The Dallas Cowboys said Thursday that linebacker DeVonte Holloman has a career-ending neck injury related to a spinal problem that kept him out almost half of his rookie season a year ago.
Coach Jason Garrett said Holloman was advised not to play again after doctor evaluations this week.
After missing the first two days of practice this week, the 23-year-old Holloman was on the field Thursday in his No. 57 jersey but didn’t appear in the locker room when it was open to reporters after Garrett’s announcement.
Garrett wouldn’t discuss details of the injury other than saying Holloman has been dealing with a neck issue "the last couple of weeks." Holloman came out of last weekend’s preseason game against Baltimore midway through the fourth quarter because of the injury.
"It’s a very challenging, difficult thing for a young man who has dreams of being an NFL football player, achieves those dreams," Garrett said. "But this becomes an easy decision for him and for his family when you’re dealing with that kind of injury."
Holloman returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown in his Dallas debut in the Hall of Fame preseason game last year, and the converted safety ended up starting at middle linebacker in the regular-season finale against Philadelphia because of injuries to other players.
The sixth-round pick, who played the first six weeks before injuring his neck in practice and missing seven games, led the Cowboys with 11 tackles in a loss that kept the Cowboys out of the playoffs.
"It bothered me a lot … because me and Holloman, we was like a brotherhood," said safety J.J. Wilcox, another member of Dallas’ 2013 draft class. "It just goes to show you that this game here is not for long. It’s tough."
The Cowboys have already lost middle linebacker Sean Lee to a season-ending knee injury. Holloman was essentially slotted as Lee’s backup while getting work at both outside linebacker spots as well. His versatility was expected to help offset the loss of Lee.
"He was such a good role player for us last year," Garrett said. "At every turn just took full advantage of the opportunity to show us what he’s all about. Did that this year in training camp as well. You could tell he was dealing with this though."
Several Dallas players heard the news on Holloman from reporters, including Orlando Scandrick. The seventh-year cornerback has been suspended for the first four games for violating the ban on performance-enhancing drugs.
"It’s humbling," Scandrick said. "It’s something that I’ve done for so many years, to have it temporarily taken away from me. And I can’t even imagine how he feels to have something permanently taken away from him for things that he can’t control."
Holloman played four years at South Carolina and had seven career interceptions as a safety.
"He’s going to be successful in the real world," Wilcox said. "I’m pretty sure he’s got his head on straight, so I know he’s going to do great things outside of football."
NOTES: QB Tony Romo returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday’s session. He was vague on how long he will play in Dallas’ third preseason game at Miami on Saturday night. Owner Jerry Jones said earlier in the week it would be close to the same 16 snaps, and 14 official plays, that Romo had against the Ravens. It was his first game since back surgery in December. … CB Sterling Moore practiced for the first time since late in training camp.