Cowboys Rumors: Leighton Vander Esch Undergoes Surgery on Neck Injury

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2020

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 20: Leighton Vander Esch #55 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates a play in the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium on October 20, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch underwent neck surgery Tuesday, according to ESPN's Todd Archer

Archer reported the procedure was "non-invasive" and that Vander Esch should be healthy once the Cowboys begin their offseason program.

Following Dallas' Week 16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, then-head coach Jason Garrett confirmed the 2018 first-round pick was going on injured reserve and would have minor surgery on his neck at some point in the future.

Vander Esch was limited to nine games in 2019. The Dallas Morning News' David Moore reported in November he had been dealing with a herniated disk and that the team planned on of him returning to the field.

Teams can officially open training camp in the middle of July, which gives Vander Esch several months to rest and recuperate. The concerns around the 23-year-old extend beyond the neck trouble he experienced this past season, though.

Leading up to the 2018 draft, Vander Esch's medical report at the NFL Scouting Combine became a talking point.

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The Morning News' Michael Gehlken explained how a pre-existing condition puts him at risk for an injury such as the one he recently suffered:

"He has cervical spinal stenosis, a condition featuring a narrowed spinal column in the neck. One consequence for affected individuals is increased nerve sensitivity to a bulging or herniated disk, which can require surgery if more conservative treatment methods do not alleviate symptoms. Those can include numbness or tingling in limbs."

Vander Esch made an immediate impact as a rookie, when he didn't miss a game for the Cowboys. He had 140 combined tackles, two interceptions, and reached the Pro Bowl. He was on pace for similar production—72 combined tackles and 0.5 sacks—in 2019.

The former Boise State star figures to be a key part of Dallas' defense, especially with 33-year-old Sean Lee hitting free agency.

Beyond the obvious reasons, the Cowboys will likely carefully monitor Vander Esch's recovery in case they need to respond to any setbacks by targeting a linebacker in free agency or the draft.