Dallas Cowboys right tackle La’el Collins will have season-ending surgery on an ailing hip that has kept him out since the start of training camp, a person with knowledge of the decision said Saturday night.
Collins was placed on injured reserve with the hope of returning at some point, but his health hasn’t improved. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team isn’t releasing specifics of Collins’ injury.
The absence of Collins has been part of an injury issue at tackle that has left the Dallas offensive line, long considered one of the best in the NFL, in a rare state of flux.
Four-time All-Pro right guard Zack Martin played tackle for the first time since his days at Notre Dame in the second half of last week’s 38-31 loss to Seattle. Rookie Terence Steele had to leave the game because of an illness.
Seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith is expected to return Sunday at home against Cleveland after missing two games with a neck issue. The absence of Collins and Smith left Dallas without its top three tackles, with backup Cameron Erving batting a knee injury.
Martin said this week the plan is for him to return to right guard against the Browns. If Smith returns, the Cowboys will have four of their five projected starters. The others are left guard Connor Williams and center Joe Looney.
Brandon Knight and Steele, who has started the first three games in Collins’ spot, are the likely choices to start at right tackle. Knight started in Smith’s place the past two weeks. Erving is expected to miss at least another month.
It’s the second time Collins’ season has been affected by a significant injury. He missed all but three games in 2016 because of a toe injury that required surgery.
Collins was undrafted out of LSU in 2015, but only because his name surfaced in the police investigation of a woman’s death just before the draft. The Cowboys signed him, and last year gave him a five-year extension worth up to $35 million.