By Shawn S. Lealos

The Dallas Cowboys suffered through some bad news this week when the team announced that Anthony Spencer was undergoing another knee surgery and would miss the rest of the 2013 NFL season. As the franchise player for the Cowboys this season, it was a huge loss.

ARLINGTON, 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.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Credit, Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

It also doesn’t help that the defensive line is the one area that Dallas was shortest on bodies at, as Jay Ratliff is still out for a few more weeks as well. Then again, Spencer only played 38 snaps total this season, and Dallas has done a pretty good job at stopping the run while also sacking Sam Bradford a handful of times last week.

Luckily for Dallas, they still have one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL in Jason Hatcher, plus two of the top 10 defensive ends in DeMarcus Ware and George Selvie. Once Jay Ratliff comes back, that will be a solid strength, although the depth is still concerning. For this week against the San Diego Chargers, they shouldn’t miss Spencer too much, although when some of the tougher teams come to town, they need to hope Ratliff is ready to return.

Ware himself is also on the injury report this week and has been limited in practice with a neck injury, but he will be ready to play on Sunday. Morris Claiborne is actually back at practice full time this week, and he will be ready to go as well. The only other defensive injury is to linebacker Ernie Sims, but he is just the backup to Bruce Carter and has also been full speed in practice despite groin problems.

While Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are finally healthy, and not injury risks in week four, Dallas added two wide receivers to their injury report. Miles Austin has another injured hamstring, a problem that has plagued him for the last two seasons. His main backup, Dwayne Harris, has an injured hip. Neither man has practiced this week so far.

There is a chance that Austin will miss the game, although he has said he believes he will play. If he misses the game, Dallas will have to rely on his backups, which might not include Harris, who has been sitting out all week as well.

If both receivers are out this week, Terrance Williams will get his first NFL start, Cole Beasley will get increased playing time, and there is a great chance Dallas starts running more two tight end sets with Jason Witten and Gavin Escobar both on the field at the same time.

The San Diego Chargers have a lot more injuries on their side of the field.

Their offensive line is a mess, with guards Jeromey Clary and Chad Rinehart and tackle King Dunlap all sitting out of practice this week. Tackle DJ Fluker and center Nick Hardwich both returned to full practice this week.

Clary might be ready to play because there are little options. He played even after hurting his clavicle early in the game last week, but he is day-to-day and said he wasn’t sure if he would be ready. Dunlap suffered a concussion, so he will have to pass some tests to get back on the field. If too many of these lineman miss the game, Dallas might run over Philip Rivers all game.

One player who might be ready to finally play and make his NFL debut is linebacker Manti Te’o, who is going full in practice now. He said he feels ready, but it is up to his coach.

Probably not playing on Sunday for the Chargers are cornerback Shareece Wright and wide receiver Malcom Floyd.

Dallas Cowboys Thursday Injury Report

Did not participate in practice

  • Miles Austin
  • Dwayne Harris

Limited Participation

  • DeMarcus Ware (neck)

Full participation

  • Morris Claiborne (shoulder)
  • Ernie Sims (groin)

For more Cowboys 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.