Cowboys WR Dez Bryant practicing for first time since injuring foot
IRVING, Texas — Dez Bryant could be back in the lineup against Seattle after missing five games with a broken right foot.
If Dallas' All-Pro receiver does return, it will be alongside a new starting running back in Darren McFadden as the Cowboys try to figure out a way to win without quarterback Tony Romo.
Bryant practiced for the first time in almost seven weeks Wednesday, although he was limited. He was injured in the opener against the Giants, and Romo went down a week later with a broken left collarbone.
The Cowboys (2-4) haven't won in the four games since, and now get the defending NFC champion Seahawks (3-4) on Sunday before a visit from NFC East rival Philadelphia in consecutive home games.
Dallas center Travis Frederick noticed a difference on the practice field in Bryant's first real work since Sept. 11, two days before the injury. He's been at practice since the bye two weeks ago, but only for conditioning work on the side.
"He sets a great example," Frederick said. "He's one of those guys. You talk about Jason Witten. And you talk about Tony Romo. He's one of those guys that sets an example for everybody else throughout the day and throughout the week."
Bryant's absence is the longest of his six-year career, surpassing the four games he missed with a broken ankle at the end of his rookie season in 2010. Last year's NFL leader in touchdown catches wasn't available in the locker room when it was open to reporters Wednesday.
"The other guys have rallied around really well in his absence," coach Jason Garrett said. "But to get him back, just on the practice field and certainly once the game starts, will make a big difference to our football team. There's no question in my mind about that."
Matt Cassel will make his second start in place of Romo after Brandon Weeden went 0-3 filling in for the franchise leader in yards passing and touchdown passes. Cassel had more success throwing downfield to wide receivers than Weeden, although he had three interceptions in a 27-20 loss to the Giants.
"He's getting to know me and I'm getting to know him, just like all these guys," Cassel, who came in a trade with Buffalo after Romo's injury, said of Bryant. "Every little bit helps because we get into my second week really running the offense."
McFadden had 29 carries for 152 yards after Joseph Randle left with a back injury following his second carry against New York. It was the most yards for McFadden since he had 171 in 2011 with Oakland, which drafted him fourth overall in 2008. The carries were his most since 2012.
Garrett said McFadden would be the starter this week after Randle had that role in the first six games without 2014 NFL rushing champion DeMarco Murray, who went to Philadelphia in free agency.
"I've just been wanting to go out there and show it to everybody on the field, because I know what I can do and I know what I'm capable of doing," McFadden said.
In describing McFadden's game, Garrett sounded a lot like he did many times last year when Murray broke NFL career rushing leader Emmitt Smith's franchise record with 1,845 yards.
"I keep bringing this up, but the way he finished runs," Garrett said. "Go back and watch that tape and how he finished runs and was always playing downhill. That makes an impact on the defense."
The Cowboys outgained the Giants by almost 200 yards, and the 233 yards rushing were their most in four years. Dallas surpassed 200 yards as a team just once in Murray's breakout season.
The potential addition of Bryant could be a boost with the defending division champion trying to stay in contention until Romo returns. He will miss at least three more games.
"When you have a guy like that, you can give him opportunities down the field and you know that it's his ball or nobody's," said Cassel, who had Randy Moss when he led New England to an 11-5 record after Tom Brady's season-ending knee injury in the 2008 opener. "And that's always a great thing to have when you're a quarterback."
Cassel is hoping to have that Sunday against the Seahawks.