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Hennings out eight weeks with groin injury

By JAIME ARON / AP Sports Writer

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- The Dallas Cowboys' defensive line, already suffering because of Leon Lett's suspension, took another blow Tuesday when Chad Hennings was told his groin injury will keep him out up to eight weeks.

"The doctors felt it would not require surgery, but it will take at least six weeks to heal," coach Barry Switzer said. "We're saying he'll be out seven to eight weeks because this type of injury will not allow him to do the conditioning he needs to be ready to play."

If Hennings is out eight weeks, he'd return for the Dec. 8 home game against Carolina. That's also the first game Lett will be eligible, as his one-year suspension for substance abuse expires.

"I was concerned when we started the season without Leon Lett," Switzer said. "Now I'm more concerned without Chad."

Tony Casillas, a 12-year veteran, has been starting in place of Lett at left tackle. Antonio Anderson, a fourth-round draft pick, becomes the new starter at right tackle.

Backing them up are Hurvin McCormack, an undrafted player in his fourth year, and Darren Benson, a third-year player from a junior college who missed all of last season with a knee injury.

Dallas (3-2) will debut the new rotation Monday night at Washington.

"We're counting on an old veteran and a bunch of young guys," Switzer said. "We're going to play all four. They've all got to be rested and ready to play. They're all close in ability."

Here's Switzer's analysis of those four players.

--Casillas: "Tony is an effort guy; he plays hard. He still has quickness and still can make some plays. Experience is very valuable to him."

--Anderson: "Antonio is very inexperienced, has tremendous upside and potential. He'll be a very good player in the future. We want him to arrive sooner than it's probably scheduled for him to."

--Benson: "The last he played ball, the pace he played at was junior college. Now he's thrown into the mix at a tempo that he's never seen before. We hope he clicks and adjusts to it and becomes the player we think he can be because of his athletic ability. But he looks like a cow on ice out there sometimes because of his inexperience."

--McCormack: "He improved last week; tried hard, competed hard. He knew he was going to lose his job here if he didn't. Now he's into a role where he knows he can play. He's a try-hard guy, he's a smart guy, he's a good guy. He's not a great athlete, not overly sized."

"We're going to play with these guys until we get Chad back," Switzer said.

The Cowboys considered making a deal before the NFL's trading deadline Tuesday, but decided they'd rather keep their draft picks.

Switzer said they also were unlikely to sign a free agent -- such as Leonard Renfro, one of Dallas' last cuts in training camp -- because the team already had nine linemen, one more than usual.

"We're going to play with these guys until we get Chad back," Switzer said.

Hennings, the 1987 Outland Trophy winner from Air Force, didn't enter the league until 1992 because of his four-year military commitment. While in the service, he was a pilot in the Gulf War.

His NFL career started slowly as one of the last members of the defensive line rotation that helped Dallas win the Super Bowl in 1992 and 1993. He saw more time the next two seasons, then became a starter last year.

Hennings had just six tackles and 1-1/2 sacks this season while slowed by the groin injury, which doctors say has become a tendon pulled from the pelvic bone.

All content copyright 1997, AP, KRT, The Abilene Reporter-News and Reporter OnLine

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