Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch will miss the remainder of the 2023 season, and the trajectory of his career may be in doubt. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, in his weekly interview on 105.3 The Fan, affirmed the reports indicating that Vander Esch will stay on injured reserve for the rest of the season following a neck injury suffered in the Week 5 defeat against the San Francisco 49ers.
Jones acknowledged the accuracy of the reports, stating via the Dallas Morning News, “We had just completely left it up to how he was evolving. But of course, it’s a very significant loss for us. He’s an integral part of that defense out there. We just wish him well. The nature of his potential injury here causes me to really think longer term and beyond what it means for next week or beyond what it means for next month relative to the team. It has everything to do with what’s in his best interest.”
In the five starts he made in 2023, Vander Esch recorded 30 tackles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. This setback adds to his history of neck injuries, including one in 2019 that led to a diagnosis of cervical spinal stenosis—a narrowing of the spinal column in the neck. He underwent surgery in early 2020 and has played in 45 games since.
Despite re-signing with the Cowboys on a two-year contract this offseason, the possibility of another neck injury jeopardizing his career has always lingered. Jones commented on the uncertain future, saying, “There are a lot of factors involved, but he just really needs to see how this continues to heal and then go from that point as to whether or not he would want to continue to say, expose himself to injury.”