back for the playoffs.

Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who has been sidelined the past two games with a neck injury, will also miss the team’s Week 18 meeting with Washington, even as the team attempts to win the NFC East and perhaps improve their playoff seeding, an admittedly tall task that necessitates a win over the Commanders.

The 26-year-old suffered a pinched nerve in his trapezius in the first quarter of the Cowboys’ Dec. 18 game in Jacksonville. Subsequent MRI and CT scans indicated that the injury was not related to the neck surgery Vander Esch had in 2019, but he has not played since as he waited for the nerve inflammation to subside.

The Idaho native told reporters at The Star on Monday, though, that he’s “doing good” with his current workouts and is eager to get back on the field in the postseason.

Though the former first-round draft pick will miss this Sunday’s divisional game in Washington, Vander Esch confirmed that he is on track to suit up for Dallas when they begin their playoff run.

Vander Esch had been the team leader in tackles heading into that Week 15 contest versus the Jaguars, having logged a season-high 14 stops just the week prior against Houston. He has one sack, four tackles for loss, and a forced fumble on the year as well.


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