Cowboys News: Leighton Vander Esch Feels 'Amazing' After Surgery on Neck Injury

Blake SchusterAnalyst IIAugust 6, 2020

Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch plays against the Detroit Lions during an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya/Associated Press

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was on his way to a second consecutive Pro Bowl nod last season before a nerve issue in his neck sidelined him in Week 12. 

Nearly eight months after offseason surgery, the Boise State product has no concerns at all about his status moving forward, and he expects to play an even bigger role for the Cowboys defense. 

"I feel amazing," Vander Esch told reporters Thursday. "That's all behind me. I'm not worried about my neck any more."

Vander Esch recorded 140 total tackles, seven pass deflections and two interceptions during his rookie season in 2018, following it up with 72 tackles, three deflections, one forced fumbled and half a sack in nine games as a starter last year. 

The 24-year-old posted four games with at least 10 combined tackles as the Cowboys' defense became a top-ten unit in the NFL

As he prepares for his return, the linebacker who played mostly on the right side in his first two seasons will  move to middle linebacker offering a chance to become even more of a game-changer. 

"Just with all the variety and the disguises, I think it's going to be special for us this year," Vander Esch told David Helman of DallasCowboys.com. "I think it's going to create a lot of opportunities for turnovers."

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The move comes with added responsibilities as Vander Esch will now be in charge of calling plays on the field. That puts him at the center of a defense featuring standouts like DeMarcus Lawrence, Sean Lee, Chidobe Awuzie, Xavier Woods, Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe.

It also shows the faith new Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan have in Vander Esch as both a player and a leader.

To make sure he lives up to the billing—and to stay healthy on the field—Vander Esch says he'll be taking extra precautions like wearing more paddings and letting his play show what the defense is capable of.

"This year, we've got to stop talking about it and go do it," Vander Esch said. "It's as simple as that."