The Dallas Cowboys place second-year tight end Rico Gathers on Injured Reserve following a concussion he suffered during training camp.
The Dallas Cowboys took a flier at the end of the 2016 NFL Draft. With four selections in the sixth round, the Cowboys opted to use their final draft pick, 217th overall, on a basketball player.
Rico Gathers was the power forward for the Baylor Bears and is still the school’s all-time leader in rebounds. At the time he was drafted by the Cowboys as a tight end, the 6-foot-6, 285 pound prospect hadn’t played organized football since middle school. Needless to say, Gathers was a massive development project.
But Gathers possessed the body and unique athletic ability to instantly become a red zone threat. What he did not possess was the knowledge that years of playing football gives most rookies. So, last season, while being stashed away on the practice squad, Gathers received a world class education on how to be an NFL tight end from legendary coach Mike Pope.
Gathers starting learning the playbook, learning his assignments and, most importantly, he started to learn how to block. He even took several snaps as an offensive lineman to help accelerate that process.
Soon, Gathers was the favorite red zone target for quarterback Tony Romo, who was recovering from a preseason back injury and working his way back in practices.
With a year of quality training under his belt, Gathers entered 2017 as a player to watch. With legendary Jason Witten entrenched as the Cowboys starter for the foreseeable future, there was and is no pressure to rush Rico. But Witten is also 35-years old. And Gathers likely gave everyone a glimpse of the future recently.
The 23-year old Gathers wowed audiences in the preseason, scoring touchdowns in each of his first two exhibition matchup as a professional. Against the Arizona Cardinals in the Hall of Fame game, Rico grabbed three receptions for 59 yards and a score. The following game, Gathers had four catches for 47 yards and had the Cowboys only touchdown of the night against the Los Angeles Rams.
It was an impressive debut for the former basketball star. But it was also a short-lived one as a concussion Gathers’ suffered in practice on August 15th sidelined him for the final two games of the preseason. And the protocol has now barred him from playing for at least the first eight weeks of the regular season as well.
On Monday, the Cowboys placed Gathers on their Reserve/Injured list with a designation to return. This will allow Rico more time to recover from his concussion injury. The still developing tight end will be eligible to return to practice after six weeks, but he can not play in a game until Week Nine.
With Witten, James Hanna and Geoff Swaim already on the depth chart, Gather’s placement on IR will not have a negative impact on the team. If anything, it gives Rico more time to develop while also opening up a spot on the Dallas Cowboys’ roster to address another area of need. According to ESPN’s Todd Archer, a likely candidate to take that newly opened spot is recently waived quarterback Kellen Moore.