By Shawn Lealos

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 29:  DeMarcus Ware #94 talks with teammates Jason Hatcher #97 and George Selvie #99 of the Dallas Cowboys during the game against the San Diego Chargers on September 29, 2013 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

(Credit, Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Disturbing news broke this week for the Dallas Cowboys when reports surfaced that Dez Bryant’s injury could actually be either a herniated or bulging disc. With the high powered New Orleans Saints on the schedule this week, Dallas really needs Bryant to play before the team hits their bye in Week 11. Here is a look at the complete Dallas vs. New Orleans injury report for the big game this weekend.

While Bryant’s injury doesn’t sound good, he was limited in practice Thursday when most people believed he wouldn’t practice at all, and the team indicates that he will play this weekend. While normally the Saints defense doesn’t hold much in the way of a threat to stop a player like Bryant, former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has them playing better than they have in years.

Jason Garrett has said that there is no reason for long-term concern when it comes to Bryant’s back injury and downplayed any thoughts of the herniated disc. For now, Bryant is just playing hurt, but the team might take a harder look at the injury in their bye week. This week, expect only Miles Austin to be missing from the offensive attack, and based on his play this season, it shouldn’t hurt the team too much.

The Dallas defense has to figure out how to at least slow down Drew Brees and his Saints offense. The best way to do that is by pressuring Brees, who is a big stat quarterback who also throws a lot of picks. The best news for Dallas this week is that Jerry Jones believes that DeMarcus Ware is ready to return, giving Dallas their best pass rusher back. Jones said there is a chance for re-injury, but he feels that Ware has worked hard to get himself ready to return in this game.

The bad news is that, while Ware is returning, he will face lots of double teams because Jason Hatcher will probably miss the game. Hatcher suffered a stinger last week and said he won’t jeopardize the rest of the season to just play in one game. Nick Hayden also missed practice on Thursday with a back injury, so brand new signee Everett Dawkins could actually play this week.

Morris Claiborne will also miss the game. As the team’s secondary cornerback, that might open up more looks for Kenny Stills in the Saints’ offense, but the team’s main weapon is Jimmy Graham, who will test the Cowboys depleted safeties and linebackers. Safety J.J. Wilcox and linebacker De’Vonte Holloman will both miss this week’s game as well.

On the New Orleans Saints side of the field, Jimmy Graham remains the team’s best player outside of Drew Brees, and the Saints received good news when he returned to practice from his elbow and foot problems on Thursday. Receiver Marques Colston also worked on a limited basis for two straight days.

The other player that was questionable for this week was running back Darren Sproles, who suffered a concussion in last weekend’s game. Luckily for Sproles and the Saints, he has been cleared to play and will return for the Cowboys game this week. While he is not much of a runner for the team, he is a huge weapon at receiver.

On defense, things are looking up as well, since Roman Harper has returned to practice fully after missing every game since Week 2. The New Orleans defense already ranks as one of the league’s best and the return of Harper could make them even stronger.

Injury Report

Dallas Cowboys

  • Austin, Miles – WR – Hamstring
  • Bryant, Dez – WR – Back
  • Church, Barry – S – Hamstring
  • Claiborne, Morris – CB – Hamstring
  • Harris, Dwayne – WR – Hip
  • Hatcher, Jason – DT – Neck
  • Hayden, Nick – DT – Ribs
  • Holloman, DeVonte – LB – Neck
  • McCray, Danny – S – Hip/Toe
  • Murray, DeMarco – RB – Knee
  • Selvie, George – DE – Shoulder
  • Ware, DeMarcus – DE – Thigh
  • Wilcox, J.J. – S – Knee

New Orleans Saints

  • Marques Colston – WR – Knee
  • Jahri Evans – G – Hip
  • Jimmy Graham – TE – Elbow/Foot
  • Roman Harper – S – Knee
  • David Hawthorne – LB – Toe
  • Josh Hill – TE – Foot
  • Malcolm Jenkins – S – Knee
  • Tom Johnson – DE – Hip
  • Cam Jordan – DE – Ankle
  • Curtis Lofton – LB – Hamstring
  • Darren Sproles – RB – Concussion
  • Tyrunn Walker – DE – Knee
  • Kenny Vaccaro – S – Chest

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.