Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch will not return in 2023, and his career could ultimately be in jeopardy.
During his weekly interview on 105.3 The Fan, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones confirmed reports that the linebacker will remain on injured reserve for the balance of the season after suffering a neck injury in Dallas' Week 5 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
"I would say that's accurate," Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News. "We had just completely left it up to how he was evolving. 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."
In five starts in 2023, Vander Esch generated 30 tackles and had a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Vander Esch suffered a neck injury in 2019 and was diagnosed with a condition called cervical spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column in the neck. He underwent surgery in early 2020.
The linebacker has played in 45 games since undergoing surgery, and he re-signed with the Cowboys on a two-year contract this offseason. However, there was always a lingering possibility another neck injury could scuttle his career.
"There are a lot of factors involved," Jones said of Vander Esch's future. "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."