By Shawn S. Lealos

Preseason football is not a smart time for star players to play. While it is nice to get a rhythm going, the risk of falling to injury is too great and preseason games mean little in the grand scheme of things. The Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants open the 2013 NFL season on the premiere of Sunday Night Football and both teams learned how dangerous preseason football can be.

RLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 16:  Anthony Spencer #93 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates a sack against Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cowboys Stadium on December 16, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.

(credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Already struggling on the offensive line, Dallas saw the group take further hits. Injuries took out Nate Livings and Ronald Leary early on and it looked like Doug Free would have to leave his natural position at tackle to replace one of them on the line. That hurt the Cowboys because their other guard, Mackenzy Bernadeau, is best used as a reserve and that would leave the tackle position vulnerable.

After Dallas released Nate Livings with an injury settlement, two good things happened later in the week. First, Dallas signed Brian Waters to play guard, which means that Free can remain at tackle. The second good thing is that Ronald Leary returned to practice in full participation. While Leary will remain on the injury report when it is released, he should be good to go Sunday night, putting the Cowboys’ offensive line at full strength.

The only other injury on offense that limits the Cowboys is backup running back Lance Dunbar. The speedy third down back sprained his foot in preseason and just got out of his walking boot this week. He probably won’t be ready to go on Sunday night, but Dallas has Philip Tanner and Joseph Randle ready to back up DeMarco Murray.

Defense has been a mess when it comes to injuries. Jerry Jones had said that he hoped that defensive tackle Jay Ratliff could return for week one. All offseason, Jones said he believed that Ratliff would have a huge year in Monte Kiffin’s new 4-3 defensive scheme, but his groin injury put him on the PUP list, meaning that he is out until week six at the least.

The rotation will be even thinner with defensive end Anthony Spencer suffering a setback in his recovery from offseason knee surgery. There is now a chance he will miss the week one game as well, leaving the Cowboys two starters short on the defensive line. On Thursday, Ben Bass went down after a hit in practice and will undergo an MRI on his shoulder. Add in Tyrone Crawford, who tore his Achilles in the first practice of training camp, and Sean Lissemore, who Dallas traded to the San Diego Chargers, and the defensive line is a mess.

Safety Danny McCray is also on the injury report with a hamstring injury.

With the Dallas defensive line banged up, it would seem that the New York Giants could find big running room. However, the Giants have not been immune to injuries in the preseason either. Their biggest was the broken leg suffered by running back Andre Brown.

The Giants let Ahmad Bradshaw walk in the offseason and planned to rely on the tandem of David Wilson and Andre Brown, with Wilson providing the speed and Brown serving as the touchdown maker. Now, Wilson will have to carry the entire load for the Giants and will hope to exploit that Cowboys’ defensive line by himself.

He will have to do it without center David Baas, who suffered a knee injury against the Indianapolis Colts. He has not practiced this week, so left guard Kevin Boothe will slide over to center while James Brewer should take over at guard. Tackle David Diehl is also out with a thumb injury and fullback Henry Hynoski remains limited with a knee injury.

The biggest offensive name on the Giants’ injury list is wide receiver Victor Cruz, who has been limited in practice all week with a heel injury. Despite the lack of practice, the Giants have made it clear that Cruz will play in Sunday night’s game.

On defense, the biggest name on the injured list is Jason Pierre-Paul (back), the game changing defensive end. He joins fellow defensive end Damontre Moore (shoulder) on the list. Both men have practiced this week in a limited capacity but Pierre-Paul said that he will decide on Friday whether he will even suit up against Dallas on Sunday, depending on his conditioning. Moore is a backup to Justin Tuck and his status is questionable.

Also on the injury list for the Giants are backup cornerback Jayron Hosley (ankle) and backup tight end Adrien Robinson (foot).

Injury Report

Dallas Cowboys

  • Bass, Ben DT (Shoulder)
  • Dunbar, Lance RB (Foot)
  • Leary, Ronald G (Knee)
  • McCray, Danny S (Hamstring)
  • Spencer, Anthony DE (Knee)

New York Giants

  • David Baas C (Knee)
  • Andre Brown RB (Leg)
  • Victor Cruz WR (Heel)
  • David Diehl T (Thumb)
  • Jayron Hosley CB (Ankle)
  • Henry Hynoski FB (Knee)
  • Damontre Moore DE (Shoulder)
  • Jason Pierre-Paul DE (Back)
  • Adrien Robinson TE (Foot)

For more news and updates, visit Cowboys Central.

Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos.